Pasta with roasted tomatoes, peaches and burrata

This is the dish that just might make you consider becoming a vegetarian. Seriously. I love the way my family looks at me when I tell them we’re having a vegetarian meal. Their facial expressions suggest that they might a) die of starvation within the hour after dinner or b) head out for meaty takeout before I’ve even finished the dishes. Well, I tricked them with this one. It is packed with flavour and enough protein (thanks to delicious burrata cheese which is a ball made of mozzarella on the outside, and a creamy ricotta-filling on the inside) to satisfy even the most committed of carnivores.  When I served this up, I was thrilled to hear, after just one bite, “you can make this again. Definitely.”

This quick vegetarian pasta dish features roasted tomatoes and peaches plus delicious burrata cheese

Ingredients

  • 3 plum tomatoes
  • 2 ripe peaches
  • 2 tablespoons (30 mL) olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 tablespoons (30 mL) chopped fresh basil
  • 1 cup (250 mL) small pasta (shells, macaroni, etc.)
  • 8 oz (250 g) Burrata cheese

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Directions

  • Preheat oven to 400F.
  • Cut the tomatoes and peaches into 3/4 inch pieces and place on a baking tray. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  • Roast for 20 minutes.
  • While fruit is roasting, cook pasta in boiling salted water.
  • When pasta is tender, remove and reserve 1/4 cup (60 mL) cooking water before draining the cooked noodles.
  • Put hot, cooked pasta in a serving bowl. Scatter roasted tomatoes and peaches on top.
  • On a cutting board, quickly slice burrata into small pieces and transfer the cheese to the top of the pasta bowl. Drizzle with reserved pasta cooking water.
  • Sprinkle with chopped basil and add a few grinds of pepper, then serve immediately.

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Serves 2 – 3

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Posted in Fruits and vegetables, One dish meals, Pasta, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Caramel Crunch S’mores Dip

No campfire is needed to make this delicious treat whenever a s’mores craving strikes! Use either your oven’s broiler or a kitchen torch and the microwave to whip this up in just moments.

No campfire needed to make this s'mores dip!

Ingredients

  • Mini marshmallows
  • Mini chocolate chips
  • Skor baking bits
  • Graham crackers, for dipping

Method

  • Fill the bottom of an oven-safe dish with a layer of mini marshmallows.
  • Broil or scorch with a kitchen torch until the marshmallows are just beginning to blacken (or turn a dark golden brown if you’re one of “those people” who only eats ‘perfectly toasted’ marshmallows).

Use your oven's broiler or a kitchen torch to toast the marshmallows

  • Sprinkle just enough chocolate chips and Skor bits on top to cover in a thin layer.
  • Return to oven (which has been turned off) for 2 minutes to melt chocolate, or microwave on medium power for about 30 seconds.
  • Transfer dip to mouth via graham crackers.

No campfire needed to make this delicious dip.

Posted in Dessert, Desserts, Party, Snacks | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Marinated Goat Cheese with Pickled Blueberries

Heaven help me….I have a new addiction, and it’s this dish. It started out innocently enough. I looked around for something new to pickle, and spied a big basket of fresh blueberries on the kitchen counter. As an aside, in case you don’t know it, I’ve become known as the person who will pickle anything that’s not nailed down. Apple slices? Yup. Grilled corn kernels? Check. I’ve also pickled tomatillos, rhubarb, cauliflower, kohlrabi and plums, plus a whole lot more. Can’t get enough of pickles! But I digress. As I was saying, it started with the blueberries. They made fabulous pickles and I soon found myself adding them to salads, my morning granola and all kinds of other things. I then realized they would be a great tangy topper for rich, marinated goat cheese (a dish I’ve loved for years thanks to Canadian Living magazine) and that’s how this dish was born. If you are a regular guest at my table, I apologize in advance for how often I am going to serve this.

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Ingredients

For the pickled blueberries

  • 2 cups (250 mL) firm, fresh blueberries, rinsed
  • 3/4 cup (180 mL) cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup (60 mL) water
  • 2 tablespoons (30 mL) white sugar
  • 1 tablespoon (15 mL) kosher salt
  • 1 small shallot, diced
  • 1/4 teaspoon (1.25 mL) cracked black peppercorns
  • 1/2 teaspoon (2.5 mL) hulled cardamom seeds

For the marinated goat cheese

  • 4 ounce (113 grams) log of plain goat cheese
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 4 tablespoons (60 mL) olive oil
  • Few grinds salt and pepper
  • 2 teaspoons (10 mL) fresh thyme leaves

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Method

  • To make the pickled blueberries, start by putting half the blueberries in a clean 500 mL canning jar.
  • In a small saucepan, combine vinegar, water, sugar, salt, shallot, pepper and cardamom.
  • Heat gently, stirring often, until sugar and salt have dissolved and mixture is steaming.
  • Pour half mixture over the half-filled jar of berries, being sure to scoop some of the seasonings over the berries.
  • Add remaining berries to jar and top with remaining brine and seasonings. Cover with canning lid.
  • Let stand at room temperature for 6 hours then transfer to the refrigerator.
  • Berries will be ready to eat in 24 hours and can be stored in the fridge for up to one month.

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  • To make the marinated goat cheese, slice the cheese crosswise into 1/4 inch (6mm) slices. Lay these in the bottom of a shallow dish with short sides just big enough to hold the cheese in one layer. I used a 6 inch (15 cm) square plate.
  • Put the minced garlic in a small bowl and add the olive oil. Microwave for 1 minute to partially cook the garlic. Set aside to cool for 10 minutes.
  • Add the salt, pepper and thyme leaves to the oil and garlic mixture and stir to combine.
  • Drizzle the flavoured oil over the cheese.
  • Let stand at room temperature at least 30 minutes or up to two hours so the flavours will blend.
  • When ready to serve, top with 1/2 cup (125 mL) of pickled blueberries and serve with baguette or crackers.

Serves 4 as an appetizer.

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Posted in appetizer, Berries, pickles, Preserves | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Grilled Portobellos stuffed with quinoa, pesto and grilled vegetables

If you’d asked my husband a few years ago what his least-favourite vegetable was, he would probably have said zucchini. Thanks to a lot of experimentation, he’s changed his tune, a fact he expressed when tasting this delightful stuffed mushroom dish for lunch. Previously, he complained that zucchini didn’t taste like anything, whereas I’ve always preferred to think of them as the perfect blank canvas for other flavours (this delectable, easy zucchini ‘noodle’ dish is a great example). With this new recipe, I’ve found another way to throw zucchini on his plate and it has also proven to be a huge hit. You can make it in under 30 minutes and while it’s a great meatless meal on its own, it’d also be a fantastic side for grilled fish or meat. Use whatever pesto you like; I’m partial to basil but grilled garlic scape pesto would be terrific too. If you wanted to serve this as an appetizer, substitute smaller cremini or white mushrooms for the portobellos.

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Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) quinoa (I prefer red quinoa for its nice colour)
  • 1 cup (250 mL) water
  • Pinch salt
  • 1/4 cup (60 mL) olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons (45 mL) balsamic
  • 4 Portobello mushroom caps
  • 1 small zucchini
  • 1/2 orange or red bell pepper
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) pesto
  • Lemon wedges (to serve)

Method

  • Preheat barbeque to medium-hot.
  • While barbeque heats, put quinoa and water in a small saucepan, cover, and bring to a boil. Immediately reduce heat to minimum and let cook for 15 – 20 minutes until all water is absorbed.
  • While quinoa cooks, put olive oil and balsamic in a small jar with a tight lid and shake until well blended.
  • With a small knife (a grapefruit knife is ideal) cut the stems and some of the gills out of the Portobellos to form a bit of a hollow in the middle, being careful not to cut all the way through.
  • Slice zucchini lengthwise into four thin strips and cut pepper into two pieces.
  • Brush both sides of the vegetables with the olive oil and balsamic mixture, being sure to thoroughly coat the Portobellos.

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  • Place the vegetables on the hot barbeque grill and cook, turning once, for about 4 minutes per side. Remove from heat.
  • Transfer the cooked quinoa to a medium sized bowl. Chop the grilled peppers and zucchini and add to the quinoa, along with all but a tablespoon of the pesto. Stir gently to combine well.

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  • Place the Portobellos on individual serving places, with the stem sides facing up. Heap about 1/2 cup (125 mL) of the quinoa mixture (or more, if you can fit it on) onto each mushroom.
  • Top each with a dollop of pesto and serve immediately with lemon wedges to squeeze over top for a bright pop of flavour.

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Makes 4 stuffed Portobellos.

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Posted in appetizer, barbeque, Grilling, vegan, Vegetables, vegetarian | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Sweet and Spicy Cherry-Chipotle Barbeque Sauce

When I set out to create a new barbeque sauce recipe, my starting point was that it absolutely could not include any ketchup. Ketchup is used as the base of so many sauces and I just find its overly sweet and salty flavour too cloying. The good news is that you can make fantastic barbeque sauce without tomatoes in any form. Depending on how much of the chipotle pepper you add, this sauce can pack a bit of a heat punch when freshly made but it mellows really beautifully after just a few days. I recommend dividing the batch into smaller portions and freezing it. Thaw it quickly in the microwave before brushing it on your favourite barbequed meat or vegetables, towards the end of the cooking time.

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Ingredients

  • 3 cups (750 mL) dark sweet cherries (fresh or frozen, pits removed)
  • 2 tablespoons (30 mL)  apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon (15 mL) soy sauce (or tamari for gluten-free version)
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) chopped onion
  • 2 tablespoons (30 mL) maple syrup
  • 1 tablespoon (15 mL) molasses
  • 1/2 teaspoon (2.5 mL) mustard powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon (1.25 mL) cinnamon
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 teaspoon (5 mL) minced fresh ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon (2.5 mL) each kosher salt and black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon (15 mL) canned chipotle pepper in adobo sauce, chopped (freeze remainder of can) or 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon chipotle chili powder (or to taste)

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Method

  • Put all the ingredients in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring every 3 – 5 minutes.
  • Blend cooked mixture until smooth (using a stick or conventional blender).
  • Refrigerate for up to 5 days or freeze for longer storage.

Cherry-BBQ-Sauce-Pinnable

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Lavender-Blueberry Shrub for Cocktails and Salad Dressings

Shrubs are a big part of the current cocktail craze, and for good reason – they’re delicious! A shrub is a sweetened vinegar-based syrup, sometimes called drinking vinegar. Shrubs typically consist of vinegar infused with fruit juice, herbs and spices for use in cocktails or in salad dressings; they can also be used to flavour soups and sauces. Inspired by the lavender that’s blooming like mad in my garden, this shrub’s combination of lavender and blueberry is absolutely delicious and the lavender flavour is quite subtle thanks to the relative intensity of blueberries. You can use various types of vinegars as long as they are labeled as having at least 5 percent acidity. I prefer apple cider vinegar which tends to be milder than sharp-tasting white vinegar; wine and balsamic vinegars are also great to work with. Have fun experimenting with different combinations of flavours! Shrubs make fantastic host or hostess gifts.

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Ingredients

  • 2 cups (500 mL) blueberries (fresh or frozen)
  • 1 cup (250 mL) sugar
  • 10 sprigs fresh lavender sprigs
  • 1 cup (150 mL) apple cider vinegar

Method

  • Place blueberries and sugar into a medium bowl. Crush the berries, and then stir to combine.
  • Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let sit in a dark place on the counter for 2 days. If your home is really hot (above 24C) then place in refrigerator. Stir the mixture occasionally to help the sugar dissolve.
  • Meanwhile, place lavender into a nonreactive container, cover with cider vinegar, and cover with a tight lid.

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  • Store the cider mixture on the counter (or in the fridge if your home is hot) for 2 days.
  • Position a fine-mesh strainer in a funnel over a 500 mL canning jar and pour blueberry mixture through to remove solids. Resist the urge to press down on the blueberry mixture with a spoon as this will result in seeds going through the strainer.

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  • Pour the vinegar mixture over strained blueberry mixture, into the same jar as the blueberry syrup.

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  • Put the lid on the jar and shake the mixture then place in the refrigerator for a week before using.
  • Store in the refrigerator for up to two weeks, or freeze for longer-term storage.

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Using the shrub

  • Add 1 – 2 tablespoons (15 – 30 mL) of shrub to 1.5 ounces of gin or vodka and top with soda water to make a delicious cocktail.
  • Combine 2 tablespoons (30 mL) of shrub with 3 – 4 tablespoons of good quality olive oil to make a delicious salad dressing.

blueberry-lavender-shrub-pinnable

Posted in Canning, cocktails, Drinks, Edible Gifts, Entertaining | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

HelloFresh Meal Kits – A Review

When I was asked if I wanted to test out the new HelloFresh meal kits, I was intrigued. With award-winning recipes and pre-measured ingredients delivered right to my door, I was pretty confident I would enjoy having a virtual ‘sous chef’ to make weeknight dinners a whole lot easier. After trying three family-sized meal kits, I have to say I was impressed.

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What did I like about HelloFresh?

  1. When my shipment was enroute, I received an email with a tracking number.
  2. The ingredients arrive in a sturdy box with oodles of ice packs to keep perishables nice and cold PLUS each meal is in a separate box inside so you don’t have to figure out what ingredient belongs to which recipe.
  3. The portions were extremely generous – while each of the kits in my Family Box was intended to feed four, I found that the provided quantities could easily have fed five or six.
  4. The ingredients were already prepped, for the most part, so it only took a little bit of time and effort on my part to finish making the recipes.
  5. The step-by-step recipes were easy to follow and all were ready in 30 minutes or less.

What did I make?

Since this was a promotion, I didn’t get to choose my recipes from the weekly changing menus as regular subscribers do. My kits were:

  • Chicken and Cold Soba Noodle Salad

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  • Sausage and Pepper Hoagies

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  • Steak Tagliata with Roasted Sweet Potato Wedges and Watercress Salad

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Would I recommend HelloFresh?

As mentioned, I was impressed by the appearance of the meal kits when they arrived at my doorstep and can confirm that all three recipes were simple to prepare and very tasty. My husband thought the Chicken Soba Noodle Salad was restaurant-worthy and my son really dove into those Hoagies. While I was tempted to tinker with the Steak Tagliata recipe, I made it exactly as directed and found it to be delicious. While the price at first might seem high, it’s important to realize that HelloFresh uses a lot of premium ingredients, particularly for its meats, and if your time is valuable, you’ll really appreciate all the work that’s been done for you ahead of time.

Would I change anything?

  1. As a matter of personal taste, I found some of the ingredient quantities to be disproportionate. For example, there was not enough rice vinegar for the soba noodle salad dressing and the amount of oil (to be supplied by me) was insufficient. On the other hand, there were far more vegetables than needed supplied for the hoagies. The herbs were also not properly portioned – I’m pretty sure even the biggest dried oregano fan in the world, for example, would not add a tablespoon of it to about a quarter cup of vinaigrette.
  2. While the recipe card for each dish does outline possible allergens, I thought an effort could have been made to find gluten-free soba noodles for that dish.
  3. Although the instructions were for the most part quite clear, I was perplexed by one on each recipe card that said “wash and dry all produce”. That makes sense for intact items, but I would assume that anything which has been chopped would have been washed ahead of time. I was particularly puzzled about how to wash and dry a bag of diced onions.
  4. Also on the topic of produce, I found that in my box, tender watercress did not travel well. Despite wrapping it in paper towel and putting it in a plastic bag in the fridge immediately upon delivery, the next day more than half the bunch was unusable. Perhaps more sturdy greens should be considered.
  5. The recipe cards tell you what is included for that meal but don’t give exact quantities. It would be really nice if it listed not only the HelloFresh amount (eg 1 package) and an equivalent measurement (1 cup), should one wish to recreate the recipes later.

As someone who genuinely loves all aspects of cooking – from choosing recipes to grocery shopping to preparing meals and even doing the dishes – I have to say it was a real treat to have three nights where I didn’t have to think about dinner at all, knowing everything I needed was at hand and I could look forward to whipping up a nutritious, delicious meal in just half an hour. If you don’t love cooking the way I do, you might really enjoy HelloFresh.

The nice people at HelloFresh have offered a discount code to you, my readers, so you can enjoy HelloFresh too. The code is COOKING-60-OFF and will allow you to have a total discount of $60 ($30 off when ordering your first HelloFresh box, plus another $30 off when ordering second box). For more information on HelloFresh, visit www.hellofresh.ca

Disclosure: While I did receive three meal kids from HelloFresh to test out their service, I was not compensated in another way and all opinions expressed are my own.

 

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