Ham and cheese waffles

Awesome alone but even better for eggs Benedict!

Anyone who knows me knows I am infatuated with waffles. I love sweet variations, served with fruit and maple syrup, of course, but lately I’ve been playing around with savoury waffles too. These cheddar and onion beer bread ones were a huge hit, as were these chive cornbread waffles. But I have to say, this latest variation really hits it out of the park. Light, fluffy and crammed with flavour. I can see using these waffles in all sorts of inventive ways (grilled cheese sandwiches, perhaps). I like to measure out the dry ingredients the night before, as well as prepping the chives, ham and cheese and tucking it into the fridge so that the assembly time in the morning is super speedy. Like most waffles, these reheat beautifully in the oven (or even in a toaster) so you can cook them ahead of time if you prefer.

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups (365 mL) all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons (7.5 mL) baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon (5 mL) sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups (375 mL) milk
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1/4 cup butter (60 mL) melted and cooled
  • 2 tablespoons (20 mL) finely minced chives or green onion tops
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) finely chopped ham
  • 1 cup (250 mL) grated extra-old Cheddar cheese

Method

  • Preheat waffle iron; preheat oven to 300F and place a wire cooling rack on a baking sheet. Set aside.
  • In a large mixing bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and sugar. Stir milk, egg and butter into flour mixture until just combined. Fold in chives, ham and cheese.
  • Brush waffle iron plates with vegetable oil or your favourite cooking spray. Pour appropriate amount of batter (amount will vary depending on your waffle iron) onto preheated iron this quickly and gently spread it to the edges with the back of a spoon.
  • Cook until waffles are golden, 6 – 8 minutes.
  • Repeat with remaining batter, re-greasing waffle iron between batches. Serve immediately or keep warm on wire rack in preheated oven for up to 30 minutes before serving.

Makes approximately 8 waffles, depending upon your waffle iron.

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Linguine with chicken and creamy pesto sauce

A gourmet meal that’s ready in just 15 minutes!

We are big pasta fans over here at Constantly Cooking and I am always looking for new flavour combinations to test out, preferably ones that are super quick and easy. Who knew pasta shells with tomatoes, peaches and cheese could be so unforgettably delicious? Penne with smoked salmon, cream cheese and loads of fresh dill? Yes please! And spaghetti with creamy avocado sauce – absolutely heavenly. This dish may be our new favourite – packed with flavour and so speedy to prepare. If you’re fortunate to have any leftovers for breakfast the next day, the pasta is absolutely sublime with a poached egg on top. I might just make a batch later this week to specifically enjoy the next morning! 

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons (30 mL) olive oil
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) diced onion
  • 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts, thinly sliced in 1/2 inch (1.25 cm) pieces
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 tablespoon (15 ml) butter
  • 1 cup (250 mL) sliced mushrooms
  • 3/4 cup (185 mL) basil pesto
  • 1 1/2 cups (375 mL) heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) grated parmesan
  • 1 pound (454 g) fresh linguine or fettuccine
  • 2 teaspoons (10 mL) kosher salt
  • Additional grated parmesan, to garnish

Method

  • Heat olive on in a large skillet placed over medium heat. Add onions and chicken; season with salt and pepper. Sauté until chicken is no longer pink (5 – 7 minutes).
  • Push the chicken and onions to one side of the pan. Add the butter and when it has melted, add the mushrooms. Sauté over medium-high heat until browned; about 3 minutes.
  • Pour pesto and cream over chicken and vegetable mixture and sprinkle parmesan on top. Stir gently to blend. Let come just to a boil then reduce heat to lowest setting and cover pot. Reduce heat to medium low and stir occasionally as it simmers while you cook the pasta.
  • Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Stir in salt and then add pasta. Cook pasta according to package directions (most recommend no more than 2 – 3 minutes of cooking for fresh linguine or fettuccine) and drain.
  • Divide pasta among serving dishes and top with sauce then garnish with a little more parmesan.

Makes 4 generous servings.

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Orange tarts with shortbread crust

Sweet citrus shines in these colourful treats!

I am an unabashed lover of all things lemon, to the point where other citrus fruits sometimes get a little neglected in my kitchen. I decided to remedy that by coming up with this orange-based recipe to serve to friends recently, and it was a huge hit.  These little tarts would be ideal for a brunch menu, a springtime party or even a bridal or baby shower. You can use any variety of juicy orange that you prefer – blood oranges would be absolutely spectacular, I think! If you find your orange filling is looking a little pale and lemony in colour, you can always punch it up with just a few drops of red and yellow food colouring to give it a slightly more vibrant orange hue. You could easily use this same recipe to make grapefruit or lemon tarts, but you may need to taste the filling as it is cooking and adjust the sugar (adding up to 4 tablespoons / 60 mL) to compensate for less sweet fruit. The tarts can be made up to 48 hours ahead of time and refrigerated.

Ingredients

Shortbread crust:

  • 3/4 cup (185 mL) all-purpose flour
  • 3 tablespoons (45 mL) white sugar
  • 1/3 cup (90 mL) very cold butter, cut into 1/2 inch (1.25 cm) cubes

Orange Filling:

  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 5 egg yolks (save the whites to make meringues)
  • 1 tablespoon orange zest
  • 1/2 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
  • 2 tablespoons (30 mL) freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon orange extract (optional but adds a burst of flavour)
  • 1/2 cup cold butter, cut into 1/2 inch (1.25 cm) pieces
  • Few drops red and yellow food colouring (optional)

Method

  • Preheat the oven to 375F.
  • Make the shortbread crust by combining the flour and sugar in a food processor. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture looks like coarse sand.
  • Divide crust mixture among 12 lined muffin tin compartments (approximately 5 teaspoons / 25 mL each). Press firmly and evenly into the muffin liners as shown above (I used silicone ones).
  • Bake in the preheated oven for 15 minutes or until the crust just is just beginning to turn light brown.
  • While crust bakes, prepare the orange filling.
  • Put about 2 inches (5 cm) of water in the bottom of a double boiler or medium saucepan. In the top of the double boiler (or a heat proof bowl resting on top of the saucepan), place the sugar, egg yolks, orange zest and orange and lemon juices. Whisk well to combine.
  • Bring the water in the pot to a gentle boil then reduce heat to medium, whisking the egg mixture continuously so the eggs will not cook too quickly (which could make them lumpy).
  • After about 8 minutes over the hot water, the mixture should be smooth and slightly thickened. Remove the top of the double boiler (or the bowl) from the pan.
  • Add the orange extract, if using and then the butter pieces three at a time to the egg mixture, whisking to melt and incorporate them. If you want the colour of the mixture to be more orange, whisk in a few drops of red and yellow food colouring.
  • When the crusts are baked, remove the pan from the oven. Divide the orange filling evenly among the compartments then return the pan to the oven to bake for 12 – 15 minutes more.
  • Cool the tarts completely and remove from muffin liners.  When ready to serve, sprinkle powdered sugar over the top.

Makes 12 tarts.

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Fast and fabulous taco biscuits

A fun and flavourful new way to enjoy a family favourite!

Biscuits could be a food group in our house. We love them in their simplest form (with jam or Nutella, of course), made with buttermilk, studded with cheddar and apples, or popping with coconut and mango. This recipe consists of easy to make, buttery biscuit dough stuffed with salsa, taco-seasoned cooked ground meat and cheese and I could honestly eat these things all day long. Unlike some savoury filled bun recipes which rely on yeasted dough, there’s no rising time needed for quick biscuit dough, made with baking powder. You can even make these rolled-up beauties with a gluten-free biscuit dough if you prefer! These biscuits are great for tucking into lunchboxes and they freeze beautifully as well.

Quick biscuits with taco filling

Ingredients

  • 1/2 pound (225 g) ground beef, chicken or turkey
  • 2 tablespoons (30 mL) taco seasoning blend
  • 2 cups (500 mL) flour
  • 1 teaspoon (5 mL) salt
  • 4 teaspoons (20 mL) baking powder
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) cold butter
  • 1 cup (250 mL) cold milk
  • 1 – 2 tablespoons (15 – 30 mL) extra flour, for work surface
  • 2/3 cup (160 mL) salsa
  • 2/3 cup (160 mL) grated cheddar or Monterey Jack cheese

To serve: guacamole, sour cream, additional salsa

baking powder biscuits with taco filling

Method

  • Preheat oven to 425F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
  • In a medium-sized frying pan, cook ground beef, turkey or chicken over medium heat, stirring often to break up clumps. Once cooked (about 8 minutes), add taco seasoning and cook for 2 minutes longer, stirring often. Transfer cooked meat to a broad, shallow dish and put in the refrigerator to cool while you make the biscuit dough.
  • Make dough by combining flour, salt and baking powder in a medium bowl.
  • Using a box grater, shred the cold butter into the flour mixture. Toss with a fork or your fingers to evenly distribute butter into the flour.
  • Add milk and stir until just combined.
  • Scatter a little flour on your work surface and turn the dough out onto the floured area. Knead 8 – 10 times until dough comes together; note that it will still be somewhat sticky.
  • Lift up the dough and scatter a bit more flour on the work surface. Use your hands to flatten the dough into a rectangle approximately 9 x 14 inches (22.5 x 35 cm). Lift the dough up as needed and scatter a bit more flour to keep it from sticking to the work surface.
  • Working with a long side of the rectangle closest to you, spread the salsa on the dough, leaving a 1 inch (2.5 cm) border free at the top.
  • Scatter grated cheese over the salsa, followed by the cooked meat.

taco biscuits before rolling

  • Starting with the edge closest to you, roll up the dough into a cylinder, pressing on the border to seal the roll.

rolling up the taco biscuits

  • With a sharp knife, cut into 1 inch (2.5 cm) slices; lay them flat on the parchment-lined baking sheet, about an inch apart.

sliced taco biscuits ready for baking

  • Bake for 18 – 20 minutes, until biscuit dough is puffed and brown and filling is bubbly.
  • Serve hot or at room temperature, with sour cream, guacamole and salsa.

Makes 14 pizza biscuits.

Roll-up baking powder biscuits with taco filling

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S’mores brownies with salted caramel and dark chocolate

A favourite campfire treat gets a fabulous makeover!

Rich, gooey and deliciously decadent, these brownies are one of the most wonderful things I have ever baked. Putting a graham cracker crust under my favourite chewy brownie recipe, throwing in some salted caramel baking chips and popping a layer of marshmallows on top really takes this dessert to the next level. These squares are super quick and easy to prepare and just one bite definitely made me feel like I one was step closer to summer campfires.

Ingredients

Graham cracker crust:

  • 1 cup (250 mL) graham cracker crumbs
  • 1/4 cup (60 mL) brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup (60 mL) butter, melted

Brownies:

  • 1 cup (250 mL) brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) butter, melted
  • 1 teaspoon (5 mL) vanilla
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup (60 mL) dark chocolate baking chips
  • 1/4 cup (60 mL) salted caramel (or butterscotch) baking chips
  • 1 cup (250 mL) mini marshmallows

Method

  • Preheat oven to 350F. Line an 8 x 8 inch (20 x 20 cm) baking pan with parchment paper and set aside.
    In a small bowl, combine graham crumbs, brown sugar and melted butter until evenly blended.
  • Press into bottom of prepared pan and bake for 10 minutes.
  • While crust is baking, in a medium bowl, combine brown sugar and cocoa powder. Add melted butter and beat well. Add vanilla and egg and beat well again.
  • Add flour, dark chocolate chips and salted caramel chips and stir until flour is completely incorporated.
  • Spread the brownie batter on top of the baked graham crust, using a spatula or the back of a spoon to spread evenly in the pan.
  • Scatter the mini-marshmallows evenly over top of the brownie batter.
  • Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes.
  • Let cool and cut into squares approximately 1.5 inch x 2 inches (3.75 x 5 cm) in size. Store leftovers in an airtight container for 3 days or freeze for up to 3 months.

Makes 20 brownies.

 

 

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Sparkling ginger-mint lemonade

Enjoy as a mocktail or in a spiced-up gin & tonic!

At this time of year, I often find myself craving all things citrus. Lemon is a particular favourite of mine – I love its bright, fresh, tanginess which adds a huge pop of flavour to any recipe. With fresh ginger and mint, this lemonade is as healthful as it is delicious. I usually mix fruit concentrates with soda water, but find this one is especially delicious with tonic water (with or without a splash of gin). This lemonade – spiked or not – would be great for pitcher drinks for a party. Cheers to spring sunshine in a glass!

Ingredients

Lemonade Concentrate

  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) peeled, chopped fresh gingerroot
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) packed coarsely chopped fresh mint leaves
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) honey
  • 1 1/2 cups (375 mL) boiling water
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) cold water

To serve

  • Ice cubes
  • Fresh mint leaves
  • Lemon slices
  • Tonic water or club soda
  • Gin (optional)

Method

  • Combine ginger, mint and honey in a medium-sized heatproof bowl. Add boiling water and let sit for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally with a metal spoon.
  • Strain into 4 cup (1 L) canning jar or glass pitcher, pressing on solids in the strainer with the back of a spoon to squeeze out as much liquid as possible.
  • Add lemon juice and cold water. Stir.
  • The lemonade concentrate can be kept covered in the refrigerator for up to a week or frozen for up to 3 months.
  • To serve, fill glasses with ice. Add a 1.5 oz (3 tbsp / 45 mL) shot of gin, if using, then add enough lemonade mixture to fill the glasses 3/4 full. Top with tonic water or club soda. Garnish with mint leaves and lemon slices and serve.

Makes approximately 3 cups of lemonade.

 

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Old-fashioned creamy maple fudge

Patience and science make for great candy!

One of my fondest childhood memories is that of making fudge with my maternal grandmother, whose much-used fudge pan I was recently gifted by my mother, who’s also a fantastic cook. Grammy taught me that the two secrets to great fudge are patience and a good candy thermometer (unless, like her, you’re an alchemist who can divine the stages of candy making with just a bowl of cold water). Though it was decades ago, I vividly recall the sound of her heavily-laden charm bracelet jangling wildly as she vigorously beat the fudge mixture for 10 minutes by hand with a wooden spoon, willing it to undergo the magical transformation that makes fudge unique from other candies. Here’s a great article that explains the sugar science behind fudge, in case you’re interested. I like my fudge unadorned, but you could easily add toasted, chopped walnuts to this mixture if you like, or press walnut halves into the fudge once you’ve put it in the pan for hardening. My husband thinks chopped, cooked bacon would also be a great addition! I recommend cutting this fudge into very small squares as it’s quite rich and decadent.

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons (22.5 mL) salted butter
  • 1 1/2 cups (375 mL) brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup (60 mL) maple syrup
  • 3/4 cup (185 mL) whipping cream
  • Pinch baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon (2.5 mL) vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon (2.5 mL) maple extract

Method

  • Lightly butter the bottom and corners of a 7×7 or 8×8 inch baking pan. Line the pan with two criss-crossed overlapping pieces of parchment paper cut just wide enough to fill the bottom of the pan and long enough to hang out over the sides. Set aside.
  • Lightly butter a metal or heatproof bowl (the bowl of a stand mixer is ideal for this, if you have one) and set aside.
  • Melt butter in a medium saucepan set over medium heat. Swirl the melted butter so it coats the sides of the pan, about 3 inches (7.5 cm) up from the bottom.
  • Add brown sugar, whipping cream, maple syrup and a generous pinch of baking soda. Stir to combine.
  • Bring to a boil and let cook without stirring, until mixture reaches 238F (the middle temperature of the soft boil stage) on a digital instant-read or candy thermometer.
  • Immediately pour the very very very hot candy syrup into the buttered bowl. Place in the fridge (or outdoors, in winter time) and let cool, swirling bowl occasionally, until the mixture reaches 125F.
  • Add the vanilla and maple extracts and beat the mixture (using your stand mixer, a sturdy electric mixer or your own strong hands and wooden spoon), until it loses most of its glossiness and starts to take on a more granular form, about 10 minutes.
  • With a sturdy spatula, transfer the mixture to the prepared baking pan, smoothing down the top to even it out.
  • Let stand at room temperature until hardened (about one hour).
  • Lift out of the pan using the parchment paper ‘handles’ that extend over the sides and transfer to a cutting board.
  • Cut into small squares. Store fudge in an airtight container at room temperature for a few days or in the fridge for up to a month.

Makes several dozen pieces of fudge, depending upon how large you cut them.

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