Is this really healthy mac and cheese? I dunno but it is Yummy!

I’ve had this recipe up all week, just waiting for the right time to make it.  It sounded brilliant to me.  Butternut squash mixed into macaroni…mmmm yummy.  And indeed it was very yummy!  I couldn’t find the box of frozen butternut squash in any of myP1010411 grocery stores, so I boiled some up.  If I had more time, I might have baked the squash.  Cooking the squash reduces it’s “fright night” convenience, but if you had left over squash than it’s speediness might be redeemed.   I used whole milk, but I found it really rich, so I’m going to try 1% or skim next time.  Also, I only used half a cup of Parmesan; I didn’t miss it, but who knows.  I used old cheddar, is that that same as extra sharp? I’m not sure.  Lastly, I didn’t use the olive oil for the onions, I used a spray of the olive oil pam.   This is definitely healthier than the standard mac and cheese, although I’m not sure I’d call it healthy.  But what’s more this is the first healthy mac and cheese I’ve had where I actually may prefer the flavour.  I’m giving Harvest Moon Macaroni a Dish it again’n again rating!  For the recipe click here.

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Meat stuffed in meat…bison, veal, lamb…yummy thanks Giada for your stuffed meatloaf

meatloafGiada De Laurentiis has some great recipes, and this is no exception. Okay so it is met stuffed in meat…and quite rich, but great winter comfort food.  And it packs great for lunch!   I did modify it in several ways, some I liked, and some I should have stuck to Giada’s rule book (see the notes on the recipe card).  Stuffing the meatloaf keeps the meat really moist and delicious.  I used lamb, veal, and bison (instead of her veal/beef/pork mix).  I love bison, and it is a great, albeit a bit expensive (where I shop).  I did this sans pork, and found this really yummy smoked bison sausage at the market that was a delicious substitute.  I’m sure with the pork products it is also really great.  This was the first time I’ve used Chestnuts, and I found them good, but with all these flavours going on to be honest its not really clear to me the role it played, although I’m sure the nutty richness did add to the flavor.  I’ll look for another way to use the chestnuts though so I get more experience with them as an ingredient.  Open to suggestions if you have a favourite chestnut recipe!

Click here for the recipe for Giada’s stuffed meatloaf with some Gayle Dishes it notes.

I’m giving this a dish it again! n again.  If you cook it up share your rating using the stars below Not OKJust OKVery OKVery GoodGreat (1 votes, average: 5.00 out of 5)
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No cooking required – yummy, healthy and well balanced – a la Bobby Flay

Bobby Flay mixes up a yummy Chinese Chicken Salad with a chipotle twist.  A quick and easy meal, all you have to do is chop it up, toss it up, and then eat it up!  By keeping the salad leftovers in separate containers it made a great lunch and dinner on subsequent days.  I also heated the chicken slightly for an improved texture, but let it cool down enough that it wouldn’t wilt the salad.  I added boiled ramen noodles to the salad tossed in the dressing, which worked well even for the leftovers.  Don’t forget the peanuts and the lime these excellent finishing touches.  If you’d like you could serve these salads in bowls with chopsticks.

Click here for the recipe Chinese Chicken Salad!

I’m giving it a dish it! again n’ again if you dish it up share your rating using the stars below Not OKJust OKVery OKVery GoodGreat (1 votes, average: 5.00 out of 5)
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Perogie Perfection

perogiesI went out for a bowling extravaganza with my team from work last night – woo hoo!  And we had dinner at Swiss Chalet…I have a deadly cold so I didn’t feel like eating much so ordered the perogies they were maybe just okay…but they reminded me that my perogie post is long overdue.  Perogies are yum yum in my book.  I love potatoes any way you can cook ‘em, but this is definately one of my favourite was to cook ‘em. I have many a great family memory of my Aunt Cathy and I making perogies together, her trying to reminder the recipe her mother made when she was little, and I think we’ve got it as close as we can for now.  Now these little morsels of goodness do take some effort, but a lot less than you might expect.  In true consultant form I’ve right sized the recipe, but if you want to make enough for six or eight people I’ve included those volumes as well.  The key to this recipe is the sour cream in the dough.  It makes the dough harder to work with, but it will be worth the effort.  I’m giving them a dish it again n again rating!

 

Click here for the Recipe for Gayle’s Perogies

Happy Perogie making!

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When you feel like packing your lunch box and going home – pack this!

Ultimate comfort food for a rainy summer day, and my favorite sandwich, is the Caprese sandwich. Easy to make, so fresh, and great for summer when the tomatoes are at their best. The first time I had a caprese sandwich was in 1998 at the Au Bon Pain in Cambridge, MA, and it is so good it is still on their menu today 10 years later. The part that I don’t love about their sandwich and always skip on mine is the romain lettuce – unnecessary complication if you ask me. I loved it so much I went back the next day, and quickly set about figuring out how to make it to add it to my kitchen repertoire. And it is one of my top ordered sandwiches. Because there are only a few ingredients to make this sandwich perfect it is important you get the best of everything. The tomatoes need to be fresh with loads of flavour – interestingly one café in Boston where I’ve had this sandwich during the winter they roast roma tomatoes for this sandwich to improve the taste. The bread is key and a nice crusty French loaf is what I find the best, but what ever you choose make sure the flavor of the bread is not overpowering to the simplicity of the sandwich. I prefer to use smaller fresh mozzarella balls (bocconcini), but larger rounds of fresh mozzarella also work well. Of course if you need it in a rush you can buy premade basil pesto at the grocery store, but I prefer the homemade if you’ve got 5 minutes.  I’ve given a quick and easy recipe below for the pesto, but lots of other great recipes can be found online for basil pesto.

Ingredients:
Fresh mozzeralla sliced (Boconnini Cheese)
Ripe tomatoes sliced
French bread or other bread
Quick and easy small batch Basil Pesto
1 bunch of basil leaves (stems removed)
3 tablespoons pine nuts (preferably toasted)
3 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese
Extra virgin olive oil (~4 tablespoons)
Dash of salt

To toast pine nuts warm a frying pan on low-medium heat. When the pan is warm toss in the pine nuts and stir them until they start to brown. Be careful not to have the pan too hot the nuts will burn quickly. Take them off the heat and remove from the pan immediately after they start to brown so they don’t burn. Cool the nuts before using. I toast them ahead of time and keep them on hand in a jar so I can toss them into salads or use them quickly for pesto. (Pine nuts are a key part of my modern pantry)

For the pesto, in a small kitchen blender throw in basil leaves, pine nuts, dash salt, parmesan cheese, and olive oil – blend to desired consistency, and add more olive oil if needed. You can also throw in a clove of roasted garlic or fresh if you’d like to garlic it up a bit.

Sandwich composition. Pesto on both sides of the bread a must. Salt and pepper the tomatoes to taste. Layer the sliced tomatoes and fresh mozzeralla till your hearts desire, press the bread down to make sure none of the cheese escapes.

 

Share your comments on the Caprese sandwich below!

A Great Sandwich for Strawberry Season

Strawberry Chicken Club Sandwiches

Rachel Ray does drive me a bit crazy, but more importantly she’s got some good stuff especially in a couple of my favorite categories – like sandwiches. Valerie picked this awesome sandwich recipe to make for us which has a surprising but delicious combination of flavors – avocado and strawberry! Rach’ calls these triple decker strawberry chicken club sandwiches, which is a bit redundant as club sandwiches are by definition triple decker. But Valerie made these just single layer which worked really well so you could actually fit the sandwich in your mouth. The other awesome thing she did was substitute bacon with bison bacon, which I can eat and is yummy. I love bison bacon! Strawberry Chicken Clubs get a Dish it! again n’ again!

 

click here for the recipe for strawberry-chicken-club-sandwiches
 
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Yummy Orzo Salad – thanks Giada

After 269 ratings on the foodtv.com website this recipe still scores 5 stars! Now that’s saying something – and now we know why. Inspired by a newly acquired bag of orzo (part of my ‘this ain’t your mama’s pantry’ acquisitions) I went in search of a good salad recipe. There is a pre-made orzo salad I get sometimes in Granville Island that is just ho hum, but I love orzo so wanted something with a bit more pizzazz. My foodtv search brought me to this recipe by Giada De Laurentiis, the celebrity chef with a surprisingly small figure considering the food she makes and while quite beautiful a head that on tv appears strangely large on her tiny body.   Her food is fantastic, and I suggest sticking to her instructions.  For example don’t skip out on boiling the orzo in chicken stock…it is a thoughful touch that makes this salad special.  This is a great accompaniment to lamb or fish (tried it with both).  Also I sprinkled some toasted pine nuts on it the other night – yummy!

click here orzo-salad to view my recipe card with notes for salad.

A couple key modifications I made to this salad

1. Cut the oil in half! (even a bit less) Make sure you have a good balance of acid – but I find 1/4 cup more oil than acid not necessary. Also note that she doesn’t use all the vinaigrette in the salad – so in my case I just made less of the vinaigrette.

2. Added Feta cheese – why not I love cheese

3. Squeezed the seeds out of my tomato halves (take a few minutes but I think it is a step worth the effort)

4. Blended almost all the herbs in with the vinaigrette in my magic bullet

5. Mixed everything except the cheese and chick peas together the night before and let it set over night! Then add the cheese, tomatoes, and a few fresh herbs before serving.

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Happy Birthday Girl Friday…Mexican Martini Throwdown!

Because of the half marathon the full on celebration part of my birthday was a bit delayed (there were many different birthday celebrations this yearJ). The best part of my delayed birthday celebration was the birthday Mexican Martini throwdown (Bobby Flay style)! The Mexican martini, lesser know than the Margarita, is a delicious tribute to Tequila!! The rules of the throwdown are that each participant must submit a recipe for the perfect Mexican martini to an independent judge who will ensure there is no recipe duplication and coordinate ingredient acquisitions to ensure maximization of ingredients (for example only one bottle of cointreau, or tequila needed, unless participants require special liquors). The party’s host put together a Mexican feast smorgasbord that delighted the senses…Spicy Bison Taquitos, Refried Bean Chalupas, Flour tortilla appies, queso and chips…yum, yum! The results of the competition are as follows:

 

The first Martini is the Austin classic (casa Trudy’s) and is an easy drink with well balanced flavours with the secret ingredient being Sprite! The second Martini is the Gayle twist, and is a bit more sour, but I love it…so in short it is a dead heat depending on what you are looking for!! But be careful, these things are addictive!

 

Trudy’s Mexican Martini (The original, from Trudy’s in Austin)

 

2 fluid ounces tequila (Herradura Silver)

1 fluid ounce Cointreau liqueur

1-2 fluid ounce Sprite

1 fluid ounce orange juice

1/2 lime, juice of

 

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Gayle’s Mexican Martini

2 ounces premium tequila (silver, 100% agave)

1 ounce orange liqueur (cointreau)

1 ounce lime juice

1 ounce lemon juice (sweetened with sugar to taste)

 

DIRECTIONS

1. Moisten the edges of martini glasses with a little lime juice mixed with 2 generous dashes of chipotle sauce (chipotle powder in the salt would also work), and then dip moistened edges into coarse salt. Place a decorative pepper in each glass (be careful they aren’t too spicy so they don’t transfer flavour!).

2. Pour remaining lime juice into a cocktail shaker, and then add tequila, orange liqueur, lime juice, and sweetened lemon juice. Fill shaker with ice, shake vigorously, and strain into prepared glasses.  

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If you’ve made either of the recipes above share your comments or providing ratings!

This ain’t your mama’s pantry – a road map to truffle pasta

Many of us recall pantry dinners of our adolescence, classics like the tuna casserole made up entirely of preserved, shelved ingredients. Pantries of the 80’s and 90’s were stocked full of cans of tuna, salmon, Campbell’s soups, condensed milk, and boxed rice, Kraft dinner, cereal, pudding powder and more. Just in case of a hurricane, unexpected invasion, or some other apocalyptic occurrence our mothers would have been fully prepared. Despite thinking we know better than our moms, with our busy schedules a few well chosen pantry items can ensure we’ve got something quick and good to eat when we get home late and don’t feel like ordering pizza. But to forge out on our own and add a bit of flare to the mom classic we have our modern pantry. To start, the modern pantry doesn’t generally contain enough food to sustain a family of 10 through a week of isolation, and the contents tend toward the more gourmet. Modern pantries are well thought out and stocked to be a bit more of a just in time inventory. The contents are premium including items with truffle, capers, tuna packed in herbed olive oil, and other fine foods shipped from around the globe…it is a whole new world, and this ain’t your mama’s pantry!

 

The first pantry dinner feature is truffle pasta with truffle butter. This dish, dished up by the divine Valerie, is so easy I’m not going to give you a recipe, but more of a road map. The truffle pasta, truffle butter (or oil), and truffles themselves can be purchased at specialty gourmet shops (this is where you will find many of the contents for your modern pantry). If you are using real truffles you can skip the truffle pasta, and just use premium pasta. So here we go. Boil some water (generously salt the water so it tastes like the sea). Add the truffle pasta and boil until al dente. Reserve a quarter cup of the boiling liquid in a cup and then strain the water. In a frying pan large enough to hold all the pasta at low to medium heat melt several tablespoons of butter and 1 tablespoon of truffle butter (just melt the butter, don’t burn or brown). Add the cooked pasta to the pan and toss with the melted butter. Add a bit of the reserved boiling liquid to the pasta and serve. You can shave a little fresh parmesan on top or just serve straight up. To speed things up this was made as a two pot dinner, but you could melt the butter in the pasta pot and make this a one pot meal. Fresh tomato toasts are a nice side…but does venture you solidly out of the pantry dinner which requires fresh ingredients in the fridge! Truffle pasta gets a Dish it! again n again rating. So to start your modern pantry off make sure you’ve got a bag or box of gourmet pasta, and something with a little truffle in it.

 

Just a couple of my favourite specialty food shops:
Calgary: Cookbook Co., Mercato
Vancouver: Meinhardt, Edible British Columbia
Montreal: La Vieille Europe

 

If you’ve got a favorite specialty food shop share it in the comments!

Breakfast for Dinner

How could something as good as Huevos Rancheros be bad for you? Well it must be, because this recipe claims to be ‘Good for You’ Huevos Rancheros. I’m guessing that is because it calls for low fat sour cream, doesn’t have any meat products in it, and no part of it is fried. Despite the lack of calories it is yummy and was dished up by the only hope Calgary has for Tex Mex, the ever so fine, Valerie. This is a Rachel Ray magazine find, created by The Liz Pearson. I’m going to look up more of her recipes and try them, because this one was so great. Inexpensive, easy to make, healthy, and delicious this dish gets a Dish it again! And again…

Valerie’s tip: Instead of plain old sour cream dish it up with some of the chipotle lime sour cream (brilliant!).

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