Home Made Macaroni and Cheese

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

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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

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Summer Sausage and Arugula Pasta

A quick and easy Summer meal idea!

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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!

Wax Dripped Easter Eggs

eggs

When I was about 6 years old, I remember going over to my older sister’s apartment and doing various crafts. I don’t remember many of them, but these Easter Eggs were one that will always stick out to me. They were so much fun, they were so easy, and we still bust them (yes, them, the ones from way back when) out every year when we decorate. The best part is that, despite my young age, the finished product doesn’t look like a school craft – making decorating for adult guests more appealing to the eye.

eggs1What you’ll need:

– eggs
– safety pin
– food colouring
– white candle sticks
– newspaper
– 5 bowls
– cookie sheet
– paper towel
– egg cups (if you have them)

Preparing the Eggs:

There are two ways you can do this – by “blowing the eggs” (this will allow you to store and use again year after year) or by hard boiling the eggs (I don’t trust this method – couldn’t tell you why, though)

If you are going to blow the eggs:

– poke a small hole in the top of the egg and a larger hole on the bottom
– literally blow the yolk out the bottom of the egg into a bowl (feel free to fix yourself a quick little scramble if you have time here) You may need to help the yolk out a bit at times
– place on a plate or egg tray, let the inside dry, and get to decorating!

Decorating the Eggs:

– pour a good amount of colour into each bowl, add less than 1/3 cup of water to maximize dye
– start with a plain egg and light your candle (I like to keep mine lit during this process, if you are working with kids – obviously – blow the candle out before you proceed)
– slowly drip the wax onto parts of the egg that you would like to keep white

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– next, dunk your egg into the lightest colour, covering the egg fully
– remove from colour and let dry

eggs5 – light your candle again and drip the wax onto parts of the egg you would like to keep that particular colour
– continue on, dunking and dripping (from lightest to darkest colour and vice versa), until you have reached the optimal shade on the outside of your egg
– lay the eggs on a plate or an egg tray and heat your oven to 200°
– place eggs on a cookie sheet with tin foil and pop in the oven

eggs6 – leave the eggs until the wax has melted back into a liquid, checking them every couple of minutes
– using a paper towel, carefully wipe the wax off of each egg, leaving a slight seal or sheen behind. This will help maintain the eggs over time

The result should be a speckled rainbow egg that can be put on display anywhere in your home during the Easter holiday.

PRO TIP: use a black or gold marker to turn these eggs into pseudo place cards at your dining table – use plain white egg cups to display your beautiful work at each setting.

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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

 

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?

 

The Best Party Purchase

I purchased this kit on a whim and have never been so happy with something so simple. It was New Years Eve and, after realizing none of our friends would bite the bullet, we decided to throw a party at the last minute. As a compulsively organized human this irked me, but I knew that with a couple of good lists and a bit of hustle we could pull it off. I farmed out the grocery shopping and LCBO run to the fiancée (he did have the car..and the muscles, after all!) and I set off in search of the ‘fussier’ items needed to throw a proper New Years Eve party. When I took off that day I had one goal in mind: most, if not all, of the items purchased were to be multi-seasonal and multi-purpose so that we could use them at any future do’s and in our every day life.

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On a mission for decorations, exploding table crackers, and (obviously) old timey noise makers, I found myself happily lost in one of my favourite stationery stores, The Papery. It was there, in a way back, perfectly lit and merchandized corner that I discovered the magical sorcery that is the Theatre of Dreams Garlands by Wendy Addison. (Available for purchase here.) At just $20, I knew that I had found a party accessory that would be well loved and well used in our house on many occasions for many years.

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The kit comes with an extremely long and reusable cord, 80 assorted cardboard tiles: 4 of each letter in the alphabet in 4 different fonts, several ballet dancers, jesters, and what appears to be a well dressed monk. There is also an amazing array of circus animals featuring words like “wondrous” and “fantastic” printed on scrolls. The colour scheme is mildly girly but mostly whimsical and gender neutral, which is great as it is not limiting in the types of events the set can decorate. This set is by far the best party accessory allowing for quickly crafted and beautifully personalized banners for any occasion – making you look like the tireless hostess every time!

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