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Bolognese Sauce

21 Mar

After spending a few weeks in Italy last year, I’ve been on the constant hunt for good pasta sauce recipes. Nothing comes close to the food I ate while I was there, but occasionally I’ll find a recipe that’s close. I’m still working on perfecting my homemade pasta (another post for another day, once I’ve got that down), but I’ve found an excellent staple for Bolognese sauce to add to my repertoire. I found this recipe through Hillary and it’s wonderful! The flavour is rich and meaty and works well over pasta.

  • 5 tablespoons butter
  • 1 onion, minced
  • 2-3 medium carrots, minced
  • 2-3 stalks celery, minced
  • 8 oz mushrooms, diced
  • 1 pound lean ground beef
  • 1 pound ground Italian sausage
  • 1 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 2 cups dry white wine
  • 2 (28oz) cans diced tomatoes
  • Parmesan for serving

Heat butter in a large, heavy-bottomed Dutch oven over medium heat. Add onion, carrots, celery and mushrooms and sauté until softened but not browned – about 5 minutes. Add ground meats and salt. Break meat into small pieces with a spoon. Cook, continuing to crumble meat, just until it loses its raw colour but has not browned – 3 to 5 minutes.

Add milk and bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally, until milk mostly evaporate and only clear fat remains – about 15 to 20 minutes.

Add wine and bring to a simmer until the wine evaporates – 15 to 20 minutes longer.

Add tomatoes and their juice and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to low so that the sauce continues to barely simmer until liquid has reduced – about 3 hours. Stir occasionally. You want a thick, rich sauce that’s not watery.

Skim noticeable fat off of top and adjust seasonings with extra salt to taste (if needed). Serve with Parmesan on top.

 

bolognese

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I was a bit surprised that the recipe called for white wine, as I assumed that a bolognese was made with red. Apparently either can be used. Next time I make this I’ll try it with a red to see what happens. For this version, I used one of my favourite Chardonnays – Toasted Head, and I think it worked well.

I’ve been sick for over a week, but even with my clogged sinuses, the smells emanating from my kitchen all afternoon were glorious. This is definitely a recipe to do low and slow, when you have plenty of time to spare. The cooking times took a bit longer on my stove, so it was definitely an all-afternoon process, but absolutely worth it in the end.

 

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Garbage Can Turkey

26 Oct

Our family has a very unique way of cooking turkeys. We cook ours outdoors, in a garbage can. Yes, you read that right. A garbage can! My brother heard about this a number of years ago and we tried it (successfully), and have done it a number of times since then. We had a belated Thanksgiving celebration this past weekend and since what we do is such a fun and unique way of cooking a turkey, I thought I’d share the steps with you here.

What you’ll need:

  • A soft patch of ground that you can drive a stake of wood into – grass or sand works great
  • A wooden stake
  • Sledgehammer, or another method of hammering the stake into the ground
  • One roll of tin foil
  • A turkey of your choosing
  • Butter
  • Your choice of spices and seasonings
  • String
  • One METAL garbage can, cleaned
  • Shovel and metal tongs
  • Two bags of charcoal
  • Lighter
  • X-acto knife or scissors
  • Silicone oven mitts or holders
  • A large tray

First, drive a stake into the ground. Make sure you’ve cut it so that the length is just right. You need to make sure that when the turkey is put onto the stake that there will be room above the turkey, so it won’t touch the top of the garbage can.

stake

Because it takes coals a long time to get hot, now would be a good time to get those started. If your garbage can came with a metal lid, this is a great place to light those up.

 

coals

Wrap tons of tin foil around the stake, especially on the top, so that there’s a little ball up there. Cover the ground around the stake with tin foil as well so that the drippings don’t end up on the grass/sand/whatever.

ready

Now get your turkey ready. Make sure it’s completely thawed, if you bought a frozen one. Rub it with butter and season to your liking. Grab an extra chunk of butter and put it on top of the ball. Gently place the turkey on the stake. Attach the turkey to the stake with string so that it stays on and doesn’t move easily.

turkey

By now your coals should hopefully be white hot. Carefully place the garbage can over the turkey, making sure the turkey doesn’t touch the top or walls of the can. Using the tongs, carefully place coals all around the bottom of the garbage can, making sure that the entire area is covered. Use the shovel to place at least one or two layers of hot coals on top of the garbage can. Place more (unlit) coals on the top and around the bottom of the can.

cooking

Now it’s time to wait. General rule of thumb is to let it cook for about 2 hours. We like to grab a few beers or ciders and sit in front of a chiminea fire right nearby and enjoy being outside in the fresh air. Don’t forget to add more coals every now and then. After about an hour, you’ll start to hear it sizzling away inside. Don’t let temptation get the best of you – don’t open everything up until at least 2 hours have passed.

Once you’ve decided that enough is enough, shovel away all the hot coals and ash – a good place for them is back into the lid. Make sure you don’t catch anything nearby on fire!

removal

Now carefully lift off the garbage can, making sure to wear protective gloves or mitts so you don’t burn your hands. Marvel at the gorgeous looking turkey you’ve just cooked!

finished

Carefully use the X-acto knife or scissors to cut the string away a bit, so you can remove the turkey from the stake. Silicone oven mitts or holders are great for this so you don’t get your mitts or gloves dirty. Have a friend or family member stand close by with a tray, ready to hold the turkey when it’s off the stake.

Take the turkey back inside and use a thermometer to check the temperature. If it still needs to cook a bit more, put it in the oven at your normal cooking temperature until the bird is well and truly ready.

delicious

We’ve found that cooking turkeys this way is so much more fun, and leaves more time for everyone to socialize, rather than having a few people stuck in the kitchen for hours and hours, slaving over the turkey. The meat is moist and juicy and oh so tasty, and very memorable to cook!

Serve with all your favourite turkey fixings and enjoy!

Roasted Tomato Bisque

9 Oct

Fall is officially here, and now that the weather has cooled off considerably, I find that soups are making more of an appearance in my weekly menus. I found this recipe in a vegetarian cookbook that I was given for my birthday this past year, and had been waiting for the cooler weather so that roasting vegetables wouldn’t make my kitchen unbearably hot.

This is super simple and relatively quick to make. As with many recipes, the flavour is even better a day later.

Roasted Tomato Bisque

  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • 5 large tomatoes, quartered
  • Sea salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and quartered
  • 2 large onions, quartered
  • 4 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 2 1/2 cups vegetable stock
  • 1/2 to 1 cup almond milk

Preheat oven to 400C. Brush two rimmed baking sheets with olive oil. On one of the sheets, spread the tomatoes out and season with salt, pepper and paprika.

Toss the bell pepper and onions with olive oil in a large bowl, season with salt and pepper, and spread out on the second sheet.

Put the baking sheets in the oven. After about 5 minutes, add 2 garlic cloves to each sheet. Continue to roast the vegetables until they are soft and just starting to caramelize (25 to 35 minutes), stirring the vegetables about halfway through cooking.

Transfer the vegetables to a large soup pot and add the stock. Use an immersion blender or transfer to a blender in batches and process until smooth – about 3 minutes. Add 1/2 cup of almond milk and stir to combine. Taste and add more milk, salt and paprika if needed. Keep warm over low heat until you are ready to serve.

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veggies1

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veggies2

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bisque

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The colour of the soup is fantastic, and it’s hearty and very delicious. I’m sure this would go very well with a grilled cheese sandwich! The recipe calls for just 4 cloves of garlic, but go ahead and add more if you like garlic. The second time I made this recipe I tried it with 6 cloves, and that definitely added a bit more character to the flavour. Maybe I’ll even go up to 8 cloves the next time I make this, just for fun.

One Pot Italian Pasta

15 Jun

There’s nothing like the comfort of a warm and delicious bowl of pasta on a rainy evening. I found this recipe, again, over at Budget Bytes. I’d seen Beth post a similar one-pot pasta dish recently, but it had meat in it, so I was hoping she’d have something similar in a vegetarian vein, and I wasn’t disappointed! If meat is a necessity for you, I’m sure that adding some sausage to this would add an extra kick of flavour and protein, but it’s fabulously delicious on its own.

This dish is super simple and very quick to make – just throw everything in the pot at once and let the magic happen!

One Pot Italian Pasta

  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 340 g fettuccine
  • 1/2 package frozen chopped spinach
  • 1 large can (796 mL) diced tomatoes
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dried basil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • fresh ground pepper
  • feta cheese (optional)

Add the broth to a large pot. Break pasta in half to make stirring easier later and add to the pot. Add everything except the cheese to the pot.

Make sure the ingredients are submerged under the liquid, place a lid on top and turn the heat up to high. Allow the pot to come to a full, rolling boil, then remove the lid and turn the heat down to medium.

Allow the pot to boil over medium heat without a lid for 10-15 minutes, or until the pasta is cooked and most of the liquid has been absorbed. Stir the pot every few minutes to prevent the pasta from sticking to the bottom. Avoid over stirring, which can cause the pasta to become sticky and mushy.

After the pasta is cooked, crumble feta over top and serve.

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pot of wonders

All the ingredients assembled, ready for cooking

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pasta

The finished product. YUM!

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It tasted great on its own, but I decided to add some Parmesan cheese (the only kind of cheese I can eat without getting sick). It added an extra oomph of flavour, and I’m sure that the feta will do the same for those of you who can eat any dairy products you like (lucky ducks!).

I have tons of leftovers, so I’m looking forward to eating this for lunch this week. Hopefully it will taste even better one day later.

Quick and Easy Biscuits

16 May

Recently I had been away for a few days, so there wasn’t much in my fridge/cupboards when I got home. I was tired and not in the mood to head out to the grocery store right away, but I wanted some sort of bread product that was simple and easy to bake and didn’t require a lot of ingredients. I have a bread machine which I use fairly regularly, but I didn’t want to have to wait for four hours for the bread to be ready.

So I ended up turning to my favourite source for simple and delicious recipes – Beth over at Budget Bytes. She had this fabulous biscuit recipe, so I decided to give it a try. It was my first time baking biscuits (pretty pathetic that I’d never made them before now), and I was thrilled with the results.

Quick and Easy Biscuits

  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 4 Tablespoons cold butter

Preheat the oven to 450. Mix the lemon juice into the milk and put it back into the fridge until you’re ready to use it.

In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Stir well until everything’s evenly combined.

Slice the cold butter into small pats and add it to the flour mixture. Using your hands, mush the butter into the flour mixture until it is evenly incorporated. It will have a fine, sandy texture when it’s all mixed in.

Stir in the milk until the mixture is completely wet. The dough will be very wet and sticky at this point.

Liberally flour your hands and the counter top. Turn the dough out onto the counter, sprinkle with some flour, and pat down until it is about 3/4 inch thick. Using a cookie cutter or another round object like a drinking glass, cut the biscuits out of the dough. Place onto a baking sheet lined with parchment. Take the remaining dough, form into a ball and pat it out into 3/4 inch again and cut out biscuits. Repeat as necessary until all the dough is used up.

Bake for 15 minutes or until the tops are golden brown.

biscuits

These are light and fluffy and very delicious!

Gingerbread Doughnuts

8 Mar

These doughnuts are phenomenal! I found this recipe on a website dedicated to healthy food. Even though there aren’t many posts and it hasn’t been updated in 9 months, there are some great sounding recipes there that are worth checking out.

I love that these are baked and not fried, plus they can be totally vegan. I’ve never tried egg replacement products before, so I slightly tweaked the recipe to include real eggs instead.

Gingerbread Doughnuts

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1/4 cup blackstrap molasses
  • 1/4 cup + 1 tablespoon oil
  • 3 tablespoons almond milk

Preheat oven to 350. Grease doughnut pans, if necessary.

In a large mixing bowl, combine first seven ingredients with a whisk.

In another bowl, combine remaining ingredients. Stir well with a fork to make sure that the molasses is evenly distributed. Add the wet mixture to the dry. Mix until just combined.

Scoop all the batter into a ziplock bag, cut the tip and pipe evenly into the doughnut pans. Bake 10-13 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the doughnuts comes out clean. Let them sit in the pan for 5 minutes before flipping them out onto a wire rack to finish cooling.

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Optional glaze:

  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 2-3 tablespoons almond milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

While the doughnuts are cooling, prepare the glaze. Using a whisk, mix the ingredients in a small bowl, but one that’s big enough to fit the doughnuts. Adjust the consistency depending on your preference. I ended up cutting this in half, and there was MORE than enough.

Once the doughnuts are completely cooled, dip the tops in the glaze. Place them back on the rack to drip and harden. Make sure to place a piece of parchment or paper towel underneath to catch the drips and keep your counter less messy.

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doughnuts

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glazed

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As you can see, I made some with the glaze and some without. The doughnuts have enough flavour/sugar in them to be fabulous on their own, but you can’t really pass up a doughnut with a sweet and sugary glaze!

Apple Cinnamon Loaf

22 Feb

I’m not sure where I found this particular recipe, as I didn’t have a website saved along with it, but I’ve had it filed away for quite some time now. It sounded simple and easy to bake, which is always a bonus in my books. Plus, it’s hard to go wrong with apples, cinnamon and sugar. I had some free time this afternoon so I decided to give this a try. It is so delicious and it turned out perfectly! This would be great to serve with an afternoon tea or coffee.

Apple Cinnamon Loaf

  • 1/3 cup brown sugar (not packed)
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2/3 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 3/4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 apple, peeled and chopped

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a 9 x 5 inch loaf pan. Mix the brown sugar and cinnamon together in a small bowl and set aside. Beat the white sugar and butter together in a large bowl until smooth and creamy. Beat in eggs, one at a time, until incorporated. Add vanilla extract.

Combine flour and baking powder together in another bowl and stir into the creamed butter mixture. Mix the milk into the batter until smooth. Pour half of the batter into the prepared loaf pan. Add half of the apples and half of the brown sugar cinnamon mixture. Lightly pat into the batter.

Pour the remaining batter over the apple layer and top with the remaining apples and brown sugar and cinnamon mixture. Lightly pat the apples into the batter and swirl the brown sugar mixture through the apples using your finger or a spoon.

Bake until a toothpick inserted in the centre of the loaf comes out clean – 30 to 40 minutes.

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loaf
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inside
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A few quick notes: I used rice milk, and that didn’t seem to have any adverse affect on the loaf. The middle part did collapse a little bit, but overall that’s not a big deal. Also, I decided to use a Spartan apple, as they’re not a super crunchy apple when eaten raw, and I chopped the pieces pretty finely. I didn’t want to have hard chunks in the middle of the loaf, and by cutting the pieces smaller (no matter what kind of apple you end up using) you’ll prevent that from happening.

Happy Holidays!

15 Dec

I had grand plans to post a little more often in the last month, but life and work and other things obviously got in the way (as they often tend to do). I’m headed off on a short vacation this week and then it’s Christmas, so I’m going to be absent around these parts for the rest of the year.

If you’re looking for some suggestions on great holiday meal or appetizer ideas, I’d suggest any of these recipes that I’ve posted over the past few years:

Lobster Bisque

Eggs Benedict Casserole

Pumpkin Spice Loaf

Loaded Baked Potato Fries

New Years Eve Appetizers (even though there are no pictures in this post, all those recipes are fabulous!)

I hope you have a wonderful holiday season, and I will be back again with more recipes, events and restaurant reviews for you in 2014. Merry Christmas!

 

Eggs Benedict Casserole

23 Nov

There is nothing better on a weekend morning than a fabulous brunch with family or friends. One of my favourite brunch foods is Eggs Benedict. I’ve never been able to master the art of poaching eggs properly, so I’ve avoided making Eggs Benedict on my own. So when I came across this recipe, I knew I had to give it a try, as it seemed very foolproof. What’s great about this recipe is that you prepare the casserole the night before, so you have minimal preparation when it’s time to eat.

Eggs Benedict Casserole

  • 1 lb ham, bacon, or whatever other meat you’d like (meatless works too)
  • 6 English muffins
  • 8 large eggs
  • 2 cups milk (rice milk works well, if you’re concerned about dairy)
  • 1 Tablespoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon paprika
  • fresh chopped parsley for garnish

Hollandaise Sauce

  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1-2 Tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 cup melted butter
  • salt and pepper to taste

Grease a 9×13 baking dish. Split the English muffins and cut into 1 inch pieces. Place half of the meat in the bottom of the dish. Top with the English muffins. Top with the remaining meat. In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, onion powder, salt, garlic powder and pepper. Pour evenly over top of the casserole. Cover tightly and refrigerate overnight.

Remove casserole from fridge at least 30 minutes prior to baking and preheat oven to 375F. Sprinkle casserole evenly with paprika. Cover with foil and bake for 35 minutes on lower middle rack. Uncover and bake for 10-15 minutes longer or until the centre is done.

Meanwhile, make the hollandaise sauce. If you’re pressed for time or don’t want to make the sauce from scratch, a packaged mix is a decent substitute. In a double broiler or metal bowl over simmering water (don’t let the bowl touch the water), constantly whisk together egg yolks, cream, lemon juice, mustard, and a pinch of salt and pepper. Continue whisking until the sauce is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Reduce heat to low. Drizzle in melted butter, whisking constantly.

Serve casserole with the sauce and garnish with parsley.

eggs benedict casserole

Split Pea Soup

9 Nov

On weekends I love to make big batches of dishes that I can put in smaller containers and eat throughout the week, or freeze to eat later. That saves SO much time during the week when I have less energy or desire to cook. I recently started working full-time again, so my body’s still adjusting to that, and I’ve definitely not had a lot of motivation to cook mid-week. Hopefully that will change soon, but this recipe is perfect for people in situations like mine. Plus, it’s super simple, so it requires very little effort on your part. I made this several days ago and cut the recipe in half, just to test it out and make sure that I liked it. I have another pot on the stove right now with the full quantity of ingredients, so that I can have it ready to go for lunches next week. The taste got better each day that I had leftovers remaining, which is awesome.

I found this recipe on Budget Bytes, which I’ve mentioned several times before. This is one of my favourite recipe sites and I highly recommend checking out her archives, as well as the new cookbook  that she has coming out in February. Her food is always beautiful, flavourful and inexpensive to make. I can’t rave enough about her!

I usually don’t eat pork or red meat, but on occasion I’ll make an exception for something like bacon. Bacon is definitely what makes this recipe so amazing! If you add extra an extra slice or two (like I accidentally did), there’s no need to add any salt to the soup, as the bacon has that in abundance.

Split Pea Soup

  • 6 oz bacon (In my estimation, 1 slice = 1 oz)
  • 1 medium onion
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 cups split peas
  • 8 cups chicken broth
  • 1 whole bay leaf
  • freshly cracked pepper
  • 1½ lbs. potato
  • ½ tsp salt (optional)

Cut the bacon into one-inch strips and add to a large pot. Cook the bacon over medium heat until it is brown and crispy.

While the bacon is browning, dice the onion and mince the garlic. Once the bacon has browned, add the onion and garlic to the pot and continue to cook and stir over medium heat. The moisture from the onions will dissolve the browned bits from the bottom of the pot and absorb the bacon flavor.

Once the onions are soft and translucent (5 minutes), add the split peas, chicken broth, bay leaf, and a healthy dose of freshly cracked pepper (20-25 cranks of a pepper mill).

Allow the soup to begin heating through while you peel and cube the potatoes. Cut the peeled potatoes into one-inch cubes then add them to the soup. Place a lid on the pot, turn the heat up to high, and bring it to a rolling boil. When it reaches a rolling boil, turn the heat down to low and let it simmer gently for 45 minutes.

After 45 minutes of simmering, test the peas to make sure they are very soft. Turn the heat off and let the soup cool slightly. Remove the bay leaf and then use an immersion blender to lightly blend the soup until it is smooth and creamy. If you don’t have an immersion blender, carefully transfer a few cups at a time to a blender and pulse the contents until smooth. Work in batches until the soup is fully blended.

Taste the soup and add salt as needed.

split pea soupIsn’t the colour amazing?!