Tuscan White Bean Soup

18 Jan

I’m back!

From the longest hiatus ever. I was unwell and the thought of eating food, let alone cooking it, made me want to die a little bit. Shit happens. Then I felt better and the holidays happened! I don’t think I set foot in a kitchen in November and December unless it was to get wine (which, quite frankly, is how it should be).

But then 2012 started and I had the oddest desire to get back into the kitchen. Maybe because my house is freezing and it’s nice to stand beside a stove. Maybe because I had eaten at so many restaurants over the holidays that I forgot what a home-cooked meal tasted like (although I’m not sure if that’s an entirely bad thing). MAYBE it’s because the boyfriend is finally coming home for good in FEBRUARY and I want him to still love me so I have to learn how to cook again. Maybe.

I have a few recipes I can’t wait to share, but this one has to come first, even though I only made it yesterday. I wasn’t planning on posting it because I only took 3 sub par photos, but it turned out to be so good that I can’t deprive you guys.

You know how I know it’s good? Because my father liked it. He’s Italian which means he is incredibly picky and loves to give “constructive criticism”. My mom is a saint for still cooking for him after 30 years.I would have ordered take-out after year one.

He had TWO BOWLS of it. And I was sneaking spoonfuls out of the pot all night long. It was addicting.

I’m not modest, sorry. I made a good bowl of soup and I will tell everyone I know!

TUSCAN WHITE BEAN SOUP
(makes about 6 servings)

-2 tablespoons of olive oil
-4 slices of turkey bacon, diced
-1 large onion, diced
-sea salt and pepper
-5 cloves of garlic, minced
-8 cups of chicken broth
-2 15oz cans of white beans (I used one can cannellini, one can of navy-for a mix of big and small)
-2 bay leaves
-1 tsp dried rosemary
-1 tsp dried thyme
-1 tsp dried sage
-1/4 cup of blending flour (to thicken)
-4 heaping tablespoons of Parmesan cheese (plus more for serving)

In a large pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat and saute the turkey bacon for about 6 minutes. Remove from the pot and set aside. Add the onions into the pot and cook for about 6 minutes, adding the garlic for the last 30 seconds. Sprinkle in some salt and pepper.

(Your kitchen should be smelling amazing right now, btw.)

Add some of the chicken broth into the pan, and stir, scraping any of the turkey bacon brown bits off the bottom of the pan. Add the rest of the broth, the beans, the turkey bacon,and your herbs. Bring to a boil, cover your pot, and turn the heat down to a simmer for about 15 minutes.

Whisk in the blending flour slowly and turn the heat to low. Stir in the Parmesan. Cover and cook for about 10 more minutes.

Yummy goodness

Taste for seasoning, and then serve while hot! Sprinkle the remaining turkey bacon over each bowl of soup, along with some extra Parmesan cheese.

I served my dad’s bowl with some homemade pappardelle noodles.

NOTES:
-When my dad was done eating, he said, “You know, this would have been really good with pancetta.” No kidding. I don’t know why he even said that considering he doesn’t eat red meat. For those who do (because it’s oh so good), you can sub pancetta for the turkey bacon. I love pancetta, but it was a nice change to use the lighter turkey and it tastes so good!
-When I make this soup again, I would probably make it without the blending flour. I don’t think it made it as thick as I thought it would and I liked the more soupy consistency (there is a time and place for a stew, and I don’t think this needs to be it).
-IF you do want to thicken it and you don’t have blending flour, mix one tablespoon of cornstarch in a small glass of water and stir into the soup pot. Cover. It will start to thicken after 10 minutes of cooking.

I can’t say enough about this soup. While I was cooking, my dad was keeping me company in the kitchen. I was trying to remember the name of a soup I ate while in Siena and he was suggesting names. He suggested Tuscan White Bean and then told me he could go for a bowl of it right then. Meanwhile I was cooking it! Hello, fate! I love weird coincidences.

By the way, the name of the soup I was thinking of is RIBOLLITA, a bread-thickened vegetable soup. It was so good that I won’t even attempt to recreate it. I’ll just dream of eating it again here:

Until then, my own Tuscan soup will do.

 

 

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Food Blogger Misses Her Hobby

21 Nov

Sigh.

Life is HARD.

Not really. I don’t have an actual job right now and I live with my parents and an adorable dog, and they pretty much treat me like an inexpensive princess. Life is um, pretty okay.

But that said, I have been quite under the weather for the past two weeks. This explains the blog absence. I haven’t been able to eat food, let alone look at it or prepare it. AND I haven’t been able to have any red wine. That’s when you know I’m really not well!

I hope my friends will stick with me. I’m sure to be back in the next week or two!

I desperately want to feel better. I miss making frosting and eating brussel sprouts .Ya, I’m weird. In the past week I’ve only eaten twice and I ate…mashed potatoes made with almond milk and olive oil. NOT going to put on the blog. You’re welcome.

By the time the leaves are done changing, I will be back and hopefully with 100% of my health! I’m so lucky to have amazing friends and family right now. I’m wasting lots of time on Pinterest and cuddling with my tiny dog. It’s not so bad 🙂

xo

Fruit-Filled Cupcakes with Lemon Glaze

9 Nov

My post-winery healthy streak ended after my last post. I could only eat brussel sprouts for so long.

I’m only human!

Luckily an occasion arose that asked me to bake cupcakes. A wonderful occasion indeed!

A relative adopted a gorgeous baby from China almost a year ago, and it was finally time for the baby shower.

The theme was a tea party, so tea was had

If you can see, there are gloves on the table, and a hat. Yes, those feathers were also part of a pair of gloves!

Pretty flowers

And an adorable cake

It says "Welcome Home Charlotte"!

Even though there was a lot of cute crustless tea sandwiches, salads, and pastries, it is normal in our Austrian family to bring something anyway.

My mom made homemade adorable mini tea scones, and I made these:

Vanilla Cupcakes filled with lemon marmalade or strawberry jam, and topped with a lemon glaze and candied lemon peel.

My mom bought me the cutest cupcake liners so they had to be used and this was the perfect occasion.

PRESERVED FRUIT FILLED CUPCAKES WITH LEMON ICING

-1 recipe of Magnolia Bakery’s Vanilla Cupcake found here: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/saras-secrets/magnolias-vanilla-cupcake-recipe/index.html

Follow the instructions until it’s cupcake liner filling time. At that point, fill them 1/3 of the way. Then put a small spoonful of the lemon marmalade in the center of the cupcake batter.

Put another tablespoon full of batter on top and then bake for 20-25 minutes at 350 degrees.

When I was thinking about the icing, I couldn’t decide between a thick buttercream frosting or a thinner glaze. Considering it was the middle of the day, and other desserts were going to be offered, I decided on a lemon glaze.

LEMON ICING GLAZE

Ingredients:

-4 cups icing sugar (otherwise knowns as powdered sugar or confectioners sugar)
-1/2 cup of soft butter (one stick) *if possible, softened to room temperature, not in the microwave
-1/4 cup milk
-1 tsp vanilla
-1-2 tablespoons lemon zest (according to taste, I added 2 for lots of lemon!)
-2 tablespoons resh lemon juice

1.Mix the butter, lemon zest,and vanilla together on medium speed, making sure all the lumps are gone.

2. Add the milk and quickly mix into the butter mixture.

3.By the 1/2 cup, mix in the sugar. Once added in, mix on high-speed for about 2 minutes.

4. Add in lemon juice. Stir softly.

Then top your cupcakes! My mixture was too thin to pipe onto the cupcakes, so I just spread it on. The icing firms a but after it’s spread which is perfect.

I was convinced the only appropriate garnish for these cupcakes was candied lemon peel and so I made some. And I was soooo glad I did. After looking at a million time-consuming recipes, I came up with this. I made this recipe for one lemon, but I’m sure you can add the thin peels of a few more without having to change anything.

CANDIED LEMON PEEL

ingredients:

-1 lemon
-2 cups of sugar
-3 cups of water (split two ways)

1. Peel your lemon. I used a special lemon zest peeler (not zester) and it worked perfectly to make thin strips You can also use a strong vegetable peeler. When peeling, you want to try to get the least amount of white peel as possible.

2. Mic the peel with 2 cups of cold water over the stove. Bring to a boil. After boiling, remove peels with a slotted spoon, pour the water out, replace the water with another 2 cups of cold water, place the peels back in, and bring to a boil again.

3.Repeat the last step and bring to a boil a third time! I promise this isn’t as painfully time-consuming as it sounds.

4. Remove the peels and pour out the water.

5. Add one cup of water to the pot, and add two cups of sugar. Whisk in the sugar until it dissolves, add in the peels, and bring to a boil over medium heat.

6. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for about 15 minutes, until tender and translucent.

I put mine on a wire rack, over a plate, to cool:

And then I placed two pieces on each cupcake, as well as one piece that was rolled in sugar.

Check out that sugar!

These are light, and full of the fruit preserves already found at your tea party.

Yummy Greaves Strawberry Jam

Considering these cupcakes are full of gluten, I took the tiniest bite and decided they were very very good (I’m not very modest). And then I fed them to my mom and dad (my taste testers) and they adored them. So much that I made my dad his own little individual cake out of this recipe.

Daughter of the year award goes to ME.

I enjoyed serving these cupcakes with a nice glass of ice cold icewine tea (also purchased at the Greaves store in Niagara-on-the-Lake):

A Tea Party Dream Come True

This tea is to die for. Might even cure my nightly wine addiction!

I can’t lie. The thought of making another cupcake in the near future makes me nauseated. My body is not equipped to cream butter and sugar together on a daily basis.

But considering how popular these were, I have a feeling I’ll be making them again very soon.

I’ve already been asked to make more candied citrus peel in the next few days! That stuff is addicting. So fresh, with a mix of tart and sweet. Even more crack-like than the brussel spouts I last posted.

Now I’m going to go sleep for about a year. My calendar has been way too full for someone who is taking a very long “vacation” to her parents house. Time to sleep in past 8am.

Enjoy!

Caramelized Brussel Sprouts

5 Nov

I’m a good girl so I just want to make it clear right away that I have never tried crack.

I’ve never tried meth, heroin, inhaled computer duster,  or any other drug for that matter. But I HAVE watched a lot of Intervention (the computer duster one was the best! Or um, the best of a bad situation…) and I drink a lot of red wine, so I’m pretty sure I’m a practically an addiction specialist.

And these brussel sprouts are like crack.

I have made these 5 times and everyone I’ve made them for has made them the next day for themselves. They’re that good!

I’ve made it clear before, but I used to HATE brussel sprouts. But this recipe can make every hater a lover. I’m looking at you Sarah B.

Let me tell you why you should start enjoying brussel sprouts:

1. They are low in calories, but high in fiber;

2. They absorb flavour very well, so you can make them taste amazing and different very easily;

3. They are high in vitamin B, iron, and vitamin C! Aka this is the vegetable perfect for fighting winter colds.

4. You should make them because I told you too.

Previous to trying this method, I had only ever roasted my sprouts but it’s really hard to go back to roasting for 40 minutes when in 20 minutes on the stove, this entire dish is done. And it tastes like little feathers of heaven.

Yes, brussel sprouts are being compared to heaven.

(Keep in mind that my heaven includes living in wine country, with a glass of cab sauv attached permanently to my right hand. Take from that what you will.)

Just look!

I know that my spiel has already made you a brussel sprout convert, so here is the recipe.

CARAMELIZED BRUSSEL SPROUTS (or CRACK-LIKE BRUSSEL SPROUTS)
(adapted from Eat, Live, Run)

Ingredients:

-About 14 large brussel sprouts (give or take a few if necessary)
-1 tablespoon olive oil
-1-2 cloves of garlic (adjust according to your own tastes!)
-2 tablespoons brown sugar
-1/4 cup toasted walnuts

1. Wash your brussel sprouts. Peel off just the outer leaves, and cut off the white stem.

2. Slice the sprout very thinly, tearing the feathered pieces away from the white core (but keep the core!)

3. In a large pan (caste-iron preferred), warm the olive oil on medium-high heat. Add the mince clove of garlic, and let cook for about 3-4 minutes.

4. Add the brussel sprouts, tossing for about 7 minutes until browned and tender.

5. Add the brown sugar, stir, and continue cooking for another 3-4 minutes.

6. Add the toasted walnuts, stir, and immediately plate. Serve!

And it looks like this:

Explain to me how you could not want to eat that?!

So far it has been part of the boyfriend’s birthday dinner

I'm pretty sure we're watching Blue Bloods in the background...

And part of my dinner for my parents and my Nikki

Served with balsamic brown sugar chicken, goat cheese pureed potatoes, and asparagus...

After a spur of the moment overnight trip to the wine country of Niagara-on-the-Lake, I’m pretty sure I’m going to be existing on brussel sprouts and their peers for the next week as I recover from the dreamy two days of gluttony. No regrets!

P.s. does someone want to buy me a winery?

Enjoy!

Gluten-Free Pumpkin Bread (w/ Chocolate Chips)

1 Nov

Life is hard.

When I got diagnosed with a gluten intolerance, I TRULY thought my life was over. I am addicted to carbs. Pasta, french bread, cupcakes and cookies galore!  And there I was, leaving the doctors office, thinking “My life is soooo awful, but maybe I’ll lose 5 pounds..”

(First world problems)

Of course, my world didn’t end and I, of course, did not lose 5 pounds. Sweden, like Toronto, has a lot of gluten-free options so eventually I had to stop pretending that I was suffering and enjoy the bread and pasta options available to me.

One thing I couldn’t find in Uppsala was a good gluten-free baking flour mix. They all had milk ingredients in them and I’m not supposed to have dairy (first world problems).

So I was obviously excited to be able to use my Bob’s Red Mill Gluten-Free All-Purpose Baking Mix being stored at my parent’s place. And as I explained in my previous post, canned pumpkin.

I really think I make the best banana bread in the world, but I can make that all year round. It’s time for pumpkin everything!

GLUTEN-FREE PUMPKIN BREAD with CHOCOLATE (borrowed from the Fitnessista)

Ingredients:

-2 cups flour of choice (I used Bob’s Gluten-free Baking Mix)
-2 t baking powder
-1/4 t sea salt
-2 t cinnamon
-1/2 t nutmeg
-1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (or a chopped up bar of dark chocolate)
-1/2 can pumpkin puree
-2/3 cup brown sugar
-1/2 cup almond milk  (you can use any milk you desire)
-1 tsp vanilla
-1 tsp molasses
-2 eggs

1. In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, sea salt, cinnamon and nutmeg, and whisk.

2. Add the chocolate chips and stir.

3. Add in the remaining ingredients and mix to fully incorporate. Don’t overmix.

5. Pour into the loaf pan, and top with extra chocolate chips! Or don’t, but I’ll be judging you.

4. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Then cover the pan with foil, and continue baking for 15 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean.

By the way, am I the only baker whose kitchen counter looks like this after the goodies are in the oven?

Awkward. What is that sugary pumpkin looking thing in the background?

My baking snack:


I usually snack on the raw egg-filled batter, but gluten-free flour batter tastes disgusting. I don’t know how the finished product ends up tasting so amazing.

Especially topped with almond butter and cinnamon sugar.

Or left over Pumpkin Spice Cream Cheese frosting….

Not that I would eat that for breakfast or anything…

This pumpkin bread was so good that 5 minutes after I had taken it out of the oven, I found it like this:

The only person who went into the kitchen in that 5 minutes was my father. At least he made a nice, clean cut!

So as you can tell, this was a hit.

I hope everyone had a great Halloween! I don’t dress up, so I bake and hide from the little kids collecting candy.

And I try to get this guy to stop barking every single time the door bell rings. He’s lucky he’s so cute or else I would have released him to the ghosts and ghouls.

Halloween Hair Elastics!

Now I’m going to be the pumpkin bread fairy and deliver it to my bestie who is letting me play in the big city and sleep at her apartment for a few days.

Enjoy!

“Healthier” Pumpkin Cupcakes

1 Nov

I loved Sweden. I loved Uppsala. Miss it. Adore it. Can’t wait to go back to it.

And when I do get back to the land of long-legged blondes, I will be bringing back a suitcase of PUMPKIN puree.

Can you believe a country as progressive as Sweden, a country that has gluten-free, dairy-free everything, does not have canned pumpkin?! As soon as October hit, I was having pumpkin withdrawals. Symptoms include shaking, excessive red wine drinking, and a very excessive consumption of butternut squash, pumpkin’s best (easy to roast) friend.

I would make batches upon batches of carrot soup. Curried Carrot Soup to be exact, but deep down I knew I wanted pumpkin soup (like the one from Pi Tom’s in Toronto!). Pureed carrot is a nice, warm substitution, but it’s not the same.

Since I’ve been home, I’ve been eating pumpkin in my oatmeal and in smoothies and the shakes have finally died down.

Today being Halloween, I decided to make a special pumpkin treat. Healthified Pumpkin Cupcakes.

I call them cupcakes, but they aren’t overly sweet, so they could pass as a muffin. Plus,muffin sounds healthier, right?

When I made these for the first time, I was in a rush. It was last year-the day of Thanksgiving- and I woke up before 9am (SHOCKING) and took over the boyfriend’s kitchen. I woke him up with the sound of an electric mixture and the scent of pumpkin pie spice wafting through the air. He didn’t hold a grudge against me very long because I let him eat one, and if I remember correctly, he even cleaned up the disaster of the kitchen while I showered and made myself look presentable. Yup, he’s a keeper/neat freak!

These were a hit at Thanksgiving that year. They’re dense, moist, and full of fall flavour in every bite. And you don’t have to feel too bad about eating them because they’re made of whole wheat flour, a tiny bit of sugar, and are full of fruits and vegetables!

I’m reaching a little bit, but you get the point. These are healthier than the Vanilla Strawberry cupcakes with Balsamic Icing that I’m going to post at the end of the week!

“HEALTHY PUMPKIN CUPCAKES” (inspired by Jessica at How Sweet Eats)

Ingredients:

1/2 cup butter (softened)
1 3/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1/2 cup pumpkin
1 medium banana, mashed
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup milk (I used almond milk)
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

Preheat oven to 350.

With a stand mixer or electric hand mixer, cream together butter and sugar on medium speed until fluffy. And egg and vanilla and mix until smooth. And pumpkin and banana. Mix in flour, baking powder, baking soda, and spices. And milk and stir until batter is smooth.

Fill baking liners 3/4 of the way full. Bake for 20-25 minutes

And then you get these lovely looking cupcakes/muffins/ They look like muffins due to their rough tops.Mind the little one at the back, that was my taste-test cupcake/muffin.

But when you decorate them…

…They become cupcakes!

I decided to go for a drizzle of icing as opposed to piping an inch high layer of it like I usually would. Because these are healthy cupcakes.

But the icing is kind of amazing so no one would hold it against you if you slathered it on and also used it to dip apples into. Not that I’ve ever done that.

PUMPKIN SPICE CREAM CHEESE ICING (also inspired by How Sweet Eats!)

Ingredients:

1/4 cup butter, softened
8 ounces cream cheese
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 teaspoon pumpkin spice
2-3 cups powdered sugar, depending on desired consistency

With an electric mixer, cream together the butter and cream cheese. Add the vanilla and pumpkin spice. Gradually add in the powdered sugar and mix until desired consistency is reached. If mixture is too thick or dry, add some milk 1 tablespoon at a time.

Would you believe me if I told you I almost lost my mind when putting these spiders on top of the cupcakes? Spiders just happen to be tied for my worst fear in life, and I actually dropped the bag of creepy crawlers when a plastic snake touched the palm of my hand. And now that these photos are the last thing I see before going to sleep, I’m anticipating nightmares of epic proportions.

So do me a favour, if you’re not making these as Halloween treats, can you skip the spiders and just layer/drizzle the icing on like a normal person? K, thanks.

P.s. For anyone who appreciates a good gluten-free recipe, tomorrow I will be posting a gluten-free Pumpkin Bread! And it’s insanely good. And I can eat it at my leisure, which makes it even better. GF living for the win.

Yes I made two sweet treats today. In my defense, I also made these:

Aren’t these rainbow carrots pretty?I almost felt bad eating them after I roasted them. Almost.

Roasted Garlic, Goat Cheese, and Rosemary Hummus

31 Oct

There are few things in life that I enjoy less than transatlantic flights. Especially when they go from somewhere beautiful in Europe (and once in my case, Africa) to the suburbs North of Toronto. Even after hoarding little bottles of red wine throughout the two flights (which began at 6 30am mind you) to drink whilst teary-eyed about leaving my boyfriend AGAIN, nothing is worse than landing over Mississauga to Pearson Airport. I think I actually full on cried looking out the window upon landing.

However, there is always a bright side I suppose. Since I’m staying with my parents, the wine is technically free and bottomless and I get to hang out with my little dog all day long, picking him up and squeezing him against his will. Oh, and I have a food processor again.

That was his St. Patrick's Day bow. We never make him wear one, I swear!

A food processor is the kitchen staple I missed the most while in Sweden. It wasn’t in the budget to purchase one (good wine and bourban>food processor) but now that I have one again, I’m in processing heaven. And my very favorite thing to make in the food processor is HUMMUS.

After arriving in Sweden, I had dreams of making this hummus. I just had a feeling that this combination of ingredients was going to be one of the best things that ever happened in my life (I would have said THE best, but I didn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings…).

Verdict? I was correct.

It’s filling, it’s creamy, it’s garlicky, it’s perfection!

And making it means that your home will smell like this all day:

Roasted garlic. I’m going to start roasting heads of garlic every morning so my house will smell amazing everyday. And it’s so easy.

Just cut the tops of the garlic heads off so that the cloves are exposed. Peel away a few layers of the skin so that a thin layer remains.

Drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper (adding rosemary would be amazing too!), cover with foil, and roast at 375 for 40-50 minutes.

And now you’re ready to make the hummus!

ROASTED GARLIC, GOAT CHEESE, AND ROSEMARY HUMMUS

Ingredients:

1 15oz can of chickpeas, rinsed, drained, and peeled
cloves from one small head of roasted garlic
3 oz goat cheese
3 tsp rosemary
2 tsp sea salt
pepper to taste
1-3 tablespoons olive oil

I suggest you make this hummus on a rainy day/a day that you have time to kill. Unless you have patience, and then make it whenever. Because the first step I’m going to give you is this:

1. Take the ugly white “skins” off of every. chickpea.

I know this seems like a pointless task, but I promise you that it will yield a creamier hummus than if you don’t remove them. I can’t believe I’ve never done this before. I was so lazy. It took me about 10-15 minutes because I kept getting distracted by my own voice. Complaining about what I was doing. But then I remembered what the outcome would be!

2. Put the chickpeas in the food processor with 3oz of goat cheese, 3 tsp of rosemary, the cloves of one entire small head of roasted garlic, 2 tsp sea salt, and pepper to taste. Process until smooth, slowly adding in 1-3 tablespoons of olive oil while processing until reaching desired creaminess.

3. Devour.

I like drizzling a small amount of olive oil onto the hummus when serving. Makes it extra special.

I made TWO versions of this hummus, one with chickpeas (as shown above) and one with white beans. I usually love white bean hummus but in this particular recipe, the flavour of the white beans was too strong for the goat cheese. With the chickpeas, you can taste the goat cheese, the garlic and the rosemary so perfectly.

I think I”m going to make this 3-4 times a week because the batch only lasted…two days. And I only shared with one other person. At least this new addiction is healthier that the chocolate peanut butter squares I made two weeks ago. And made again two days ago.

Someone get me back to Sweden!

Roast Beef Birthday Dinner

25 Oct

Hello, Stockholm? It's Nantucket calling. We want our decor back.

We’ve got a very special birthday over here.

No, not mine! The boyfriend.

He turned the ripe old age of something higher than 25 but lower than 30. A woman never reveals her boyfriend’s age…

So after a lovely night with friends on Friday, I took him into the big city (aka STOCKHOLM) for the day and night Saturday! (Photo of the hotel reception is above…)

The view from our hotel room was this:

SWOON. It was a little piece of nature (which we love) within a big city (which we love equally…if not a teeny bit more).

The views were fantastic here, and we were a 7 minute bus ride away from the city. The city we ate and drank through for 24 hours.

Between a lobster chowder and seafood casserole lunch by the water (for him, I had duck obviously) and then a beautiful dinner in the city made better by a lovely friend (at Pontus– a recommendation if you’re ever in Stockholm!), it was a fantastic birthday weekend.

But I made it better (I think?! I’m pretty sure I’m at the point of assuming…)

We got home from Stockholm the late afternoon of his birthday Sunday,and I made him dinner. Sunday roast!

For the best birthday boy, I made a roast beef cooked with potatoes, carrots and onions. It was constantly doused with beef broth and a bit of red wine, which helped make the gravy. The meat was tender and the vegetables were so soft and flavourful that I could have made a meal with them alone.

On the side, we had a beet and goat cheese salad that we had both been craving the entire day. The pairing of beets and goat cheese is gorgeous, especially when garnished with walnuts. I recommend drizzling lightly with good quality balsamic when ready to serve.

And another great side dish- caramelized chopped brussel sprouts with toasted walnuts (recipe to come!)

Excuse me while I give props to myself for cooking a gorgeous birthday dinner for the man I love.

Especially when it included this:

And a bottle of a Chianti Classico as a reminder of our special time spent in Tuscany.

With meals like this, it’s nice to be back at home after a weekend in the city that remains as a pleasant memory. Us two will ALWAYS be city people, but without a doubt, there is something so warm and inviting about a Sunday Roast at your very own kitchen table.

And it’s so easy. Recipes to come! In the meantime, I’ve enjoyed the day after the bf’s birthday (still obviously a holiday!) making a beef stew out of the roast leftovers. I’ll post a recipe for that too at the end of the week.

Just bask in the glory of the photos. Because they’re even making me want to get out of bed (where I’m writing this) to go get spoonfuls of stew.

Willpower, where art thou?

Salade au Chèvre Chaud

21 Oct

If I could survive off memories alone, I’d be one of those freak people that walks down the street with a permanent smile on their face.

To say I’ve lived a rich and blessed 20-something years is an understatement. My travels have brought me from the mountains of Alberta, Canada to the plains of Southern Africa-and a few dozen places in between.

Right now, I’ve been living in Uppsala, Sweden for two months. I really do love it here! And after getting rid of the floral curtains that hung in our rented apartment, it feels unmistakably like home.

2 months may not seem like a long time, but that’s how long it took Bordeaux, France to feel like a place I never wanted to leave. I was visiting for a few months while the boyfriend was there taking French language classes. We shared a cozy apartment in a building that had the tiniest and slowest elevator. We drank A LOT of wine.

Self-serve wine bar

Wall to wall self-serve wine from every Bordeaux wine region

We had hundreds of leisurely lunches and dinners

And walked around for hours a day looking at things like this:

Is that a monkey on that very old statue?

Now that you’re all sufficiently jealous, I will tell you one negative thing about my time in Bordeaux. Everything, and I do mean everything, had about a pound of butter in it. Eggs, sauces, everything! This is not necessarily a bad thing for most people, but I ended up getting pretty sick before figuring out that I had to live on brioche, entrecĂ´te and a frites, and salade au chevre chaud.

Meanwhile, the boyfriend lived on at least one Croque Monsiuer a day. For those who aren’t familiar, that is a grilled cheese with ham, coated in butter, fried and then smothered in Bechamel sauce. Bechamel sauce is hot whole milk whisked into a flour-butter roux. Did I mention that this wasn’t consumed as his breakfast, lunch or dinner, but merely as a snack?!

One bite of that would have left me hospitalized. So when we were feeling nostalgic for a little piece of the past, I did not make a croque-monsiuer.

I, instead, made this for dinner:

Warm goat cheese salad. Brought to you by….my nostalgia. Warm honeyed goat cheese on of a small piece of toast, placed on top a bed of lightly dressed greens and drizzled with a syrupy balsamic reduction. A perfect light French meal.

SALADE AU CHEVRE CHAUD

Ingredients:

-Salad greens (I used spinach and mache. I highly recommending using half mache for authenticity)
-1 cup balsamic vinegar
-1 tsp white sugar
-two rounds of goat cheese
-two slices of toast or baguette
-salad dressing* (recipe below)

For the dressing:

-3 tbsp olive oil
-1.5 tbsp fresh lemon juice
-1 small shallot, finely chopped
-salt and pepper, to taste

1. First, make the balsamic reduction. In a sauce pan, put 1 cup of balsamic vinegar on medium high heat and bring to a light boil.

Turn the temperature down to medium- medium low, and let reduce to half it’s original amount, whisking constantly. When reduced, stir in a teaspoon of white sugar and remove from heat. It should look like a think syrup. Let cool slightly.

2. Prepare greens in two shallow large bowls. Prepare the dressing. Whisk together the ingredients with a small fork, and set aside.

3. Place goat cheese rounds onto of a slice of baguette, or toast. If using toast bread, cut the bread into a circle around the goat cheese.

4. Drizzle the goat cheese and toast with honey and put into an oven preheated to just under 400* (mine was at 200 degreees Celsius), for 5 minutes. Do not let cheese melt.

5. Dress the salad greens, place the goat cheese toast in center of bowl, and drizzle with the balsamic glaze.

And voila! A little bit of Bordeaux at home. My favorite salad. I fancy myself an expert on them.

And of course, it is required that you serve this salad with a glass of Bordeaux red. Because that’s what the Bordelais would do.

Totally better than a Croque Monsieur, right?

Enjoy!

Roasted Butternut Squash Spaghetti

20 Oct

People who know me can attest to the fact that I have a tendency to be a little self-deprecating. I don’t mind having a laugh at my own expense. Frequently. In fact, I wouldn’t have started this little blog if I wasn’t willing to laugh at myself and my cooking capabilities, because as the title of the blog suggests, I’m just an amateur.

BUT.

1 out of 10 times I am my own biggest fan. In these moments, I’m convinced that I am the greatest thing to happen to those around me and the universe at large. Who needs world peace when there’s a ME in the world?. This is one of those moments.

I’ll tell you why. Because I managed to come up with this recipe all by myself, with no influence from others, and it is SO GOOD. So good that I’m obnoxiously using capital letters and likening my existence to world peace to describe it.

Butternut squash is an autumn mainstay in my kitchen. I can’t get enough of it. And I want to eat it even more now that I’ve learned how to peel it quickly and efficiently.

(Instead of slicing the squash and trying to cut the skin off with a knife, just use a strong vegetable peeler to peel the skin off the squash lengthwise. Such a “duh” moment. How was I not doing that all along?! The money I’ve spent on band-aids has gone way down.)

This pasta has three of my favorite things: butternut squash (paired with it’s best friends, sage and cinnamon), cured meat, and carbs. I could eat this every day until next March and not get bored of it. And for a little extra something, I grate some firm goat cheese on top. Is anyone else’s mouth salivating?!

OF COURSE, I wouldn’t leave you vegetarians hanging. For the veggie variation, please see the notes at the end of the post, marked with this symbol: *

Yum

ROASTED BUTTERNUT SQUASH SPAGHETTI (serves 2)

Ingredients:

-One medium sized butternut squash
-2-3 slices of bacon or pancetta, chopped
-2 portions of spaghetti (I used gluten-free, but whole wheat would taste extra rustic and yummy)
-1 tbsp dried sage
-1 tbsp olive oil (for roasting)
-salt and pepper, to taste
-generous sprinkling of cinnamon (about two tsp)
-extra large pour of olive oil to make the pasta “sauce”
-4 leaves of fresh sage
-shredded goat cheese (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 400*. Peel and chop your squash into very small cubes. Season with 1 tbsp olive oil, dried sage, salt and pepper, and a liberal sprinkling of cinnamon. Using your hands, toss the squash to coat thoroughly. Put into oven and roast until soft and slightly browned, about 20 minutes.

2. While squash is roasting, put the bacon in a pan and fry on medium high heat until crispy. Using a slotted spatula, remove the bacon to a paper towel-lined plate, reserve the bacon grease in the frying pan. Set aside.

3. When squash and bacon is cooked, fill a large pot with salted water and boil. Cook the pasta according to directions, until al dente.

4. Meanwhile, in a large heavy frying pan, pour a generous amount of olive oil and place fresh sage leaves in. Season with salt and pepper and allow to become warm over medium heat.

5. In the frying pan containing the bacon grease, pour in the butternut squash and allow to warm and lightly fry over medium-high heat (level 6) for a few minutes, stirring often. Add the bacon.
To be clear, I am indeed telling you to stir the lovely squash into bacon fat. Just trust me on this.

6. When pasta is done, use tongs or a spaghetti serving spoon to take the pasta directly from the water and put in the pan containing the olive oil and sage. Stir quickly. Place the butternut squash and bacon mixture on top of the spaghetti and stir.


7. Serve immediately, garnishing with fried sage leaves and grated goat cheese.

As you can see, I clearly outdid myself with this dinner. The cinnamon gives it just a hint of sweet spice, it’s not at all overpowering. I’ve made it a few times since butternut squash appeared in the grocery store and I don’t see an end in sight. It’s a new fall favorite!

I think people are sometimes scared to use bacon or pancetta, but you really shouldn’t be. The flavour it gives even when used in a small quantity is unparalleled. I belong to the camp of “everything in moderation”, and in a pasta dish, I don’t think you can go wrong using the cured meat love of my life!

*Now for you vegetarians, which even includes me sometimes, this dish can still be for you. At this years Thanksgiving dinner, I made a big batch of this dish for the veggies in the group. The instructions are all the same, except: do not fry any bacon, and do not put the already roasted butternut squash in a frying pan. Just take directly from oven and into the pan with pasta, olive oil and sage. For extra flavour, I recommend throwing some extra dried sage and cinnamon into the olive oil as it’s warming. I promise, it’s just as good!

ENJOY!

P.s. My boyfriend took a photo of me hanging up laundry after dinner. Look! I ate pasta and bacon and I look as though I lost half my body weight. It’s a miracle! Carbs are good people, carbs are good.

Yes, I made dinner AND hung up the laundry. Award for domestic house(not)wife of the year goes to ME.