Weeknight Gourmet: Gnocchi with peas and crispy prosciutto

Gnocchi with Peas and Prosciutto

Hello friends!

It’s “throw-back-thursday”¬†and I wanted to share a recipe I had published several years ago, when I first got married. I spend so much time finding new recipes that I sometimes forget the great ones I’ve already made ūüôā

Here is the original post:

I am so excited to share this recipe with you. Its a real winner. When I tried it – I thought of you and said…”Must… blog!”

As you may or may not know, all I think about is…”what are we eating tonight, tomorrow, next week, & right now…” Especially now that I’m married and in charge of all the meals, I spend time, happily scouring my many cookbooks or the Food Network site for tasty & easy new recipes.

 

My faithful follower and fan, my husband (God bless him), is my guinea pig (like he has a choice) ; he loves this one! He’ll never tell me he hates something, he’s a smart man, but I sure know when he LOVES something ūüôā ¬†However, with the praise, there is a funny downside. I constantly get blamed for any ounce of weight gained, tight fitting jeans and shirts..lol

Now on¬†to the recipe! Its super easy , its different, quick to prepare and looks beautiful! You’ll love the different flavors and textures – the¬†pillowy gnocchi, the salty and crisp prosciutto and the amazingly fresh tasting lemon ricotta that you dollop on the side ūüôā Its too delicious!

 

Gnocchi with peas and prosciutto - real life

I call this picture “Gnocchi with Peas and Prosciutto – REAL LIFE” because when I eat this, I smoosh the ricotta throughout the pasta, add more prosciutto and more parmesan.¬†ūüėÄ

Yield: 4  servings

Ingredients

  • 1 package of gnocchi 500g
  • 1+ 1/2 cups frozen peas, thawed
  • 3-4 slices of prosciutto/Serrano ham
  • 1 ¬†French shallot, finely diced
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 tablespoon¬†butter
  • Freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano
  • 2 cups Lemon¬†Ricotta (recipe below)

Lemon Ricotta:

  • 1¬†cups good quality ricotta cheese
  • 1/2¬†lemon, zest and juice
  • Salt & pepper to taste

Place the ricotta cheese in a mixing bowl and add the lemon zest and juice. Season with salt & freshly ground pepper. Set aside.

 

Directions

Preheat oven to 400.

Place about 3 strips of prosciutto on a sheet pan covered in parchment paper and place in a preheated 400F degree oven. Cook until crispy, about 8 to 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, blanch peas in boiling water , drain and set aside.
Boil¬†the gnocchi in salted water. The gnocchi are done when¬†they’ve all floated to the surface, remove with a slotted spoon. Reserve about 1/2 cup cooking water
Now that prosciutto has cooled, crumble it and set aside.
Preheat a sauté pan on med-high heat. Add 2 counts of olive oil and once heated, add chopped shallots and gently saute until fragrant and translucent. Throw in the peas and toss gently to coat. Season with a little salt and pepper.
Add boiled gnocchi to the pan and gently toss. Add a ladle of pasta-water to the pan, add 1 tablespoon of butter, sprinkle with Parmesan and taste for seasoning. Serve topped with crispy prosciutto and a scoop of that fresh tasting lemon ricotta.
Enjoy!!
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Overnight French Toast

French Toast

Once your casserole is prepped, place in the refrigerator for a minimum of 2 hours or overnight. All of the liquid and delicious flavours will be absorbed by the bread & ready to bake ūüôā

For Easter this year, I was receiving for brunch. I don’t know about you but “Brunch” is music to my ears as it is usually comprised of a wide variety of foods and celebration of sweet and salty flavours. I made this delicious French Toast, assorted cheeses, my mom’s parmesan deviled eggs, and a roast leg of lamb & a mille crepe cake for dessert. ¬†Even with all those great options on hand, this super-easy overnight French toast was by far the favorite.

The cinnamon and nutmeg scented baguette was soft and sweet on the inside and crispy on top; the maple glaze was sweet and buttery . Heaven!

You can easily prep this the night before in only 10 min. Then just pop it in the oven right before serving. So easy!

Ingredients

    • 3 French baguettes, ends trimmed and cut into 1/2-inch slices (if purchasing the ¬†wider Parisienne baguettes from say, Premi√®re Moisson, get only two)
    • 1 1/2 cups milk
    • 3 large eggs
    • 1 tablespoon vanilla bean paste or 1 tablespoon of pure vanilla extract
    • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
    • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
    • 2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar (optional)
For the maple glaze (day of)
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup, or more, to taste

Instructions

  • Lightly coat a 9×13 baking dish with nonstick spray. Place bread slices evenly into the baking dish.
  • In a large glass measuring cup or another bowl, whisk together milk, eggs, vanilla bean paste, cinnamon and nutmeg. Pour mixture evenly over the bread slices. Cover and place in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours or overnight.
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Place the bread mixture, uncovered, into the oven and bake for 30-35 minutes, or until golden brown.
  • Melt butter in a small saucepan or skillet¬†over medium heat. Stir in brown sugar and maple syrup until well combined and slightly thickened, about 2 minutes.
  • Pour mixture evenly over the bread slices.
  • Serve immediately, sprinkled with confectioners’ sugar, if desired.
  • Serve with maple syrup

Enjoy!!

Recipe found on: http://damndelicious.net/2015/01/12/easiest-overnight-french-toast-bake/

 

 

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Quinoa Burrito

Lunch box burrito

I go to this lovely little café in Pointe-Claire village called Marmalade Café and they specialize in unprocessed, body-friendly food. They even bake their own signature bread which has an amazingly soft texture and contains ground flax so its delicious and great for you. A sandwich with this bread is unreal! It smells heavenly in there! They also have, once tasted, the only hot chocolate you will ever want again. I often have their quinoa wrap which was packed with flavour and good-for-you ingredients; tomato, peppers, onion and dark leafy greens.

Quinoa is very high in protein and contains twice the amount of fibre in other grains and is high in iron among other things. It also contains all the amino acids that your body needs which is hard to get from other food source! Its a must if your working towards healthier eating. I always keep cooked quinoa in the fridge because it is so versatile although it is delicious plain as well.

So I combined my love of quinoa wraps and Mexican food and made these delicious quinoa burritos! I could eat one for lunch every day. The cheese is the glue that holds it all together, not mention the gooey deliciousness it adds,¬†and the black beans add the starchiness that quinoa lacks. Yes, quinoa has that one fault. ūüėČ

A few words about rice cookers. Not only do they make perfect rice every time, they can make perfect Farro, Barley, Polenta and yes… you guessed it, quinoa too. Its hassle free. You throw in the required ratio of ingredients and let it be. This is now the only way I make quinoa but of course you can make it on the cook-top.

Ingredients

Quinoa

1+1/2 cups of quinoa, rinsed twice and drained (Makes about 2 cups cooked)

2+1/4 cups of water or broth

1 tsp salt

This ratio makes more than you’ll need but cooked quinoa never goes to waste! You can make a salad with it by adding your favourite dressing,¬†walnuts ¬†dried cranberries etc… or have it for breakfast instead of oatmeal. I¬†top it with berries and a little maple syrup…sometimes I add yogurt. Its great.

Sauce

540ml can Aylmer Accents: Chili Seasonings Diced Stewed Tomatoes (Found at Metro and Provigo/Loblaws)

or 540ml can of plain diced tomato

1/2 french shallot, minced (or equal amount of regular onion)

1 clove garlic minced

1/2 can black beans, rinsed and drained (more or less; depends how bean-ey you like it)

Salt

Note: Try to find the chili diced tomatoes, they cut down on time and the flavours are perfect for this dish. However, if using plain diced tomatoes, add ground cumin, chopped mild fresh chili pepper, and your favourite chili powder. (to taste)

Other ingredients:

Kraft or Cracker Barrel shredded Tex-Mex cheese

Large whole wheat tortillas such as POM

Directions:

Can make ahead: Add rinsed quinoa, salt and water to a pot. Bring to a boil, lower to a simmer, cover with a tight fitting lid and allow to cook undisturbed until all of the liquid has evaporated. Fluff quinoa and set aside.

If using a rice cooker (fav.¬†method) : Combine quinoa, salt and water in a medium rice cooker. Set to “regular” cycle (white rice). After cooking, allow the quinoa to continue steaming for an additional 5 minutes on the keep warm setting (or with the machine turned off)

In the meantime, heat a medium saucepan on medium. Heat a little olive oil and throw in minced shallot. Once shallots cook down and become a little translucent, add garlic and sauté for 30-45 seconds (do not brown).

Add diced tomatoes, black beans and simmer for about 30 minutes to thicken. If it is cooking down too rapidly, lower heat add a few splashes of water.

Add about 1 +1/4 cup of cooked quinoa to sauce until combined. Actually, add as much or as little as you like. Just ensure that its not too saucy as it will make your burrito soggy.

Now that all your cooking is done you can assemble. Take your tortilla and place about 1/2 cup or a little more of your quinoa mixture (again, this is a guideline), add the desired amount of cheese and fold like so: Yeah, it can be tricky sometimes hehe.


Anecdote – This was the 4th and last take¬†of my video. After this, I would run out of tortillas. ¬†So, not only did my husband speak during every take, he also decided to empty the garbage behind me! I managed to crop the video and add music but you still see his legs. OMG lol . *Blushing* You’ll have to forgive me as¬†I’m a real person with a full time job and a husband and this was just me making supper.¬†C’est tout! ūüėČ

PS: The song is called Come by  Jain


 

Here’s a handy diagram too!

Burrito folding


 

The last step is to get those beautiful grill marks and melt the cheese! I use my panini grill or my grill pan. You can add toppings like salsa, avocado and more cheese. You can also bake your burritos with salsa + cheese so it gets all gooey and melty.

Healthy never tasted so good ūüôā

 

Extra…EXTRA!!

Health benefits of Quinoa:

1. Quinoa is one of the most protein-rich foods we can eat. It is a complete protein containing all nine essential amino acids which help your body:

  • Break down food
  • Grow
  • Repair body tissue
  • Perform many other body functions
2. Quinoa contains almost twice as much fiber as most other grains.¬†Fiber is most widely known to relieve constipation. It also helps to prevent heart disease by reducing high blood pressure and diabetes. Fiber lowers cholesterol and glucose levels, may lower your risk of developing hemorrhoids and may help you to lose weight as it takes a longer time to chew than does other foods because it makes you feel fuller for longer and is less ‚Äúenergy dense‚ÄĚ which means it has fewer calories for the same volume of food.
3. Quinoa contains Iron. Iron helps keep our red blood cells healthy and is the basis of hemoglobin formation. Iron carries oxygen from one cell to another and supplies oxygen to our muscles to aid in their contraction. Iron also increases brain function because the brain takes in about 20% of our blood oxygen. There are many benefits of iron some more of which include neurotransmitter synthesis, regulation of body temperature, aids enzyme activity and energy metabolism.
 
4. Quinoa contains lysine. Lysine is mainly essential for tissue growth and repair.
5. Quinoa is rich in magnesium. Magnesium helps to relax blood vessels and thereby to alleviate migraines. Magnesium also may reduce Type 2 diabetes by promoting healthy blood sugar control. Other health benefits of magnesium include transmission of nerve impulses, body temperature regulation, detoxification, energy production, and the formation of healthy bones and teeth.
6. Quinoa is high in Riboflavin (B2). B2 improves energy metabolism within brain and muscle cells and is known to help create proper energy production in cells.
7. Quinoa has a high content of manganese. Manganese is an antioxidant, which helps to prevent damage of mitochondria during energy production as well as to protect red blood cells and other cells from injury by free radicals.

 

Source: http://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-4994/7-Benefits-of-Quinoa-The-Supergrain-of-the-Future.html

Health benefits of black beans:¬†The black bean’s¬†fiber, potassium,¬†folate, vitamin B6 and phytonutrient content, coupled with its lack of cholesterol, all support heart health. The¬†fiber¬†in black beans helps lower the total amount of cholesterol in the blood and decrease the risk of heart disease.

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Delicious Paleo Banana Pancakes (GF)

 

Paleo pancake stack

Hello there!

Thank you for stopping by.

Let me start off by saying once again that I have not gone Gluten-Free or Paleo and I sure as hell ain’t going Vegan but I do like to visit sometimes. So what should you be focused on when¬†trying to improve overall health? Reducing inflammation, healing your gut, getting in your vitamins and nutrients and of course keeping your weight in check. If you do that, you’ll be off to the races! Processed foods containing additives, refined flours, sugars and the now taboo red meat, all contribute to putting your system off balance and that may be putting it lightly. I certainly won’t give up meat or my morning toast all together¬†but I think its important to open our minds to reducing the intake of these harmful¬†foods and incorporating some vegan, gluten-free and paleo practices¬†here and there to keep you on track.

Cooking healthy takes longer, I know. I just got back from a vacation that was full of indulgence and laziness and now my husband and I are ready¬†to eat healthy again. So, Its a lot of cleaning, peeling, cutting and soaking…Although, its so worth it because you will feel less bloated, thirsty, sluggish and believe it or not, less moody too. Also, healthy recipes have come a long way. Its not all cottage cheese on a Weight Watchers slice of bread anymore. It’s 2016! People are so creative with food now and many have found “hacks” to make healthy¬†meals taste deceptively unhealthy or full-fat.

So here¬†is my “hack” on pancakes. They are off-the-hook!! (super delicious ūüėȬ†Fluffy & flavourful without refined sugars or flour! Your body will thank you! You’ll feel full and energetic rather than¬†full and nappy. yawn

Delicious Paleo Banana Pancakes

Yield: Makes about 4 medium sized pancakes

Paleo pancake ingredients

Ingredients

1 small/medium banana, mashed roughly with a fork

2 large eggs, lightly beaten

1 tsp vanilla

1/4 to 1/2 tsp of baking powder (if using)

1 tsp cinnamon

2 tbsp of coconut flour.

Extra-virgin coconut oil or cooking spray for the pan

 

Directions

Heat your griddle or non-stick frying pan on medium.

Mix all of your ingredients with a fork until batter comes together.

Spray your pan with cooking spray or brush on a little extra virgin coconut oil.

Drop your batter into the pan and try to form them into disks. I used the back of a spoon to ¬†thin them out evenly and shape them into disks. The batter won’t bubble on top like traditional pancakes. This normally means that its time to flip. With these you will notice when the top is starting to set, then flip! If your pancakes are a little too dark, lower your heat to low. (especially if you have a gas cooktop)

If you love butter like me, add a pat of it when serving, it won’t kill you. Drizzle with maple syrup and enjoy hot!

Enjoy!!

Adapted from: http://www.stayfitmom.com/no-fail-paleo-pancakes-gluten-free/

EXTRAAAAA, EXTRA…

WHY Coconut flour? It is high in fiber, protein, and healthy fats and is free from wheat and other grains. It is also low in sugar, digestible carbohydrates and calories, and has a low score on the glycemic index.

Why reduce your refined sugar intake?¬†Well, it’ll reduce the risk of diabetes for 1, it’ll keep your brain sharp reducing the risk of dementia. It reduces the risk of depression and certain cancers. Reducing refined sugars could have great social benefits as well such as improving the look of your skin, keeping it young and reducing the chances of bad breath! You’ll breath better too, have less cravings and so much more.. Seriously, the list is miles long so just DO IT. Not into Stevia or similar? Neither am I.¬†Maple syrup, honey, dates and fruit will serve your body better. Trust me.

People, they are a¬†changin’: People’s tastes are changing. Health-conscious is in! (also bacon cupcakes but lets just ignore those for now)¬†The best proof I can provide you with is that they opened a Vegan “fast food” restaurant¬†near my house called Copper Branch and their food is legitimately delicious. Its not a farce. I crave many items on their menu especially¬†their Shiitake Burger¬†as much as I would crave my favourite burger at Mc Donald’s. It looks and tastes like a pulled pork , topped with their¬†signature red slaw on a Kamut sesame seed bun. Firstly, I could not believe how delicious it was and that I was not eating meat!¬†I kept staring at it then I’d take another bite, perplexed. I urged by husband to try it the first time.I¬†kept saying ,”Wanna try?””No thanks”.”Come on, try it!!”.”No!”¬†“YOU HAVE TO TRY THIS!”Ignores me”YOU WON’T BELIEVE IT!” (I can be¬†annoying)”Just stop”Then he got mad… and as I “shkoffed” it down, I shrugged and said, with my mouth bursting “I don’t know why you couldn’t just try it”. lol Needless to say,¬†I was so impressed and it really opened my mind to new possibilities. I encourage you to try it.
PS: There aren’t any hippies banging a¬†drum in there or¬†anything. ūüėČ Its cool.
PPS: My husband loves it now too.
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Fried Ravioli

Rav2

Hey there!

I see my parents almost every Sunday evening and we usually go to Gigi’s, a local pizza joint¬†here in the West Island. However, on this occasion¬†we ate at my place. I hate breaking routine. Especially when it means I gotta do dishes on a Sunday nightESPECIALLY when it means I gotta miss out on my all dressed pizza with “pep on top” and the best fries in the world! However, there was a silver lining to my cloud…My mom and I¬†were going to make Fried Ravioli!

What could be better? Crispy, fried, cheese filled pillows with a sprinkling of fresh lemon juice and freshly grated parmesan cheese with marinara dipping sauce.

I was surprised at how quick they were to prepare as they require very little time in the oil.  If you want to whip up several batches of ravioli, then I recommend using a deep fryer if you have one. Its easy to keep the temperature right and its not as messy.

My friend Sabrina serves her fried ravioli in a shallow bowl with a chopped tomato bruschetta-style salad on top. It’s like a delicious twist on Panzanella salad. True that the tomato mixture will soften some of the ravioli but that’s what I like about it; the mix of textures – some crispy and some soft. ¬†¬†In any form, these babies¬†are a sure crowd pleaser!

Notes:

  • You can also use a deep fryer like I did. I used peanut oil; its my¬†favorite for frying.
  • It can be difficult for some to find fresh ravioli so if your ravioli are frozen, let them thaw, ¬†covered in the fridge.
  • You can add a pinch or two of ground nutmeg to the breadcrumbs. Nutmeg and ricotta go great together.

Fried Ravioli

Ingredients

Olive oil, for frying
1 cup buttermilk
2 cups Italian-style bread crumbs
1 box store-bought cheese ravioli (about 24 ravioli)
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan
1 jar store bought marinara sauce, heated, for dipping
Directions

Pour enough olive oil into a large frying pan to reach a depth of 2 inches. Heat the oil over medium heat until a deep-fry thermometer registers 325 degrees F.

While the oil is heating, put the buttermilk and the bread crumbs in separate shallow bowls. Working in batches, dip ravioli in buttermilk to coat completely. Allow the excess buttermilk to drip back into the bowl. Dredge ravioli in the bread crumbs. Place the ravioli on a baking sheet, and continue with the remaining ravioli.

When the oil is hot, fry the ravioli in batches, turning occasionally, until golden brown, about 3 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the fried ravioli to paper towels to drain.

Sprinkle the fried ravioli with freshly grated Parmesan, fresh lemon juice and serve with a bowl of warmed marinara sauce for dipping. Serve immediately.

Enjoy!

 

 

Recipe courtesy of Giada De Laurentiis

Read more at: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/giada-de-laurentiis/fried-ravioli-recipe.print.html?oc=linkback

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Warm Chickpea Salad with Fresh Mint & Yogurt

 

Warm Chickpea Salad

I just got the second cookbook from the Bakopoulos sisters called “Back to the Beginning” and I could not be more psyched to dive in! Their first cookbook, Around the Greek Table is my #1 , all time favourite cookbook! The recipes are fantastic , easy to follow and the results will be as expected which is not a given with many cookbooks. I also love how in both books they show you how to pronounce the Greek name of each dish. Nice touch ūüėČ

This one is called:

“Revithosalata” (Reh-vee-tho-sah-LAH-tah)

Around the Greek Table won¬†“The Best Cookbook in the World” a couple of years ago and¬†I am sure this one won’t disappoint either. If you are a fan of Mediterannian food, then these books are for you.

Back to the Beginning

I needed a side dish one evening and decided on this recipe as I happened to have all the ingredients on hand. I had later posted a pic of it on Instagram to gauge how it would be received. To my delight, I got lots of requests for the recipe. When I sent it to them, I got some questions. They seemed to have reservations about some of the ingredients.

1) Why the yogurt? What’s the point?

Well, I wondered¬†the same thing but did not omit it. I have faith in the sisters! I discovered that it is a necessary component. It’s a pleasant contrast to the other flavours; it cuts and lightens the¬†tomatoey spiciness of the dish. I would not make this without the yogurt. Also, its good for you!

2) CUMIN SEEDS? I can’t be doin’ with all that Cumin.¬†

Ok fair enough. I don’t like too much cumin either and use it sparingly. However in this dish, the toasted cumin seeds have a much lighter, nuttier taste than ground cumin. But if this is really¬†a “no-go”, then I recommend adding a dash of Oregano instead towards the end. In Greek cooking, fresh mint an dried oregano are the best of friends. Although frankly,¬†the dish would be great without cumin or oregano. The tomato, allspice, pepper flakes and mint can hold their own.

Cumin gets a bad-rap for its distinctive flavour but it boots iron, immunity and fights free radicals in the body. 

3) What does Allspice taste like?

Allspice is¬†synonymous with comfort food. It tastes like¬†a blend of cloves, cinnamon and nutmeg. ¬†You’ll love what it adds to the dish!

(note: Depending on the brand, it may be called Jamaican Allspice)

Cold weather calls for warm salads. This chickpea salad with allspice, cumin and tomato is very fragrant and colourful. The addition of mint and yogurt rounds it out lightens it up. Very yummy and comforting with nice flavour complexity.

Recipe (V) (GF)

Serves 4, Cooking time: 20 min

Ingredients:

1/4 cup olive oil

1 tbsp whole cumin seeds (or less if you prefer)

1/4 tsp of dried red chilies (flakes)

5 scallions (green onion) White and pale green parts only, chopped

2 garlic cloves, chopped

3 vine-ripened tomatoes, roughly chopped

1 can (19 oz / 540ml) of chickpeas, drained and rinsed

1/4 tsp salt

1/4 tsp ground allspice

1/4 cup fresh mint, minced or cut into fine ribbons

4 tbsp Greek Yogurt (I love 2% Skotidakis Plain Greek Yogurt)

Directions:

Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat (low if you have a gas range). When the oil is hot, add the cumin seeds and and chilies , stirring constantly until the seeds are toasted and fragrant. This can happen very quickly so keep an eye on it.

Add the remaining olive oil along with the scallions and garlic and sauté for about 2 minutes. Do not brown the garlic.

Add the tomatoes, chickpeas, salt and allspice. Stir and cook until juices are absorbed, about 5 minutes.

Remove from heat and stir in the fresh mint. Taste and adjust seasonings if necessary. Plate it and top with a large dollop of the Greek Yogurt.

Enjoy xox

Why not check out my other recipes by the Bakopoulos sisters?

Opa! Fresh Herb-Crusted Rack of Lamb

Greek Night! Spinach and Dilll Rice (Spanakorizo)

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The Best Apple Pie – Step 3 – Assembly and Baking

Apple Pie Glam shot 1

Picture by Vanilla Bean Online

Thank you for hanging in there! You are now at the final step – baking your delicious pie!

To make the most delicious Apple Pie, I marinate my apples first!

I find that the tastiest pies are made with McIntosh apples although some people believe that they are not the ideal apples for pie making as they tend to be on the softer side and kind of mush up a little during baking but I find their flavour to be the absolute best. They have just the right about of sweetness and tartness. You can add 2 green apples to the mix to add even more tartness or if you prefer a mellow-sweet taste, you can add 1-2 bartlett pears when they are at their peak.

Always serve “A la mode” with vanilla bean ice cream ūüôā

Apple Pie

  • 6-8 McIntosh apples, sliced finely. (Aprox 1/4inch thick)
  • 1/2cup of sugar
  • 1/4cup of brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp of cinnamon
  • 3tbsp of corn starch

In a large bowl, combine the above ingredients and mix with your hands.

Set aside and allow to “marinate” and excrete excess liquid for about 1hour or more.

Marinating and drawing out liquid is a must! Putting fresh, unmarinated apples directly into your pie, can cause it to be soupy and apples will boil down to mush.

With a slotted spoon, place apple slices into your prepared pie crust. Resist the urge to press them down too compactly. Place them evenly but loosely if that makes sense.

Place top crust over top, fold the edges of your top and bottom crusts together down into your pie dish. Then crimp together using thumb and forefingers.

Vent your pie. You can make simple slits or use very small cookie cutters to cut out little shapes. If using the cookie cutter method, you must cut out the shapes before placing it on the pie.

Eggwash

  • 1 egg beaten with a pinch of salt and 1tbsp of water

Adding a pinch of salt to your egg wash helps to break it down making it easier to spread evenly over your pie.

Brush egg wash over your pie with a pastry brush and then smooth over with your finger to reduce the appearance of visible brush strokes on your pie. Using a paper towel, soak up any egg wash puddles which may have formed.

Bake for 10 minutes at 425 ,

Then lower heat…

Bake at 350 for about 35 minutes.

Note: If the edge is browning too much carefully place a foil crown around the edge.

Enjoy!

Stephanie M. xox

Starry Night Pie: Inspired by Van Gogh ūüôā

To make my “Starry Night” pie crust I used a tiny star shaped cookie cutter and cut out a few stars in random places into my top dough, reserving the little star cut-outs.

I always make my cut-outs before placing my top dough onto my pie. Once I place my top crust on, I brush the top of my pie with egg wash (as described above) and then place my star cut outs, here and there, in-between the star shaped holes. Then I brush on a little egg wash over the stars and voila!

Tip: Dip your cookie-cutter in flour before cutting out your stars. This will ensure a perfect star shape.¬†You wouldn’t want to have misshapen stars all over your pie!

Watch out! Cuteness overload ūüôā

Apple Pie Glam shot 2

Picture by Vanilla Bean Online

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The Best Apple Pie – Step2 – Rolling Out and Crimping your Pie Dough

pie crust 103: rolling and crimping your dough

Picture by Smitten Kitchen

Rolling Out and Crimping your Pie Dough – by Smitten Kitchen

Pictures & text by Smitten Kitchen

Start by getting your stuff out: You’ll want a small dish of flour (or a shaker, if you have one), a rolling pin, your pie dough that has been chilling for an hour or two, but preferably longer, your pie pan and some sort of bench scraper or knife.

pie crust 103: 1pie crust 103: 3pie crust 103: 4pie crust 103: 5

Flour the heck out of your surface, unwrap the dough and put it in the middle and flour that too. Be generous, you’ll thank me later.

Get rolling:¬†Start rolling your dough by pressing down lightly with the pin and moving it from the center out. You‚Äôre not going to get it all flat in one roll or even twenty; be patient and it will crack less. Roll it a few times in one direction, lift it up and rotate it a quarter-turn. And that‚Äôs what you‚Äôre going to continue to do, roll a couple times, lift the dough and rotate it. Re-flour the counter and the top of the dough as needed‚Äďdon‚Äôt skimp! You should be leaving no bits of dough on the counter and none should be stuck to your pin.

pie crust 103: 6pie crust 103: 7pie crust 103: 8pie crust 103: 9

Roll, lift, turn, repeat. Got it?

pie crust 103: 10pie crust 103: 11pie crust 103: 12pie crust 103: 13

Whoops! But what is this? Despite your best efforts, you go to lift the dough and part of it doesn’t want to move. It happens to me all of the time. Use that bench scraper and run it tightly underneath the stuck part, peel it back, and flour the heck out of that area, before getting back to rolling, lifting and turning the dough. I told you it was going to be all right!

Trim the dough:¬†For a standard-size pie tin ‚ÄĒ that‚Äôs what this pie dough is scaled to, after all ‚ÄĒ you‚Äôre looking for a 12-inch circle. You can either keep a ruler nearby, or if you‚Äôre me, know that a certain kitchen bowl has a 12-inch diameter rim and use that as your stencil. We‚Äôre really high tech here. (Also, you might consider not walking around the kitchen saying ‚ÄúHm, what‚Äôs 12 inches in here?‚ÄĚ aloud. Especially¬†if you live with an Office fanatic.) Trim your pie dough into a 12-inch circle with the tip of a knife.

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Transfer your crust: Because your pie dough has been kept cool and loose on the counter, transferring it to the tin should be no trouble at all. Some people suggest your roll it around the pin and unroll it in the pan, and hey, that works too. But I prefer to fold it very loosely into quarters and unfold it into the pie pan.

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For a single crust pie, fold the excess under: Press it gently into the pan, making sure it is centered. You should have half an inch overhang around the pan, and you’ll want to fold this overhang under so that the pie dough becomes the size of the pan.

If you’re making a double-crust pie, you’re going to want to wait to fold the excess under and crimp the edges until you have sealed the top and bottom lids together.

Crimp the edges decoratively:¬†One you‚Äôve got the excess folded under, you can make a traditional decorative crimp by forming a ‚ÄúV‚ÄĚ with the tips of the thumb and index finger of one hand and pressing the dough into this ‚ÄúV‚ÄĚ with the index finger of your other hand. Go around the rim until the whole thing is so cute, you can barely take it.

pie crust 103: 22pie crust 103: 24

Get crafty with the scraps: If you’re me, the sight of the extra scraps of pie dough on the counter after you have trimmed your circle is just torture. I can never resist re-rolling mine, and using cookie cutters to make little leaves or hearts or apples and decorating the pie crust tops with them (use a little egg wash as glue). Alternately, you could skip the crimping part altogether and create a leaf wreath around the edges of your pie, but prepare to be teased, just a little, for getting so carried away, not that I’d know this from experience or anything. (Psst: I’ll still think you’re cool!)

Next up: Assembling and Baking your Apple Pie

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The Best Apple Pie – Step 1- All Butter Flaky Pie Dough

Apple Pie - Flakey close up

Vanilla Bean Online – Flaky Pie Crust

Hello all!

For years I have been struggling to make pie dough. Most of the time it wouldn’t hold together at all and I’d have to do a lot of patch work in order for it to resemble a pie at all! Oh, how my husband laughed at me, claiming that my pies always looked like a careless toddler¬†made them out of Play Dough¬†but I was not to be discouraged!

But seriously, why wasn’t it working out!? I’d followed recipes from my trusted chefs like Alton Brown, Emeril Lagasse, Ina Garten but none worked for me. ¬†So¬†after a lapse of about a year, (enough time to forget how badly failure can feel after you’ve tried so hard and used up about 100 apples), I stumbled upon¬†this recipe and tutorial from Smitten Kitchen¬†. It is the most helpful tutorial I have found to date. I finally learned what my dough was supposed to look and feel like. I learned what was important to look for and even on my first try, my crust came out perfectly! So, if I can do it , then anyone can!

Make sure to follow my 3 step process, split up into 3 separate posts:

Step 1 – Making your all butter pie dough

Step 2 – Rolling and crimping your dough

Step 3 – Assembling and baking your pie

All Butter Flaky Pie Dough

Recipe and Pictures directly sourced from Smitten Kitchen

Makes enough dough for one double-, or two single-crust pies.

2 1/2 cups (315 grams) flour
1 tablespoon (15 grams) sugar
1 teaspoon (5 grams) table salt
2 sticks (8 ounces, 225 grams tablespoons or 1 cup) unsalted butter, very cold

pie crust 102: 1pie crust 102: 2pie crust 102: 3pie crust 102: 4

Gather your ingredients:¬†Fill a one cup liquid measuring cup with water, and drop in a few ice cubes; set it aside. In a large bowl ‚ÄĒ I like to use a very wide one, so I can get my hands in ‚ÄĒ whisk together 2 1/2 cups flour, 1 tablespoon of sugar and a teaspoon of salt. Dice two sticks (8 ounces or 1 cup) of very cold unsalted butter into 1/2-inch pieces. Get out your¬†pastry blender.

Make your mix:¬†Sprinkle the butter cubes over the flour and begin working them in with the pastry blender, using it to scoop and redistribute the mixture as needed so all parts are worked evenly. When all of the butter pieces are the size of tiny peas ‚ÄĒ this won‚Äôt take long ‚ÄĒ stop. Yes, even if it looks uneven; you‚Äôll thank me later.

pie crust 102: 5pie crust 102: 6pie crust 102: 7pie crust 102: 8

Glue it together: Start by drizzling 1/2 cup (120 ml) of the ice-cold water (but not the cubes, if there are any left!) over the butter and flour mixture. Using a rubber or silicon spatula, gather the dough together. You’ll probably need an additional 1/4 cup (60 ml) of cold water to bring it together, but add it a tablespoon as a time. Once you’re pulling large clumps with the spatula, take it out and get your hands in there (see how that big bowl comes in handy?). Gather the disparate damp clumps together into one mound, kneading them gently together.

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Pack it up: Divide the dough in half , and place each half on a large piece of plastic wrap. I like to use the sides to pull in the dough and shape it into a disk. Let the dough chill in the fridge for one hour, but preferably at least two, before rolling it out.

Do ahead: Dough will keep in the fridge for about a week, and in the freezer longer. If not using it that day, wrap it in additional layers of plastic wrap to protect it from fridge/freezer smells. To defrost your dough, move it to the fridge for one day before using it.

Stephanie’s tricks: What I’ve learned

Keeping it cool: The trick is to keep everything cool as your working with it but If it is a particularly warm day or if its warm in the house, that can work against you and change the outcome of your dough. So touchy, eh? So, I sometimes put the bowl with the flour mixture in the fridge for a few minutes and I always pop my butter cubes in the freezer for 5-10 minutes too.

Size: This recipe makes a double crust pie if using a small pie pan (about the size of those disposable aluminum foil ones). If you have a wider or deep dish pan, then I suggest doubling this recipe. Although don’t combine all of the ingredients in one go. Make this recipe twice, individually. It’ll be more manageable and the results will remain more consistent. You will have extra dough but you can freeze it or make individual hand pies with it.

Next up: A tutorial on rolling out your dough.

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Cauliflower Fried “Rice”

Cauliflower Chicken Fried Rice 3

This recipe is so easy, quick to prepare and really delicious! You don’t need to boil the cauliflower beforehand; just grate and saut√© with all the usual great stuff that goes into traditional fried rice! Except for the rice of course. You won’t miss it, I promise.

Yes, I know, ¬†this is yet another recipe where Cauliflower is cleverly used as a substitute for another ingredient. It used to be largely ignored, only ever¬†associated with veggies n’ ranch dip and known to cause “the smelliest farts on earth” apparently. ¬†Nowadays the possibilities with this unassuming veggie are¬†endless, almost annoyingly so!¬†Pizza crust, calzone crust, fried “rice”, mashed “potatoes”, “couscous”, ¬†“Fatouche” salad, “bread”¬†rolls and¬†even f-ing¬†Cauliflower “steak”!¬†¬†Although admittedly, I always try making them because¬†I’m¬†curious of the outcome; curious to know if it will taste just like the food who’s identity it’s stealing. Its creepy; it can be….a n y t h i n g.

They’ve even invented Cauliflower Dip. So that we can dip cauliflower into some more cauliflower? Come on!

Anyway, seriously this was so delicious that I am craving it right now as I am writing to you. I read the post to my husband and now he’s craving it too. ¬†I hope you enjoy it!

Don’t forget to serve this along with my favorite √† cot√©¬†: Wing Wong egg rolls (You know, to counter-balance the healthiness of the dish – Tee-hee)¬†Gluten-free if you use Tamari sauce instead of Soy sauce.

Cauliflower Fried “Rice”

  • 1 Tablespoon + 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 small head cauliflower
  • 1/2 cup frozen mixed vegetables
  • 2 green onions
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • salt and pepper
  • 3 Tablespoons gluten-free Tamari or soy sauce (dish will not be GF if using soy sauce)
  • (Optional) Cooked chicken breast
  1. Combine 1 teaspoon sesame oil with eggs in a bowl then whisk to combine and set aside. Chop cauliflower head into big chunks then send through a food processor fitted with the grating attachment. Alternatively you could grate the cauliflower on a box grater. Measure out 4 cups grated cauliflower then save the rest for another use.
  2. Heat remaining 1 Tablespoon sesame oil in a wok or large nonstick skillet over high heat. Add cauliflower, green onions, and frozen mixed vegetables then stir fry until cauliflower is just beginning to turn tender, 3-4 minutes. Add garlic, and cooked chicken, if using. Season with salt and pepper, and then continue to stir fry until garlic is fragrant, 30 seconds or so.
  3. Push mixture to the sides of the wok to create an opening in the center then add the eggs and scramble. Toss mixture to combine then drizzle in gluten-free Tamari and mix again to combine. Serve hot.

Cauliflower Fried Rice 1Cauliflower chicken fried rice 2

Cauliflower Chicken Fried Rice 3

Enjoy!

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New Shepherd’s Pie

New Shepherds pie oven

New Shepherd’s Pie

I wanted to share my recipe for “New” Shepherd’s Pie! Instead of beef, its made with chicken thighs (for maximum moisture), slowly cooked in BBQ sauce & shredded, with a traditional mashed potato topping. It was so delicious!

Soooooo, why would I make a pulled chicken shepherd’s pie? Well, beef is out. Heard the news lately? Apparently everything we’ve been eating is disastrously unhealthy for us or so it seems.

Red Meat Drama

The other night I had made this beautiful…I mean beautiful Shepherd’s Pie , with minced beef , you know, the usual way. I had made it ahead¬†for a quick work-week meal. ¬†So on the day I was to serve my glorious pie, as luck would have it, ¬†the news broke¬†about red meat being the end of humanity. So as you can imagine, we sat there, watching the news while eating our meal, incapable of¬†fully enjoying it, feeling that we were killing ourselves with every bite… Sounds dramatic but you have to put yourself in my shoes at the time. That day, it was chaos! Social media exploded with “facts” and figures about the effects of eating certain types of meat.¬†What?!? No prosciutto? Bye Bye Big Mac? NO… BACON????¬† OMG! Smoked meat!?

T’was a sad, sad day for all meat lovers. I envisioned cows everywhere breathing a sigh of relief; no more lineups at Mc Donald’s, Schwartz’s windows bordered up… tumble weed…What will Willensky’s do when they can’t sell their famous bologna sandwiches anymore? ¬†Nah, turns out people don’t give a crap. “Don’t these people watch the news!!?”¬†I exclaimed.

Now that the dust has settled, it turns out you can still eat red meat¬†once and a while. Preferably organic and unprocessed, un-barbequed, un-cured, un-hot-dogged…you get the point… Just set the cow down right here please. Thank you.

My mom always told me that real traditional shepherd’s pie was made with left-overs, often with shredded meat so I guess this is sort of new but old shepherd’s pie then ūüėČ

Note: You can add a layer of corn like a regular¬†Shepherd’s Pie; the favours of the slowly-cooked bbq chicken would certainly go very well with it.

 Now on to the recipe!

New Shepherd's pie cut peice

New Shepherd’s Pie with Cauliflower Mash Topping

Step 1

Slowly Cooked BBQ Shredded Chicken

3 to 4 pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs, or a mix of thighs and breasts (Trimmed of fat)
Olive oil
1 large onion, diced
2 (or more) cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons smoked paprika
2 teaspoons salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 cups (12 ounces) barbecue sauce plus more for serving ( I like Stubbs Original )

Remove the chicken from its packaging and pat it dry. (Trim excess fat)

In a Dutch oven or heavy pot heat a drizzle of olive oil over medium heat. Cook the onion and garlic for 5 minutes or until quite soft. Add the smoked paprika and stir. Add the chicken one piece at a time, stirring to mix well with the onion. Stir in the salt and a few generous grinds of black pepper. Pour in the barbecue sauce and bring to a simmer. Simmer very briefly.

Turn off the heat and pour it all into a slow cooker.

Cook for 5 to 7 hours on LOW.

Use a slotted spoon to transfer the chicken to a large bowl. Use two forks to shred the chicken finely.

Pour the remaining sauce from the slow-cooker into a small saucepan, and simmer ,uncovered, over med-high heat. Reduce to about half of its volume. Use this thickened sauce to drizzle over your pie and add a little bit to your shredded chicken as shown below.

At this stage you can refrigerate for up to 5 days or freeze for up to 3 months.

Step 2

Mashed Potato Topping

4 Medium sized russet potatoes

2 tbsp of butter (or to your liking)

Salt

1/2 cup warm milk (or to your liking)

Shredded Tex Mex Cheese (optional)

Cut potatoes into chunks. Boil in generously salted water until fork-tender.

Drain well and add butter. Add milk a little at a time and mash until desired consistency is achieved.  Set aside.

Assembly

With a slotted spoon, place chicken into a 8×8 greased baking dish.

Spoon mashed potatoes over it.

Bake at 350 for about 30 minutes or until mixture is bubbly and topping has slightly crisp.

Enjoy!

Stephanie M.


Alternative Topping (Low carb)

Pictured above

Cauliflower Mashed “Potatoes”

1 large head of cauliflower cut into flowerets

1 tbsp butter

1 clove of very finely minced garlic

Salt & Pepper

Boil flowerets in about 2 inches of water with the lid on to boil/steam them – for about 6 minutes or until they break apart easily with a fork. Careful not to overcook as they will retain more water.

Drain well and return to the same pot, add garlic and let them sit steaming in the pot for about 2 minutes. Add butter, some salt and pepper. Blend with an immersion blender.

Spoon onto chicken & bake as directed above!

Cauliflower Mased Potatoes

Pulled Shepherd's pie scoop

New Shepherd’s Pie with Cauliflower & Cheese Topping Coulda’ done without the cheese though.

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Easy Chicken Fried Rice

 

Easy Chicken Fried Rice Close-up

Hello all!

If you’ve followed my blog a little, you already know that my husband is rarely nostalgic about food he had as a child. Its not that he doesn’t like the food he ate growing up, its just that he doesn’t attach emotion to food like I do. Having said that though, he is not without ANY food-feelings at all. He does love his mom’s Soupe Rouge (Tomato soup) and her Chicken Fried Rice.

He had a real man’s cold this week. No… I’d say it was a Sasquatch-sized cold and he decided that he should not diet right now (because we are always on a “diet”). He said that he should eat what he likes and enough of it for energy and to recuperate. YAY!¬†It was a nice change to be able to make what we really like, comfort foods like pasta and such. Anyway, he had stopped by¬†his parents’ house the other evening and upon¬†returning home he said that his parents had Chicken Fried Rice and egg rolls for supper and asked me if I’d make him some. I was surprised! He NEVER requests meals. He is usually content with whatever is on the menu.¬†I could not¬†possibly refuse!¬†I was actually delighted that he asked and said, “it probably won’t be exactly like your mom’s though but I’ll try”. I needed to prepare him because¬†try as you might to copy someone’s recipe, it never turns out exactly the same.

So here we are. I made it and he gave it his super-stamp of approval stating that although it wasn’t exactly like his mother’s, he loved it!! Honestly, it tasted a lot like take-out albeit a little healthier.¬†

My parents and I have a brief conversation every day that always includes, “What are you eating tonight? Oh yeah, you?…” So I told my father that I was going to make¬†this¬†and he said what he always says when he hears the words “chicken fried rice”, “What?! Chicken fried lice??” lol , every-single-time.

Ingredients:

2 Cups of cooked rice ( I used basmati and it worked out great )

1 cooked chicken breast cut into small cubes (leftovers from a rotisserie chicken will do just fine)

1/2 cup of frozen peas and carrots

1 clove of garlic, minced

3 large green onions or 4 small. White and green parts finely chopped (half is for sautéing and the other half for garnish)

3 tsp of sesame oil +1 tsp of sesame oil – divided.

2 tbsp of soy sauce (or Tamari if you want it to be gluten-free)

Directions:

Beat egg with a teaspoon of sesame oil and set aside.

Pre-heat and spray a small non-stick frying pan with a little cooking spray. Add beaten egg mixture and swish around in a circular motion so that egg sets in a thin layer ¬†like a crepe. Cover to cook the top or flip if needed. When it’s fully cooked, remove the egg from the pan cut it up into very small pieces and set aside.

Heat 3 teaspoons of sesame oil in a large pan or wok over medium (sesame oil should never be heated on high). Add peas and carrots, then half of the green onion.

When vegetables have begun to soften after 2 min, add your garlic and sauté for 30 seconds more.

Next, add your chicken, cooked rice, Soy or Tamari sauce and the egg. Toss to combine.

Taste and adjust seasoning if needed. If you like more soy or sesame oil, just add a few drops at a time and taste again. Just a little of those ingredients go a long way flavour-wise.

Note: If your rice is too dry as can sometimes happen cough, cough, stir in a couple of tablespoons of water, letting the rice absorb it.

Garnish with the rest of the green onion and serve like I did with Wing Wong Egg rolls and plum sauce and steamed broccoli.

Enjoy!

Recipe inspired by my mother-in-law, Claudette of course and by Iowa Girl Eats –¬†http://iowagirleats.com/2012/08/23/take-out-fake-out-easy-chicken-fried-rice/

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Stephanie’s Pasta e Fagioli

Pasta e Fagioli Close up

Hey there!

You will love my¬†very easy recipe for Pasta e Fagioli. It’s so¬†delicious most notably because of the garlic, creaminess of the white kidney beans and parmesan cheese.¬†Its rustic looking, made with unevenly broken spaghetti, and when you eat it, it feels like a warm hug. There’s just nothing like it¬†for me.

It seems that no matter how cool or innovative recipes nowadays can sometimes be, they just can’t stand up to the taste and comfort¬†induced by something your mom or grandma made for you as a child. When I get one of their recipes right, it feels like an achievement! My Nonna Rosina used a few key ingredients, never anything fancy and mostly¬†low in¬†fat and somehow the result would be¬†the most delicious thing ever!¬†For me,¬†that has always been the hardest thing¬†to pull off. Its an art to make something so simple so delicious. My nonna is no longer with us and although my mom and aunt¬†Lisa¬†are great resources, I wish I could go back and watch her make these classic recipes first hand – unamended. Like her tomato sauce and meatballs, her simple salad dressing made with ¬†homemade red wine vinegar, her roasted chicken stuffed with rice and mushrooms, surrounded by braised swiss chard… ¬†She was¬†our Jedi Master… our Dumbledore, if you will.

This recipe is totally vegetarian. We do not use pancetta or chicken broth in our P & F. ¬†¬†You don’t have to, I promise!

Pasta e Fagioli Glam shot


 

When I made this recipe¬†and was in the process of photographing the dish for this post, I went into “out of control mode”. I took a few decent shots and started eating spoonfuls of pasta, while standing, camera still in-hand…like a mental case. It was only 10AM and as I scrolled through the pictures I had taken, mouth still full, I said aloud,¬†“yeah…yeah, they’re good”, and then proceeded to eat half of the dish in this way. It wasn’t pretty.


 

This recipe makes enough for 4 people – no leftovers. Gotta’ make more next time!¬†My husband and I – both champion marathon eaters, are gonnna probably get through a lot of this at supper and then finish it off for next-day’s lunch. Can’t wait! Oh yeah, I didn’t.

Enjoy!

Stephanie’s Pasta e Fagioli

INGREDIENTS

  • 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • 2 cloves garlic (3 if small), finely chopped
  • 1 small red onion, finely chopped
  • 1 small carrot, finely chopped
  • 1 small celery stalk, finely chopped
  • 1 Peeled tomato from a can
  • 3 fresh sage leaves
  • 1 sprig fresh rosemary
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cups canned white kidney beans (rinsed and drained)
  • 4 1/4 cups water
  • 1/2 pound spaghetti
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
  • a few grinds of freshly ground black pepper (optional)

DIRECTIONS

In a large pot, heat up the extra-virgin olive oil on medium and saute the onion, carrot, celery, for 4 minutes, add garlic and sauté briefly. Do not brown.

Add the fresh sage and rosemary, allowing the olive oil to absorb the flavors of the herbs. Season with salt and pepper to taste. 

Add the beans and peeled tomato and cook for a few minutes. With the back of a fork or potato masher, mash a quarter of the beans and add 1 cup water. Stir.

Break the uncooked spaghetti into pieces with your hands, about 2 inches in length, and add directly into the pot. Stir to coat, for about a minute. Add the remaining 3 1/2 cups water and bring to a boil for 10 minutes. Then reduce and simmer until spaghetti is fully cooked and the consistency is thick and creamy.

Taste for salt and add if necessary.

Let rest for 10 minutes off the heat. Add the freshly grated Parmigiano cheese, and finish with a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil and fresh black pepper (optional).

Serve warm & enjoy!

This recipe was adapted from what I know of my nonna’s method and uhh….David Rocco’s recipe¬†lol. What?! He’s awesome and legit.¬†Its the closest I have ever gotten to my childhood favorite.

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Italian Lemon Cookies

Italian Lemon Cookies Title

Hi Everyone!
Back in ’09 when I first started food blogging, one of the first recipes I wanted to conquer were my Nonna Stella’s sugar glazed lemon cookies. I have very vivid childhood memories of sneaking into a low¬†cupboard next to her stove, extracting¬†this long green tupperware and ¬†stealing those deliciously soft, sugar glazed lemon cookies. These days my Nonna no longer makes them, so when I got her¬†recipe to make them myself, I realized that there were no quantities for the ingredients. Nonnas just know how much ‘quanto¬†basta” , but I don’t. My first attempt at guessing the amounts went “OK” but cookies¬†were too floury. You needed a coffee or some water to get them down. Cough. Cough

My friend David at work was the one who came to the rescue. He brought me his “Nana’s” recipe and it had quantities!! Eureka! What I found interesting is that Nana incorporates orange juice in the cookie dough and lemon in the glaze, producing a cookie with a subtle citrus taste. (Other recipes I’ve found don’t add citrus to the batter at all. Its all in the glaze.)

 Lemon Cookies Glam unglazed tousled

Ingredients

3 Eggs (at room temperature)
1 cup of sugar
1  cup of vegetable oil
1 cup of orange juice
Zest of one big orange (or a mix of orange and lemon)
5 cups all purpose flour
4 generous tsps of Magic baking powder

Optional: 1 tsp of pure vanilla extract

Icing
1lb of Icing sugar
1 tsp of lemon juice (You can also add some fine lemon zest if you wish)
Gradually add water until it is the right consistancy. Should not be too liquify. (See pics below)

For a truly authentic look, sprinkle on some of those¬†cute multicoloured sprinkles. Sprinkle promptly while icing is still soft ūüôā

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 F

In a large bowl, beat eggs and sugar until smooth with a hand held mixer.
While the beaters are still running, slowly incorporate oil, orange juice and zest.

In another bowl sift together flour and baking powder and add to your egg mixture about a cup at a time. (Alternately you can add flour to your egg mixture, one cup at a time and baking powder, 1tsp at a time, as Nana suggests)

Don’t overheat. When mixture is quite combined, you can finish with a rubber spatula, scraping down the sides of the bowl and turning it over itself.

When properly combined, with the aid of your rubber spatula, pour batter out onto a floured surface and kneed gently until its smooth, comes together into a dough ball and is not overly sticky. It should not be so sticky that its unmanageable. A little sticky is fine. Just flour your fingers a little when forming your cookies.

Line cookie sheets with parchment paper or foil

Cut out a heaping tsp of dough and roll it out into a 6-7″ long by 1″ thick “rope”

Join the ends together in a loop.

Then twist in the opposite direction.

Place the cookies on the cookie sheet at least 1 inch apart and bake for 12 to 15 minutes when bottoms are sufficiently golden. Remove from oven and let cool on a rack.

Italian Lemon cookes cooling rack

If you make them bigger, just adjust cooking time.

ICING

Gradually add water until it is the right consistancy. Should not be too liquidy.

Then dip each cookie into the icing sugar and place them on waxed paper or parchment to dry. Store in an airtight container for 1wk.

Thank you – and as always, send me your feedback.

Published in 2009 as David’s Nana’s Lemon Cookies on vanillabeanonline.blogspot.com /Edited republished Sept 2015
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The Best Cauliflower Pizza Crust

Cauliflower Crust dressed final 3

Toppings: Pizza Sauce, Salami, Mozzarella. Garnish: Parmigiano, Basil

Hey there!

Why would I, a carb-worshiper, make a cauliflower pizza crust? Because its delicious but also because¬†my husband is doing a sort of Paleo diet so he can’t¬†have bread. (omg) Needless to say, coming up with totally carb-free dinners and lunches can be a challenge but luckily, I’m up to it.

We both love pizza so I perked up when I saw that you can make pizza crust using cauliflower! I tried it once before and again today; It works out really well.

I still eat bread of course but reducing the amount of carbs a little here and there, can’t hurt, right? Just like ‘Meatless Monday” , maybe we could have “Carbless Tuesday!”¬†I also can’t wait to try some other carb-free dishes using cauliflower like Cauliflower fried-“rice” and Cauliflower mashed “potatoes”.

I challenge you to try this and let me know if it curbs your pizza craving.

Cauliflower Pizza dressed final 2

Cauliflower Pizza slice

Ingredients

1.5 to 2 pounds cauliflower florets, riced in a food processor or grated on a cheese grater, until a sort of rice or couscous texture is achieved (Florets from one medium sized head was just over a pound)

1 Egg, beaten

1‚ĀĄ3 cup soft goat cheese.

I didn’t have goat cheese so I used 1/4 cup of cream cheese and¬†I added 2tbsp of shredded Kraft tex-mex cheese, very tasty ūüôā

1 tsp dried oregano

1 tsp tsp of garlic powder

1/2 tsp of mustard powder (optional but good)

pinch of salt

Your favourite pizza toppings

Directions

Preheat your oven to 400F.

Fill a large pot with about an inch of water, and bring it to a boil.

Add the “rice” and cover; let it cook for¬†about 4 to 5 minutes. Drain into a fine-mesh strainer, and press down to release¬†as much water as possible. Allow to cool until its no longer too hot to handle.

THE SECRET: Once you’ve strained the “rice”, transfer it to a clean, thin dishtowel. Wrap it up¬†in the dishtowel, twist it up, then SQUEEZE until all the excess liquid is out! It’s amazing how¬†much more liquid will be released.

In a large bowl, combine¬†your strained “rice”, beaten egg, cheese, and spices. ¬†The texture won’t be like traditional¬†pizza dough but¬†don’t worry, it’ll hold together once baked.

Place¬†the mixture onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper , ¬†and press into a pizza shape until you have achieved a crust that’s about 1‚ĀĄ3″ thick.

Bake for 35-40 minutes at 400F.  The crust should be firm, and golden brown when finished.
Now’s the fun part; the toppings! Make it like you would your favourite pizza, return it to your 400F oven and bake for about 5-10 mins, just until the cheese is hot and bubbly.

My toppings are tomato sauce, salami, mozzarella, parmesan, basil

Slice and serve immediately (or cool on a wire rack)

Enjoy!

Stephanie M

Photos and Make-ahead Tip

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Make-ahead tip: You can make a couple of cauliflower pizza crusts and freeze them for a quick weeknight meal. Just wrap up them up in foil, and FREEZE.  Then, all you need to do is add toppings and bake at 400F, until the cheese is hot and bubbly.

Cauliflower Pizza crust Final

Last time my toppings were: half tomato sauce, speck, buffalo mozzarella and onion. The other half was without sauce, sweet potato slices, caramelized onion and goat cheese. Both are garnished with fresh micro thyme.

Square cauliflower crust

This recipe was found on : http://detoxinista.com

Recipe adapted from : http://detoxinista.com/2012/01/the-secret-to-perfect-cauliflower-pizza-crust/

Posted in Dinner, Recipe, Side Dish, Snack food | Tagged , , , , | 4 Comments

Dad’s Chickpeas and Pasta

Chickpeas and Tubetti Insta

Hello all,

All my life, my dad made chickpeas in one form or another – either on their own, boiled in seasoned water or with pasta. I wouldn’t even touch it; it just didn’t appeal to me but now I realize what I’ve been missing all these years! He gave me a small bowl for lunch and ¬†inexplicably to me, I was hooked! It was deliciously light and a little creamy with a subtle garlic flavour.¬†I couldn’t stop thinking about it and made it that very same week. I happily ate a little bit every day either for lunch, as an afternoon or evening snack, basically all the time¬†lol.

Chickpeas and tubetti cropped

My mother is usually the star in their kitchen but today I pay homage to my dad’s simple style of cooking.

This dish is very simple and great for summer Рprepared in no time without heavy sauces or cheeses. Ours is basically pasta aglio e olio (garlic and olive oil), served with some chopped fresh basil and parmesan cheese. Usually, when it comes to pasta dishes, I pick pecorino Romano over parmesan but it is too strong for this dish.

All my Paleo-following friends are either reading this recipe in horror, longing or both. Sorry guys, sometimes you just have to succumb to the evil seduction that is¬†carbs. ūüėČ

Chickpeas and Tubetti farTurned

Ingredients

2 large garlic cloves, peeled and smashed

1/4 cup olive oil

1 19fl oz/540ml can of Chickpeas

250g of Tubetti pasta or other pasta of similar size

1/2 tsp of garlic powder

Salt

Directions

Heat olive oil on medium and add garlic cloves until softened and edges become golden. Carful not to over-brown the garlic. Remove from heat and set aside

Boil Tubetti in salted water according to instructions.

In another small pot, boil Chickpeas for about 10 minutes in enough water to cover them, add a little salt and garlic powder to water.

Drain tubetti, reserving a little pasta water.

Drain chickpeas and mash half with a fork.

Combine pasta, garlic oil and chickpeas and a little bit of the pasta water. All should be creamy and slightly glistening.

Add chopped basil and parmesan.

Serve and enjoy!

Thanks for reading!

Stephanie M.

Posted in Dinner, Recipe, Side Dish, Vegetable Recipe, vegetarian recipe | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Fall-Off-the-Bone Pork Back Ribs (Make ahead)

Ribs Mail Chimp2

Hello there!

If you’ve ever made ribs or are simply a rib lover, you know that the best are slowly cooked. I bought ribs at Costco this weekend, thinking that I would somehow make them during the¬†week but I work full-time therefore¬†slow cooking anything¬†can be a challenge. My solution was to make them in two steps, a make-ahead method.

On Sunday, I quickly prepared the rub, applied it to the ribs and baked for about 2.5 hrs. Then on the following Tuesday, I brushed on the BBQ sauce, broiled them until caramelized and voila! They were done in a snap and the result was deliciously saucy, sweet and savoury fall-off-the-bone ribs.

Ribs - Done!

Ribs – Done!

INGREDIENTS

Serves 4

4 lbs pork ribs (2 racks from costco)
3‚ĀĄ4cup¬†¬†light brown sugar
1 + 1/2 tsp  hickory smoke salt (if you have) or kosher salt
1 tbsp  paprika
1 tbsp  garlic powder
1‚ĀĄ2 tsp ground red pepper (optional)¬†I used my mild Mayan Gound Chili Peppers¬†
2 cups of your favorite barbecue sauce

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 300 degrees f.
Peel off tough membrane that covers the bony side of the ribs.
Mix together the sugar and spices to make the rub.
Apply rub to ribs on all sides.
Lay ribs on two layers of foil, shiny side out and place meat with meaty side down.
Lay two layers of foil on top of ribs and roll and crimp edges tightly, rolling edges upwards to seal.
Place parcels on a large baking sheet and bake for 2 1/2 to 3 hours or until meat is starting to shrink away from the ends of the bone.
Remove from oven

Cool for a few minutes and remove from foil and carefully discard liquid.

Make ahead tip: At this stage you can cool then cut the racks into portions of 3-4 ribs, place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, cover with foil and refrigerate for up to two days.

Ribs baked stage 1

Set oven to Broil (High)
Arrange ribs on baking sheet, bony side up.
Brush on sauce.
Broil for 2-3 minutes until sauce is cooked on and bubbly.
Turn ribs over, baste meaty side with sauce and broil once again for a few minutes.

When you’re ready to serve, brush on a little more sauce to make your ribs glisten!
Alternately, you can do this last step¬†on your BBQ . It’ll give it a little smokey taste.

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My mouth is watering as I am writing this. Hope you feel the same reading it.

Enjoy!

Stephanie M.

Removing the rib’s membrane: This is an important step. The membrane is a thin yet incredibly strong layer of fat on bony-side of your rib-rack . If you want your ribs to fall off the bone, it must be removed. Most of the time this¬†is easy to accomplish. I cut into it downward (See far right in photo), making a slit through the membrane. Then from the corner, I slowly pull back the membrane. It usually comes off in one shot. See below.

ribs membrane

This is me peeling the membrane off in one pull. You can see the slit I cut on the right, in order to have a place to start pulling it off.

Recipe adapted from : http://www.food.com/recipe/beths-melt-in-your-mouth-barbecue-ribs-oven-107786

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Claudia’s Fudgy Paleo Brownies

 

Claudia's Brownies Glam Shot final cropped

Hello there!

I’m crazy about brownies, especially the delicious & healthy kind. (Yes, they exist)¬†Remember my Mind Blowing Black Bean Brownies¬†?¬†Well, I now have another brownie recipe and it happens to be Paleo-friendly (Caveman approved)!

Caveman approved

These have a fudgey texture, made with 70% dark chocolate; without flour or processed sugar yet they can satisfy the most intense chocolate and sweet craving!

Finished Product

I am certainly no expert on Paleo diets or the no-carb thing but my husband seems to have adopted a vague¬†combination of the two and I am trying to find new and interesting recipes like this one, to help him through this. No carbs can be a depressing struggle. We went out to dinner last Saturday night and he didn’t have any of the delicious, crusty bread and olive oil which sat on our table throughout the entire¬†meal! “What a trooper” I thought as I chomped on my slice fervently,¬†while he looked on, forlorn. ¬†So, we have questions. Can he or can he not eat hummus? fruit? We don’t know. lol – Right now, his foes are flour, potatoes, rice and beans (except he still eats hummus) and that’s the diet¬†we’re sticking to!¬†Oh yeah, and sometimes he eats Basmati because its like, the “least evil” variety of rice apparently.

I digress…

So, my niece Claudia, the star of this post, is currently following the Paleo diet, made¬†these deliciously decadent brownies and brought me a small piece¬†to try. ¬†Once again, mind…blown, I couldn’t believe they were healthy and I wanted another piece¬†but alas,¬†it was her last one.¬†“You can’t do that to me!”, I exclaimed pleadingly as she walked away smiling triumphantly.

 

Claudia has good instincts in the kitchen and is very creative, never bound by the recipe in front of her. She is like that in all aspects of her life Рbright and courageous ; I am convinced that she can do anything she sets her mind to!

 

Notes:

There are minor modifications you can make to please your palate:

Baking powder: I have added roughly 1/2 a tsp of baking powder to the recipe to add some height and promote a more cake-like texture. I have learned that baking powder is not strictly Paleo but as stated in many online forums Рit does no harm especially in tiny quantities like this. So you can go for it!

Coconut flakes: I personally love coconut flakes but have omitted them this time around as my husband prefers them without. Claudia says the coconut flakes add some needed texture and she is absolutely right although they are just as delicious without.

Honey or Maple syrup: You can sweeten these with honey or pure maple syrup. Having tried making these brownies with both, and although I prefer honey in general, the maple syrup has a thinner and lighter texture thus promoting a lighter brownie in turn. Honey makes them a little more dense but equally delicious.

Butter: Some people on Paleo diets permit the use of butter for its lower lactose content but feel free to use your favourite substitute such as Ghee.¬†As I stated earlier, we are not strictly following a paleo diet so we’re stickin’ with butter.

Paleo substitution guide: http://paleogrubs.com/paleo-diet-food-substitutions

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Ingredients:

1/2 cup minus 1 tbsp of Coconut flour (weight: 50g)

1/2 cup of cocoa powder (or carob powder)

1/2 cup + 2 tbsp of unsalted butter, melted (that’s one stick + 2 tbsp) or your favourite substitute.

3 eggs at room temperature & lightly beaten

1 tsp of vanilla extract

1/2 cup + 2tbsp of honey or maple syrup

1/2 tsp of baking powder  (OPTIONAL)

4 dried dates, pitted and finely chopped, removing any thick skin if you can

1 cup of fine dried coconut flakes

Ganache

4oz of 70% bakers chocolate, roughly chopped

1 tbsp of butter

1 tbsp or one “glug” of almond milk (roughly)

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease an 8×8 glass baking dish

Mix together all ingredients (except those for the ganache)  by hand or with a mixer. (Ensure that melted butter has cooled a little so that it does not cook the eggs.)

Pour and spread into prepared baking dish and bake for 20-25 mins or until mixture is set and/or until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean.

Cool for 30 minutes (or do like I do and put it directly into the freezer for 15 minutes. This is a little trick I learned about cake making. It preserves the moisture and stops the cooking process. This will also allow you to apply your ganache sooner ūüėČ

Meanwhile make your ganache. In a small saucepan over low heat, melt together chocolate and butter. Add the glug of almond milk and mix until glossy.

When all is sufficiently cool, spread on your ganache and allow to set.

Store in an airtight container at room temperature or in the fridge.

Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Dessert, Gluten-free, Snack food | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Pull-Apart Cheesy Garlic Bread

Insta Bread

Hello all!

I wanted to call this “Party Bread” because it is sooo awesome – its best served at a party but it’s also¬†like a party in your mouth. When you take a bite you wanna dance around in place a bit¬†ūüôā People do that sometimes when they eat something really good. Well, the people I know at least.

I made this the other night to test it out and brought it over to my parent’s place for a little get-together. Everyone got so excited¬†upon first seeing and then tasting the bread! I knew it would be delicious but I did not expect such a reaction. Maybe they were very hungry.

How can you go wrong – Garlic, cheese and good warm bread with a crunchy crust, you know the kind that almost hurts your mouth…

I bought¬†a plain white Miche at Premiere Moisson, although you can use sourdough as well. That’s step 1. Your bread has to be fresh and delicious to start off with.

Ingredients

1 Miche loaf , plain white or sourdough

1/2 cup of olive oil (or 1/2 cup of melted butter if you dare – That’s 1 stick melted)

3-4 large garlic cloves, finely minced

1/2 cup* of shredded cheddar cheese

1/2 cup* of shredded mozzarella

(or just 1 cup of mozza-cheddar by Kraft)

*Adjust cheese quantities to your liking.

Directions

Preheat oven to 375F

Combine minced garlic and olive oil in a small bowl to marinate for a bit. You want your oil to be infused with garlic flavour. Add hot pepper flakes if you wish.

Cut your bread creating a crosshatch pattern, length-wise and cross-wise, cutting down to the bottom crust without cutting all the way through.

Brush olive oil and garlic pieces into all the slits.

Fill slits with shredded cheese, as evenly as possible.

Wrap in aluminum foil and bake for 15-20 minutes.

Uncover top and bake for about another 15 minutes or until cheese has melted and bread is crisp. (Don’t brown the cheese as this will cause it to harden and it won’t pull apart nice and gooey)

Serve immediately or do as I did Р bring it to a pot luck and warm it up there.

Serve on an appetizer table or with the main meal.

Variations: you can add pepperoni to make it a pizza bread or simply brush in your favourite pesto.

Serving tip: Provide a knife for as the bread cools they may need a little help breaking it up and of course to eat the bottom crust as well.

Enjoy!

Stephanie M.

Adapted from Justataste.com : http://www.justataste.com/cheesy-pull-apart-garlic-bread-recipe/

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Nonna Rosina’s Ciambotta; Potato and Zucchini Stew with Poached Egg

Ciambotta

Photographed by Bianca Mormina; http://biancamormina.com/nonna/home/home.html

Nonna Rosina’s Ciambotta

or Potato & Zucchini Stew with Poached egg

Ciambotta is a classic peasant dish from the province of Potenza in southern Italy. Growing up I loved to tear the thick crusty bread apart and dip it into the stew, breaking open the poached egg and letting the yolk run into the dish. – By Bianca Mormina

My Grandmother: Since our Nonna Rosina passed away, we find ourselves reminiscing about the delicious meals she used to make. Oh, how we took them for granted when she was alive, never imagining we would ever have to go without. When I was a kid, I would roll my eyes and scowl when a plate of ciambotta was placed in front of me. Nowadays, I would do anything to have that same exact dish, with that chunk of Italian bread, enjoying it along with my grandparents, aunt, parents and my little sister. Eating with them was our time of bonding, arguing, laughing and sorting things out. Meals and family used to be synonymous and I think that all of us should try to conserve that tradition. Everyone is so busy, off doing their own thing, staring at their phones, that we forgot how important and therapeutic a family meal with all members present can be.

Ingredients

Four medium size potatoes, cut into medium chunks
Two small zucchini
One small onion
3 tblsp. olive oil
One or two cloves of garlic
¬Ĺ tsp. oregano
Two peeled tomatoes (from can), chopped
Pinch hot pepper flakes, optional
1 tblsp. salt (or to taste)
Four eggs

Serves four.

Step 1 | In a large pot warm olive oil on medium heat. Add onion and let cook for 2 minutes. Then add garlic and chopped tomatoes. Let simmer for 5 minutes.

While the tomatoes are simmering, cut potatoes into medium size pieces.

Step 2 | Add potatoes to pot and enough water to cover them by an inch. Add one level-tablespoon of salt to water. Bring to a boil, then lower heat to low and let simmer for 1 hour.

Step 3¬†|¬†Cut zucchini in half lengthwise. Then cut into ¬Ĺ inch pieces. Add chopped zucchini and oregano to pot and let cook for 15 minutes.

Step 4 | Poached Eggs: Gently slide cracked eggs into simmering pot one at a time keeping them apart. Let cook in Ciambotta until set (yolk should still be runny. White should be firm). Do not jostle or stir pot while eggs are poaching.

Serve crusty country bread. Enjoy!

Recipe found on http://biancamormina.com/nonna/home/home.html

Direct link: http://biancamormina.com/nonna/recipes/recipes.html

Posted in Food Articles, Gluten-free, Vegetable Recipe, vegetarian recipe | 4 Comments