STUFFING A PEPPER

One of my very best friends once said, very wisely, that good weekends begin with good friends.  I wholeheartedly agree, and something that is just as true is that good weekends also begin with good food.  The bf and I had one of my best friends and her boyfriend over some time ago for a BBQ.  Our summers are hot, yet short and sweet, so any chance we have to eat outside, have a drink, and light the BBQ, we’ll take it.

Something that I’ve wanted to try is stuffed peppers. Now, usually, trying something new is something I’ll reserve for just myself and my bf, but this friend of my mine is also very food-oriented and enjoys experimenting, so another experienced opinion is never amiss.  This particular recipe is kind of a brain child of mine, as I combined elements of two different recipes.  Stuffed peppers is also something you can make for meat lovers and vegetarians alike.  Stuffed peppers can also be a main course just as easily as it can be a side dish.

Stuffed pepper recipes tend to have a few things in common, regardless of whether or not they are vegetarian.  They usually contain rice that’s already been cooked.  Other elements of the peppers’ filling are entirely up to you.  You can add some spicy peppers, corn, and tomatoes for a more Mexican feel, or you could do the meat route, cooking up some ground beef with some onions to mix with the rice.  If you want to make the stuffed peppers a main course, add beans to the Mexican mix and amp up the protein content.  However you choose to make them delicious, always top them with cheese!  You can never have too much cheese!

For our stuffed peppers, we choose some lovely red, orange, yellow, and green peppers. Colours are always good!

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Then cut them in half and wash and clean them so they can hold as much filling as possible.

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Once you have the peppers prepped, start on the filling.  Like most things I experiment with, they usually end up being a two-person job.  If you don’t have two people, give yourself lots of time and start with the peppers.  Because cooked rice makes things easier in the long run, start your rice as soon as possible.

Once you’ve got things underway, start the filling by sauteing some onions.  Give them looooots of time.  The more the better!

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To the onions, add some garlic, and now is the time that you can season with salt and pepper.  Let the onion and garlic go for as long as you wish.  I kept mine on low for about 20 minutes as I prepped the rest of the filling and the rest of dinner.  Let the onions get nice and caramelized so they are a lovely golden brown.  The garlic should be golden and fragrant as well – you don’t want to burn the garlic!

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Once you see the garlic and onion is caramelized, add some corn and hot peppers.  You want the corn and peppers to be nice and soft as you saute them with the onions.

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Give the mixture another 5-10 minutes until the corn and peppers are nice and soft and the peppers are just beginning to have a little colour on them.  Season again with some salt and freshly ground pepper.

When you are ready to combine everything, find a nice big bowl.  Scrape everything into it – cooked rice, and onion mixture from the stove.  Now is a time to do final tasting – add salt and pepper if needed.  I also added some oregano to the mixture.  Spoon the mixture into your lovely clean, halved peppers and top with cheese.  The type of cheese is entirely up to you – we used some nice white cheddar, but you could also use a pre-grated mixture or simply whatever you have in the fridge.

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Once they are filled and covered, pass them out to the BBQ to get some colour on them and to melt the cheese.  This is a great opportunity to make sure everything gets warmed through, and you don’t have to worry about cooking anything.

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If you’ve decided to make the peppers more of a main course, add the beans/ground beef to the rice at the same point as you would the onion mixture that you sauteed.

Alright, here is what you’ll need for the stuffed peppers:

STUFFED BELL PEPPERS

1-2 tbsp canola oil
4-5 bell peppers, assorted colours (red/yellow/orange/green)
1 onion, diced and sauteed
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1-2 jalapeno peppers, diced (more if you like it spicy!)
1/3-1/2 cup corn, frozen or from a can
2 cups rice, already cooked
1/2 tsp oregano
1-2 cups cheese, grated (could be white cheddar, marble, or pre-grated mix)
salt
freshly ground pepper

First, wash, clean and halve the bell peppers.  Set aside.  Set a medium saute pan on medium heat.  Add canola oil and heat until oil runs like water across the pan.

Add onion to heated pan.  Saute and caramelize for 15-20 minutes, until nice and golden brown.  Add minced garlic and continue to saute until fragrant and light golden brown.  Add salt and pepper to the pan.  Add the corn and the jalapeno peppers.  Saute until corn and peppers are soft and the peppers begin to colour.

In large mixing bowl, combine cooked rice with sauteed onion mixture.  Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper; add oregano.  Stir and fill the pepper halves.  Top with grated cheese.

Put on top shelf of the BBQ to melt cheese and get some char marks on the peppers.

Serve and enjoy!

Thanks for reading! Happy eats!
xoxo
~e.

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PEPPERMINT COOKIES

As 2016 comes to a close, I take some time to reflect on the year that was.  We have lost many icons this past year, and on a more personal note, I lost my last remaining grandparent.  My Oma died this past summer and, with her, I lost the remaining grandparent-granddaughter dynamic that I have enjoyed and appreciated for the past 28 years.  As I dwell on this loss, I try not to dwell on any regrets that I may or may not have.  Fortunately, I was VERY lucky to be able to spend lots of days with her when I was younger, learning from her and, let’s be honest, letting her spoil me ;)

Being the avid baker that I am, I was eager to learn from both my grandmothers.  I learned how to make buns (in the German Mennonite tradition, we call these zweiback) and helped bake numerous other things as well.  When my grandmothers stopped making them, whether due to living arrangements or health concerns, I decided to try my hand at them, hoping one day to replicate what they could do after 50+ years of baking and cooking for their husbands and families.  I have to admit, the first time I tried, they were just not very good.  However, I was lucky enough that they were both alive to give me the feedback I needed to make them better.

If we fast forward a few years, my bun making gets seriously better and at family gatherings, the comments I get are: “taste just like Oma’s” and then I know that I’ve made it and that is the highest possible praise I could get.  This year was a bit different – with the loss of my last grandparent, it seemed like now was the time to really explore my skills and find a way to provide the same baking that they did.  In addition to my Christmas tradition of baking buns, I added peppermint cookies.  It was my first year trying them, as they require special ingredients (baking ammonia) and a rather large amount of time.

In the Mennonite world, there are a few recipes for Peppermint cookies (Pfefferminzkuchen in German) circulating.  They are virtually the same, with minor differences.  Some are in established cookbooks, some are word of mouth, and some of them are hand written.  My mom gave me her Oma’s (my Great-Oma’s) recipe to try, which was hand written in German.  I’m lucky enough to be fluent in German, so translation was no problem.  The problem came when under the instruction part, the only directive I had was “Bake at 375F until light golden brown”.  I had to do equal parts research and improvisation.

Now, before we get to the actual recipe and instruction part, there are a couple of things you NEED to know before starting:

  1. Baking ammonia STINKS.  Beware of the smell before AND during baking.  It can also irritate the eyes.  If possible, open a window while baking.  After cookies are done baking, the house will smell of peppermint.  A couple of notes just about baking ammonia in general: it is a leavener, so the cookies will spread in the oven.  I think even more than your typical baking soda and powder.  When storing it, I learned from my aunt over the holidays, that it should be stored in the freezer.  It will evaporate if left at room temperature.  To test whether or not it’s still good, put in water.  If it fizzles, then it’s good to go.  If not, go buy fresh!  (In Winnipeg, you can buy it at Scoop ‘n Weigh on Taylor Ave.).
  2. You also need to be aware of the yield:  I got about 150 cookies from this recipe.  If you aren’t prepared for this volume, wait until you are!  My cousins also made some this year and they got 12 dozen cookies.  It also helps if you have various people who you can give them away to.  In my family, my brother and dad will scarf them down in a moment’s notice.  My bf is a recent convert to the peppermint cookie, and I enjoy them every once in a while as well.  After baking them this year, I fully understood why my Oma would hand them out in 4L ice cream pails.
  3. I would also like to forewarn anyone who will try this for the first time that it may not work out.  After hearing what my aunt had to say, she was happy that my first experience with baking ammonia turned out okay.  It may not and that is also okay.  If you love baking like I do, you’ll do your best to take it in stride and try it again when you feel like you can.

Now that I’ve given what I think you’ll need, here’s the recipe for:

PEPPERMINT COOKIES

1 cup butter or margarine, at room temperature
3 cups sugar
2 cups whipping cream
5 eggs
3 tbsp baking ammonia, dissolved in 1/4 cup boiling water
3 tsp peppermint extract
5 tsp baking powder
8 1/2 cups flour

Before beginning, put a kettle of water on to boil.  Preheat oven to 375F.

In a large mixing bowl (you WILL need a large mixing bowl), cream the butter and the sugar until light and fluffy.  Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each egg.

In between egg additions, take a moment to measure the boiling water, and add your ammonia.  It will fizzle like wildfire in the measure cup.  Don’t be scared (like me) – it’s all good.  It’ll simmer down in mere moments.

The butter-sugar-egg mixture should be semi-thick, smooth, and uniform.  Add the cream and the ammonia-water mixture.  Here you need to beware of the smell (fumes) and lean your head back so you don’t inhale it too much.  Once you’ve mixed all that together, it’s time to add the flour.  I would say, add the flour in 2-3 additions and continue to mix until virtually all the flour is incorporated.  You can always take a spatula to it after to get the last little bits.

Rest and refrigerate the dough for at least 2-3 hours.  I put mine outside in the snow for 2 hours and was grateful I did.  The cold will help dry out the dough and make it less sticky when rolling.  You can rest it overnight, if you wish, but you don’t need to.

When it comes time to roll and shape the dough, have PLENTY of flour on hand.  Choose a plain round cutter no more than 1 1/2″ in diameter.  The cookies will spread and rise in the oven, making them bigger than you anticipated.  Cut the dough in quarters and work with a quarter at a time.  Roll to 1/4″-1/3″ thick.  Shape and place on prepared cookie sheets quickly.

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Bake in your preheated 375F oven for about 8-10 minutes.  It all depends on the cookie sheets – dark aluminum pans will bake faster (only about 7-8 minutes), where light aluminum pans will take a couple minutes longer (closer to the 10 minute mark).  Keep a close eye on these – 30 seconds too long and they’ll be dark on the bottom.  Not that this is bad, but you really want a very light finish on them to keep them as soft as possible.

After the cookies have cooled, you can ice them if you want, with a simple mix of milk and icing sugar.  You don’t have to – you can enjoy them just as they are.  My Oma almost never iced them, but my cousins’ Oma always did.  After this, share and enjoy – there’s nothing more rewarding – food is meant to share, after all.

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If I could offer one piece of wisdom after this, it would be the following: do it with someone.  It gives you someone to share the adventure with, and that is priceless.  After hearing how it went with my cousins, it made me sad that I didn’t get to have the same experience.  I think we tend to underestimate the “together” part of cooking or baking, but thinking about it now makes me even more grateful that I am able to cook and bake with my mom and a few of my friends, and it makes me wish that I could do that with others as well, hoping they get the enjoyment and appreciation out of it as well.

Thanks for reading! Happy eats!
xoxo
~e.

 

CHOP CHOP SUEY

My bf and I have recently moved in together, and while it has its challenges, it also has its excitement and thrills.  One of these challenges comes in the form of meal planning and cooking for each other and, also, together.  We have done fairly well with the meal planning so far and cooking, when we have the time, also goes really well.  Between the bf’s gym time and my scrapbooking and later work nights, we try to have a balance between having leftovers and cooking, and also going out (or ordering in) every once in a while.  Although if I’m perfectly honest, meal planning is almost a skill in itself and one that I’m (we’re?) not very good at, but I’m trying to make us better at it!

When we do get to cook together, we like to try new things.  I am pretty adventurous in the kitchen and I like to think I have rubbed off on him a little…although he may disagree with me a little on that one…  We had enormous success with our Pad Thai recipe and we have recently been on an Asian kick.  Perhaps as a result?  Quite possibly!  After having Chinese takeout one evening, we decided that since chop suey was one of the best dishes we ordered that night, we needed to try making it ourselves.  I would like to note here that, while I take pride in my cookbook collection, I am lacking a good Asian cookbook for stir fries and such.  So, my search for a chop suey recipe turned to the internet/Pinterest.  Pinterest turned up a few recipes, but a Google search ultimately gave us the recipe that we tried – from here.

With a few modifications, we came up with something that we ended up devouring.  Literally.  It was so tasty – absolutely better than take out!  One of the beautiful things about stir fries is that you can modify the ingredients and add things that you like, in place of others that you don’t. For example, this particular recipe calls for mushrooms, bamboo shoots, and water chestnuts, among many other vegetables, but we are severely anti-mushroom in this house, and bamboo shoots and water chestnuts have never really been my faves.  It’s easy to add carrots, red pepper, broccoli, or cauliflower instead, if those are more to your taste.  For our testing of this particular recipe, we didn’t play with the sauce too much – if anything I added more chicken broth, because I like my dishes saucy!

So, there’s a few steps to any stir fry: marinate the meat, chop the veggies, decide on a starch (rice or noodles), cook said starch, make a sauce and then, of course, cook everything.  I know, I know, it seems a little daunting, but this makes it a great two-person job.  Also, some of these things don’t require a lot of time and once they are done, you can kind of leave them to do their thing.  The bf and I have a pretty decent system going – I do the chopping and prep, he pours the wine and does the frying.

I would start with chopping the veggies:

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We added:

1/2 green pepper, chopped into pieces
1/2 onion, sliced
2-3 medium carrots, peeled and sliced
2-3 stalks celery, sliced
a healthy handful of snow peas or snap peas (I prefer snap peas – more crunch!)
a healthy handful of fresh bean sprouts

Next, do the meat:

Marinade approximately 1 pound of meat (chicken, pork, or beef: the marinade works for all!) in:

1 tbsp oyster sauce
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp soy sauce

You can leave the meat to marinate for about 15 minutes – or longer.  Basically until you are ready to cook the meat.

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The first time we made it, we used leftover roast chicken, which reduces overall cooking time.  We have also used raw meat from the beginning, so both work really well.

Once the meat is marinating and the veggies are chopped, it’s time to start cooking the veggies, which is really most of the hassle.  At least for this recipe.  The recipe requests that you cook each vegetable one at a time, and then transfer them into a bowl as you cook them.  Eventually you’ll end up with bowlful of steamed/cooked veggies that looks like this:

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Once you’ve got a start on those veggies, you can start noodles (something thin – I buy something similar to chow mein noodles), if you decide on noodles.  If you want rice, now would be a good time to start that as well.  While the bf is frying and steaming the veggies and in between scraping out the wok, I’ll mix together the sauce.  All you need is:

1/4 cup chicken broth
1 tsp oyster sauce
1 tsp corn starch

If you prefer a saucier stir fry (like moi), then do maybe 1/3 cup of chicken broth.

Once the veggies are done, cook the meat.  This should take about 10 minutes.

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While the meat is cooking, the noodles will cook as well, so drain those when they are finished and then set aside. If you’ve chosen something like chow mein or thinner noodles, it shouldn’t take more than 5 minutes.

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Once the meat is done, it’s time throw everything back into the wok and finish everything up.  This means add the veggies back to the wok, stir and add the sauce that you made.  Then add the noodles and stir everything together.

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The recipe is not based on any spicy ingredients, so when you serve, feel free to garnish with sriracha (or another hot sauce) and perhaps some green onions – these add a nice touch as well.

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It’s a wonderful recipe that is also versatile – feel free to change up the veggies and even the meat.  Any of your standard proteins will stand up nicely to the flavours and ingredients.  The best part of a stir fry is that you can find what works best for you, if you aren’t necessarily as adventurous.

Thanks for reading! Happy eats!
xoxo
~e.

 

FRIDAY THAI-DAY

A new year. A new beginning. Maybe? Every year brings with it a renewed sense of optimism for the year to come and the opportunities it represents. Each year, I try to get out ahead and make something out of it. I try not to use the word “resolution” for a couple of reasons, but mostly because I feel that there is so much hype surrounding it that you are almost setting yourself up to fail. I like to think of the new year as a chance to do something different, to be different, or to do more of something that I didn’t do the previous year. In this case, I made a deal with myself that I would do more blogging this year, to make up for all the posts that never got written last year. And this brings me to my first post…

PAD THAI!

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First a little background on the name: my bf goes to this tiny little Thai place with some buddies from work pretty much every week. On Friday. Thus, I dubbed it Friday Thai-day, partly because I can’t understand why someone had never thought of it before me, but mostly because it sounds fun and it’s fun to say. Having said this and despite going there every week to eat lunch, he had never once tried Pad Thai. Something I fail to understand to this day, so please go ahead and shake your head for me, because my neck hurts from doing it so often.

Anyway, after repeatedly bugging him that he had to try it and finding various Pad Thai recipes on Pinterest and in one of America’s Test Kitchen’s (ATK) cookbooks, we attempted it – a couple of ways. The first time, we found the sauce too sweet, due to the ketchup based sauce and large amounts of additional sugar. Also, the noodles got clumpy when we added everything together in the pan, as we cooked them the traditional way. The second time, we altered the sauce slightly to make it more spicy and to limit the sugar, but used America’s Test Kitchen method of cooking the noodles, which was to use hot tap water, pour it over the noodles, and then let it sit for about half an hour. Ultimately, this resulted in a rather too al dente noodle for my taste, and for me that meant the whole dish turned out a little disappointing.

The most recent, and most successful I might add, time that we made it, we altered the sauce yet again, based on two different online recipes, as well as the info we read in America’s Test Kitchen. And, as we were inspired by the noodle method in ATK, we boiled the water like one usually would, took the pot off the heat, and added the noodles and let them sit for 25 minutes. I would recommend that you stir. AND STIR OFTEN. Otherwise the noodles stick together and no one wants that. NO ONE.

So, here is our best version of Pad Thai to date:

We used traditional rice noodles. You will need half a package for this recipe. It served the two of us, and gave us 2 leftover meals, for lunch the next day.

First, prepare the chicken. For this, you will need:

1 pound boneless skinless chicken thighs
1 egg
2 tbsp corn starch
salt, pepper to taste

Cut the chicken into approximately 1 inch pieces and mix together with the egg, cornstarch, salt, and pepper.
Meanwhile heat a large pan, or a wok, on medium heat and add 1 tbsp canola/vegetable oil.

You may also want/need, depending on where your preferences lie:

1 egg
2-3 green onions
1/4 cup peanuts, chopped
some bean sprouts

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Next, prepare the sauce.

1/2 tsp chili flakes
3 cloves garlic, minced
~1 inch-sized ginger
1/3 cup soy sauce
2-3 tbsp sriracha hot sauce
2 tbsp brown sugar
2 tbsp fish sauce or oyster sauce
1 tsp peanut butter

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By this time, the pan/wok should be hot and you should be good to start stir frying the chicken.

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The chicken should take between 5 and 10 minutes to cook. Once the chicken is fully cooked, take it from the wok and put it in a bowl and set aside.

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Once the chicken is cooked, you can scramble an egg to incorporate into the final dish. You don’t have to do this, but it tastes good and is reminiscent of Asian cooking. If you don’t want to, ignore this step, and you can simply add the noodles to the pan, with the chicken, and finish the Pad Thai.

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I realize at this point, the dish is looking a little albino, but it shouldn’t last too long. Once you’ve added the noodles and given everything a good stir, pour the sauce over the chicken and noodles and stir until coated.

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You can chop some green onions and peanuts to put on top. The green onions add some freshness and the peanuts add some crunch and bit of saltiness. You can also top with bean sprouts, which is more of a traditional addition. You can however eat it without the toppings straight from the pan. Tempting, I know!

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A couple of minor adjustments can be made if you like – you can make the whole dish a little spicier (or less spicy) by adding more or less sriracha. My bf likes to have spice leaking out of his eyes when we do Asian food, so the 3 tbsp of sriracha may be a bit much for some. The sauce could also be made with chicken broth, if you don’t like soy sauce.

Otherwise, I hope you enjoy our version of Pad Thai!
Thanks for reading! Happy eats!
xoxo
~e.

CHRISTMAS CAME AND THE GOOSE GOT FAT…

The Christmas season has come and gone yet again! It’s amazing how much prep we do for those two or three days and how fast they are over…almost unbelievable. Personally, this year, I struggled with finding the Christmas spirit and keeping it – it seemed to be just beyond my grasp more often than not. In my family, we changed our traditions a little this year – something I found myself to be strongly resistant to. Christmas Eve is spent with my dad’s immediate family, and Christmas Day with my mom’s immediate family. Christmas Eve remained the same, but Christmas Day’s dinner changed from the typical chicken and meatballs, to a GOOSE, with meatballs and ham. The goose was something I was definitely not enthusiastic about, considering my previous experience which involved a very fatty, yet remarkably tough at the same time, goose. Who knew both these characteristics could exist simultaneously.

Nevertheless, the hunt for a decent, not too complicated recipe commenced and I was comforted by the knowledge that there would be ham! We settled on a roasted goose recipe from Martha Stewart and on Christmas Day, we began the prep by rinsing and pricking the skin, but not pricking the meat underneath, which proved to be difficult, as the skin is rather thick and knowing what you have pricked or haven’t pricked is hard. Hence the use of our kitchen poultry scissors.

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The recipe is pretty standard – one thing about cooking poultry is that the basic principle of roasting is the same. Some fresh vegetables and herbs and some salt and pepper shoved inside the bird will do the trick.

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The goose was ready for roasting after a healthy sprinkling of salt and pepper all over!

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We started roasting the goose at about 440F for approximately 20 minutes, and then reduced the temperature to 325F and checked it every half hour or so. The good (?) thing about geese is that they don’t need any extra fat rubbed on them; the pricking of the skin at the beginning allows the goose to self-baste as it cooks, which produces a lovely crisp, golden skin. However, the ridiculous amount of fat that pads a goose’s shoulders can be a little concerning for those who would like a bit more of a health conscious meal. Having said that, however, Christmas may be the worst time to be thinking of having a health conscious meal. After the first 20 minutes, the goose looked like this:

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And had produced this much fat (or, liquid gold, as my aunt fondly refers to it): (I should note that she used this goose fat to brush her hasselback potatoes, which produced a lovely crispy, crunchy skin on them)

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We roasted the goose for approximately 3 to 3 1/2 hours, which we determined during dinner, that it was too long. As it was all of our first times actually COOKING the goose, the point of doneness was very unclear. We aimed for an internal temperature of 180F, but perhaps, this should have been reduced slightly, because juices were running clear with an internal temp of about 170F-175F. It looked fabulous, but still seemed to be tough.

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(Thanks to my aunt for the final picture in the post! Follow her on Instagram for more food pictures @finns_church).

So, with the experience/experiment of cooking a goose now behind us, the question still remains: would we ever cook a goose again? My answer is still no (previous experience notwithstanding, goose is NOT my favourite poultry). However, my mom begs to differ – she maintains that another goose experience is worth it, if only to better learn how to do it, and if she were to do it again, perhaps it would NOT be at Christmas time. The overall verdict of the meal that day, seemed to be rather inconclusive. No one seemed to vouch for the goose, one way or the other. Perhaps the jury is still out!! ;)

Thanks for reading! Happy eats!
xoxo
~e.

PS: If anyone is looking for a place to buy a good looking goose for a special meal, try http://www.interlakemeadowsfarm.com!

INTERNET (and other) FOOD SHENANIGANS (Part I)

I realize that this, being Part I, is supposed to come before Part II, but I decided to do things a little differently.  The reason being that while I was writing Part II, it made sense to introduce the idea of finding recipes in alternate places (ie; newspaper, magazines, online/Pinterest…) and THEN delve into one particular example, that just so happened to work really well for us, and happened to be from the newspaper.

I give you: SLOW COOKER LASAGNE.  Brilliant.  And tasty.  My one dislike about it (if you can even call it that) was that it lacked the crispy, crunchy cheesy goodness that accompanies traditional lasagne that’s been baked in the oven.

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I digress…the recipe is actually quite brilliant, as I stated before.  Like many slow cooker recipes, it’s designed to save time and I think it does – needing only 4 hours for the actual cooking process, where other recipes tend to need 6-7, depending on the heat setting.  It also calls for a pre-made sauce – which if you ask me, is a personal preference.  If you have the time (and perhaps fresh garden tomatoes), I would definitely make a fast, tasty homemade sauce, as opposed to using pre-made.  Also, something different to traditional lasagne, this recipe calls for a pound of ground Italian sausage, as opposed to ground beef.  I quite liked the change, as the sausage gives it a bit of spice and flavour that you don’t get from ground beef alone.  If (or should I say, when, as the bf was quite enamored with this test) I/we make it again, I would possibly consider browning the meat before putting it in the slow cooker.  There was a lot of liquid in the slow cooker once all was said and done, and I’m curious to see if tweaking something like that would make a difference.

And now, to the good stuff: the droolworthy pictures and the actual recipe.

Courtesy of Winnipeg Free Press website, however, originally, we must say thanks to America’s Test Kitchen for their version of the Slow Cooker Revolution.  To start, you’ll need:

~8 lasagne noodles – regular, not the no-boil ones (more if you like it to be extra noodle-y, like me!)
1-15 oz container of ricotta cheese
1 1/4 cups grated parmesan cheese
1/2 cup minced fresh basil
salt and pepper
1 egg
1-24 oz bottle pre-made tomato sauce (see above re: notes about making fresh tomato sauce)
1 lb ground Italian sausage meat
4 cups grated mozzarella cheese

First comes the noodle cooking.  I find just boiling water for these suckers takes the longest.  You want them to be about 97% cooked.  They’ll be nice and juicy and soft after being in the slow cooker.

While the water is boiling/noodles are cooking, mix the ricotta, egg, 1 cup of parmesan cheese, salt, pepper and basil together.  I don’t believe we used fresh basil, as we were in the deep in the recesses of winter when we made it and anyone who lives in Winnipeg knows, fresh basil is a hot commodity approximately 2 months of the year.  We did use a blend of dried oregano, basil, and perhaps some Italian seasoning and it was just as tasty.

Next comes the layering fun!  First, sauce the bottom of the slow cooker with about a half cup:

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Then some noodles:

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(the bf’s slow cooker is round, and ancient, so we had noodle fitting issues, but in a newer and oblong shaped cooker, you won’t have this problem)

Then clump some of the ricotta mixture in:

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And some meat right on top of that:

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Then mozzarella:

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And your first set is done. You want to do that twice more: sauce-noodle-ricotta-meat-cheese, sauce-noodle-ricotta-meat-cheese.  You should have noodles, sauce and cheese left over.  Add the remaining 1/4 cup of parmesan to your remaining mozzarella.  Finish the lasagne by pouring in the rest of the sauce, covering it with noodles and the rest of the cheese.

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Turn that puppy on to low for 4 hours and you will have a delicious, hot mess when you are ready to eat!

For me, lasagne is definitely one of those things that I could probably eat for the rest of my life without getting tired of it (provided there is unlimited garlic bread, salad and wine) and was very satisfied with the idea of putting it in the slow cooker and enjoying the smell of it as it cooked.  I’m not saying you should join me in my lasagne-eating obsession (you are more than welcome to however…), but I hope this take on it might inspire you to try a classic dish in a new-ish and more accessible way!

Thanks for reading!  Happy eats!
xoxo
~e.

 

INTERNET (and other) FOOD SHENANIGANS (Part II)

One of the best things about having a bf who loves food as much as I do is that he has no problems with cooking more and trying new recipes.  It doesn’t usually take much to convince him that it’ll be a good idea, haha, but don’t tell him that.  He has recently been sucked into the Pinterest world which, despite it’s addictive and addicting qualities, has a vast resource of recipes, among other things.

Trying new recipes has always been exciting for me, so I’m happy to have someone to do it with.  We’ve been quite adventurous these last couple months, trying new recipes from, mostly from Pinterest, but also one from our local newspaper, as well as a Jamie Oliver experience.  I say adventurous, because well, with internet recipes, you can never be too certain whether or not you are going to have a winner on your hands.

If you’re familiar with Pinterest, you know that you have a home page feed that shows what has been pinned by like-minded souls since your last Pin binge.  My feed is predominantly food.  And shoes.  But mostly food, and I’ve gotten into the habit of sending the bf anything that looks remotely droolworthy, because I like to make him want to eat his phone.  Especially when he’s busy at work….heee heee….yes, I am cruel and undeserving of his love.  ANYWAY.  Our first adventure was Easy Sesame Chicken, from a rather useful blog about eating on a budget (click here for more).  This one was kind of a two part adventure for me because I finally nailed cooking rice in a pot.  I know it sounds a little silly, but it IS harder than it sounds and I always tended to have a rather large amount of rice stuck to the bottom of the pot, which is annoying.  I could probably go on about cooking rice in a pot for a whole blog post, so I will simply say this: if you are like me and have issues cooking rice in a pot, simply add a little bit of oil or butter (perhaps 1 tbsp) before putting the rice in and using the approximate ratio 1-1/2 cup water to 1 cup rice, you should be golden.

Having had such a successful first experiment, we went a little further afield and tried something that I had seen on Instagram.  Posted by Jamie Oliver on his Instagram feed, I had seen it and was overcome by the look of its tastiness and decided that it was something I wanted to try.  Don’t get the wrong impression given by the name…ahem…*Hungover Noodles*…even though I can imagine how fantastic they would be whilst hungover…especially with the fried egg on top.  With a little tweaking and a healthy squirt of Sriracha sauce, we had another fabulous winner on our hands!

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We soon broadened our horizons and looked at more recipes on Pinterest: Greek Souvlaki, more stir fries, pasta, spicy blackened chicken…

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Spicy Blackened Chicken with Garlicky Alfredo Noodles

 

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Spicy Sriracha Shrimp Stir Fry 

Now, I know that this post doesn’t have a specific recipe that means something special to me, but I recently read a blog post about bringing our food blog posts back to the passion and creativity that started them in the first place.  For me this is my attempt at doing so.  I love to cook and bake and I love being in the kitchen.  Even more so, I love doing it with people that I love and people that enjoy it as much as I do.  Cooking with my bf is fun and stress-less and it (he) lets me be silly.  We all have our reasons for doing what we love, and there’s never just one reason why we do it.  For me, it’s not only the passion of actually cooking and baking, but it is being able to share it.  If sharing some of that passion in this blog makes others think about why they blog, then it is even more rewarding.  I hope this can inspire you to share why you started your blog.  Let’s bring it back to basics and be in the kitchen simply because we love it!

Thanks for reading!  Happy eats!
xoxo
~e.