Home Made Macaroni and Cheese

Fall is upon us – and what’s better than a little bit of comfort food?

FullSizeRender

What You’ll Need:

1 Pkg elbow noodles (rice, corn, or regular)
5 Tbsp butter or margarine, divided
2 Tbsp flour (rice flour, spelt flour, or regular)
3-4 Tbsp bread crumbs (gluten free or regular)
1 Tsp seasoning salt – season to taste
1 tsp garlic powder – season to taste
1 Tsp onion powder – season to taste
14 Oz. skim milk (or 1 can light coconut milk)
1 White onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 Cups shredded cheddar cheese
1.5 Cups shredded parmesan cheese
Medium baking dishimage1

What you’ll do:

– Pre-heat oven to 350°
– In a large saucepan, cook your noodles – turn burner off when noodles are ‘al dente’ to avoid over cooking in the oven
– In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, melt three table spoons of butter. Cook the onion, stirring for 5 minutes or until lightly browned
– Add the garlic and cook for one minute. Stir in the flour and cook, stirring constantly for three minutes or until lightly browned
– Stir in the milk and seasoning salt. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly
– Remove from heat and stir in the cheese until blended. Add pepper, seasoning salt, garlic and onion powders to taste. Pour into baking dish and blend with noodles
– In a small bowl, combine remaining butter with some more cheese and bread crumbs. Sprinkle over the casserole
– Bake for 30 minutes or until bubbling and lightly browned
– Enjoy!


Serves: 6

Advertisements

Summer Sausage and Arugula Pasta

A quick and easy Summer meal idea!

IMG_3473

What you’ll need:
– Pasta
– Olive oil
– Garlic. minced
– Red pepper flakes
– Fresh basil, torn
– Cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
– White onion, chopped
– Arugula
– Mozzarella cheese, grated
– Sausages, spicy or regular Italian

In a pot:
– Bring water to a boil
– Cook Pasta
– Drain
– Toss in olive oil

Meanwhile, in a frying pan:
– Cut sausages out of casing and put into pan with a bit of olive oil
– Once sausages are cooked, throw in onion and minced garlic
– Once onions have started to brown, add tomatoes
– Simmer until tomatoes have softened
– Use red pepper flakes, salt, and pepper to season to taste

In a large bowl:
– Combine pasta and sausage mixture
– Tear up basil leaves and mix
– Add olive oil as needed for “saucier” result

To plate:
– Top with a handful of fresh arugula and grated Mozzarella cheese
– Enjoy!

Easy Homemade Pizza

pizza

I have finally mastered the easiest pizza and I felt the need to share! This entire process only takes about 30 minutes of actual “work” time in the kitchen and the result is the fluffiest yet crispiest pizza I’ve ever been able to make. It also makes an easy week night dinner, as it freezes and thaws flawlessly. Enjoy!

What You’ll Need:

Pizza Dough:
– 1 1/2 cups of water
– 1 package (2 1/4 tsp) of active dry yeast – pizza yeast is best (always check expiry date)
– 3 1/2 cups of bread flour (can also use gluten free or all purpose flour)
– 2 tbsp olive oil
– 2 tsp salt
– 1 tsp sugar

Pizza Ingredients:
– olive oil
– cornmeal (to slide the pizza onto the stone/pan and prevent sticking)
– mozzarella cheese – grated
– vegetables
– peperoni, sausage, or salami, or not at all
NOTE – the thinner you slice your veggies, the less chance of a soggy pizza you have

Other:
– large mixing bowl
– pizza stone or baking sheet
– pizza wheel or cutting board

ingredMaking the Dough:

– In a large bowl, add the warm water, sprinkle in the yeast, and allow to sit for 5 minutes, or until the yeast is dissolved. Stir occasionally to speed this up.
– using a mixer (or, the old fashioned way, your hands) mix in flour, salt, and sugar and a low speed (also known as human speed) Knead the dough until it is elastic and smooth, about 5-10 minutes. If the dough seems wet or too sticky add, more flour.

– place the ball of dough a bowl that has been coated lightly with olive oil. Turn the dough around in the bowl until it is also coated. Cover with plastic wrap and leave in a warm place until it doubles in size – about 1-1 1/2 hours. TIP: If you don’t have a warm spot in the house, heat the oven to 150°. Turn off and let cool. Place dough in the oven and let sit to rise.

Preparing the Pizza(s):
– pre-heat the oven to 450° for at least 30 minutes, preferably an hour
 remove plastic cover from dough and punch dough down so it deflates a bit.

The Best Part! At this point you can separate your dough into two balls. Freeze one to use for a quick week night dinner. (Take the frozen dough out in the morning. Place in a bowl that has been lightly coated in olive oil. Roll the frozen dough in the oil so that it is also coated. Cover with plastic wrap or a tea towel and let sit for the day. When you come home your dough will have risen again and will be ready to prepare for dinner!)

– prepare your toppings – remember that you want to keep them thin and sparse so that your pizza doesn’t end up a soggy mess. 
veg

– working on a lightly floured surface, flatten the dough with your hards. Starting at the centre and working out, use your fingers to press the dough until it is about 1 1/2″ thick. Turn and stretch the dough until it will not stretch further. Let the dough relax for 5 minutes and then continue to stretch until it reaches maximum size. Use your palm to flatten the edge of the dough – pinch the edge if you want a more defined crust.
– brush the top of the dough with olive oil to prevent sogginess. Use your fingers to press dents in the dough to prevent bubbles. Let rest another 5 minutes.
– sprinkle your baking sheet with cornmeal – this will stop the pizza from sticking. Transfer the dough to the baking sheet. If the dough has  lost its shape, lightly adjust it.
– spoon on your tomato sauce then alternate toppings and cheese until it is sufficiently covered. Remember that toppings can be used sparingly for a crispier pie.
– place pizza in oven and cook until cheese is browned and the dough is crisp – about 10-15 minutes.
– take pizza out of oven and let sit for another 5-10 minutes – serve and dig in!

This recipe yields 2 10-12″ pizzas.

 

Warm Winter Salad

I find one of two things happens in the winter: 1. You stop cooking entirely, turning only to take out and/or meals cooked by others or 2. You start cooking only comfort food – things that are baked, cheesed, and ultimately terrible for you.  OK, two of two things happen. Let’s be honest.

As the temperatures have begun to drop, I have decided to take a summer staple, the spinach salad, and add a bit of a winter twist: warm potatoes and grilled steak. You get that same warm in your belly feeling without the giant brick in your belly feeling (and no baked on mess – hurrah!) The beauty of this recipe is that it is fast, it can be quickly modified for different group sizes without much extra effort, and an easy clean up makes it perfect for weeknight entertaining. In addition, adding the strips of steak as you plate your salad is a great way to provide the same meal option for vegetarians as well.

salad 1

What you’ll need:

Small, oven safe dish
Salad Bowl
Butter/Margerine (1 large “dollop”)
Olive Oil – about 2/3 of a cup
Fresh Garlic – 1 large clove, pressed
Dijon Mustard – 1 tbsp
Spinach
Red Onion – diced
Cherry Tomatoes – halved
Goat Cheese – crumbled
New Potatoes – halved
Flank Steak or Striploin

Preheat oven to 400° – place butter in dish and melt. Place sliced potatoes in melted butter, coat, and place back in oven, turning periodically

Toss spinach, tomatoes, cheese, and onions in a bowl; In a measuring cup: mix olive oil, garlic, and dijon mustard

salad 2

Check on your potatoes – when you feel that they are about 20 minutes from being done (browned, but not crispy) preheat your BBQ

Grill steak to medium rare (about 15 minutes) and slice against the grain – this will ensure your steak is not tough

Taking potatoes out of the oven, toss them into your bowl and mix

Lightly coat your salad with dressing – the taste is strong so you will not need a ton

Plating your meal, top each serving with a few strips of steak, serve, and enjoy!

salad 6

 

Top 5 Mexican Restaurants

Mariachis

1. Mariachi’s (Yonge & Davisville)
– This family run restaurant was my first love. In the days when all you were old enough to do on a Friday night was go for dinner and a movie with a friend, Mariachi’s was our “daring” escape from The Pickle Barrel at Yonge & Eglinton. Just a short walk from the theatres, it was a welcome change. Always a sucker for their guacamole (still some of the best I’ve had), now that I am older I have discovered that their sangria is some of the best as well. Very affordable – great quality – great experience.

2. Milagro (Mercer St.)
– One of the most authentic experiences I have had, although their sangria leaves a bit to be desired. Service and atmosphere at any Milagro location are tops. Home made guacamole and many different sharing plates are among my personal favourites on this menu.

3. Hacienda (Yonge & Dupont)
– SUCH a cool atmosphere! The neon lights adorning the walls as you walk in are absolutely the first thing you notice. The second, for me at least, was that the menu is entirely in Spanish with no English descriptions – very authentic! I tried their rum punch, a bit of a pricey cocktail, but so delicious. Their bucket-o-beer special was a big hit with our group as well. The food is a Korean spin on Mexican, a fusion of sorts, so everything has a kick to it, which was a delicious surprise. With their many patios as well as indoor seating, I would highly recommend.

4. La Carnita (College & Palmerston)
– The ever changing menu at La Carnita is part of the draw. Each menu, featuring about 11 items, most of which are tacos, changes regularly, keeping restaurant goers on their toes. Sharing options here are a must, as everything has such different flavours each time you are there. The catch – they don’t do reservations for groups under 8 (and don’t even guarantee that they can make those). Tricky business come birthday time.

5. Playa Cabana (Yonge & Dupont)
– Sister restaurant to Hacienda, Playa Cabana is the original latin flavour on this section of the Dupont strip. Although this very quaint restaurant is situated among rows of sleepy duplexes, the patio out front is always packed. The same great service awaits you here!

Watermelon Cake: Prettier on Pinterest…

CAKEThe inspiration (photo used with permission)

Last week was my fiancé’s birthday and each year since we have been together I have made him something special for dessert. This year, with our wedding in September, my future mother-in-law has taken to reminding everyone that “we want to be wedding ready” – aka watch what you’re all eating so you don’t panic in August! While my family has always been a fruit for dessert – if anything – kind of bunch, Bobby’s has more of a sweet tooth. I was cruising around Pinterest in the weeks before, racking my brain for a delicious but healthy recipe that would allow him to literally have his birthday cake and eat it too. I saw the most beautiful cake made entirely from watermelon, berries, and icing – “how hard could it be?!” I said to myself, “quick and easy!” I said to myself, “you’re a genius!” I said to myself. Well…as it turns out: harder that I had originally thought but just as delicious as I had hoped. Below is my step by step process for how to make your very own Watermelon Cake – cautionary commentary and suggestions included!

2014-06-15 14.18.14-1

The beginning of your process is the same as that part from any cooking show you watched as a kid, when the host says “for this portion of the project you’re going to need an adult…”. I am clearly not an adult and sure as heck hate knives (again – what made you think this was a good idea?!) Enter Bobby.

To start, you (or your adult) are going to prepare your watermelon:

– Cut off two ends of your rind to form a *very* flat top and bottom for your cake. Trust me, you will need the stability when icing – she’s a slippery one.

2014-06-15 14.24.31

Next, you are going to skin your watermelon and decide on your cake’s shape. Feel free to keep it round or cut the sides down into more of a rectangular shape. Heck, get crazy, cut that rectangle in half, and you’ve got yourself two square cakes!

– Carefully cut the rind off in sections, pointing the knife away from you, in a downward motion (safety!)

2014-06-15 14.26.54

– Ensure that you are cutting off as much of the white rind as possible, maintaining the desired size and shape of your cake.

Once you’ve got your perfectly pink watermelon all ready to go, it is time to ice!

– Place your cake on a decorative plate or cake stand before beginning to ice
– Using a spatula, spread the icing over the top and sides of your cake, covering any pink areas completely

2014-06-15 14.32.49

Now…I’m going to be honest – this is where it all fell apart for me. I have two recommendations for you at this stage in the game: The first is to freeze your melon before you try and ice it. Fun fact: watermelons are juicy! Obviously. But that is legitimately something I didn’t even consider when I undertook this project (sigh) and is an uphill battle when it comes to this dessert.

2014-06-15 14.40.54

My second recommendation (although, it’s more of a shot in the dark that I’ve never tried but I assume it would help) is to try using Cool Whip instead of icing. I found that once the melon and icing began to warm to room temperature,  your sides become a bit of a shloopy mess – to use a technical term. Cool Whip, being lighter and having a different texture, could be the answer to icing the sides of your cake.

To finish your cake:
– Cover the iced sides of your cake with shaved almonds, sprinkles, or leave them plain
– Top your cake with berries or other sliced fruit for a bit of decoration
– Refrigerate your cake before serving, slice, and enjoy!

2014-06-15 19.41.01The result

Ta-daaaaaa! As you can tell, I was unable to keep the icing from sliding down the sides and resorted to simply piling the icing on top and hoping for the best. #fail

But, at the end of the day it was a hit with everyone at the table – and who doesn’t love a sweet treat in the summer!?

Best Summer Salad

Summer is a super busy time, making it hard to prepare fast and healthy meals. Not to mention the sweltering heat of using the oven in an apartment with no A/C! One of our favourite things to have for dinner in the Summer (and all year, really) is a cold plate. Various fruits, veggies, meats, and cheeses laid out for us to pick at while we watch TV, or sit and read, or – as I have found the case to be this summer – craft. There is minimal clean up and it is a much healthier alternative to barbecuing whatever is in the freezer and tossing a side of chips on your plate. My personal favourite component of any cold plate we’ve made this summer is the caprese salad: a fast and easy (and filling!) way to get your daily veggies and a bit of protein.

last caprese

 

What you’ll need:

– Fresh, ripe tomatoes
– Buffalo mozzarella cheese
– Fresh basil
– Olive oil
– Sea salt
– Cracked pepper
– Baguette or crackers (or not)

first caprese

 

Cut your tomatoes into slices, then halve your slices.

tomato

 

Cut your buffalo mozzarella into slices, again, halve those. Place the cheese on top of your tomatoes – you can make this more of a mixed up salad or you can try placing a piece of cheese on each tomato.

cheese

 

Tear your fresh basil and sprinkle over your cheese – you can also put small sections on top of each piece of cheese if you went that route. Use as much or as little as you’d like.

with basil

 

Crack your pepper and sea salt over top of your creation – season to taste. Finally, drizzle some olive oil over top, adding balsamic vinegar if you want to shake it up a bit, and enjoy!

What is your go to Simple Summer Meal?