Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Don't tell my brother.

If I lived on an apple orchard - I would do things like - make apple pies all the time. I would walk around carrying a basket and picking apples. I would probably wear an apron and even put the apples in my apron pockets. Some days I would make applesauce. Other days I would peel apples while watching 'Ellen'. And on weekends I would take my apples to the farmer's markets and sell them.

I have decided that I don't want to live on an apple orchard. It seems like a lot of work. I would, however, like to have a couple of apple trees. I know that I would wear my apron to pick them and put the apples in my pockets. I know that, because I do that with my tomatoes. What tomatoes? They sure didn't grow like they were supposed to.

I baked with apples the other night. They were delicious. Please don't tell my brother that they weren't the apples from his tree. Please don't put this on Facebook or Twitter - he will find out. My brother, has apple trees. He has peach trees, cherry trees, nectarine trees, plums, pears. It's a fruit paradise. The fruit is incredible. But please don't tell him that I didn't use them for the dessert I made.

Apple Tart

1 pack of puff pastry - you can buy a pack of two from Tenderflake
1 apples - slice very thin
1/3 cup of brown sugar
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 415.

Roll out the puff pastry on a flowered board. Keep it in the shape of a rectangle - to measure about 4x7 or 4x8.

Add the sugar, nutmeg and cinnamon to the apples and give them a gentle toss to ensure that they are all coated. Let them sit for a moment.

Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray, or cover the baking sheet with parchment paper. Layer the apples in a row to cover the puff pastry. Leaving about an inch on other side.

Bake in the oven for about 18 minutes. I served our slices with whipped cream that I lightly sweetened with maple syrup.

That's it for me this fine evening. Sending you love.



Sunday, September 26, 2010

My sweet Sunday.

Sunday. Oh Sunday - you are so bittersweet. I love you, you have always been my most favourite day. You are a day to rest, relax, catch up, prepare for a new week, spend time with family and friends, cook a good ol' fashioned Sunday meal. I just love and always look forward to my Sunday's. And then, just as I am sitting back, breathing in the Sunday air, I remember that the day after Sunday is Monday. Monday! The start of a new week. No more sleeping in. And 5 more days until the weekend. What a dilemma. O how will thou make it through?

I am going to get to the nitty gritty. We had a friend over for dinner tonight who took care of Chris' studio while we were in Ontario. He is a sweet guy - and he is always entertaining. We started with a very simple green salad with a balsamic/red wine vinaigrette, and a caramelized onion and goat cheese pizza. Chicken pot pie for the main, and an Apple Tart for dessert. Yumma.

I tried to do something fancy with pecans to toss into the salad - and had a bit of a fiasco. Do not over heat pecans with cayenne pepper on the stove. Or - you will feel as though you have ingested a fire. It's unattractive and unpleasant - and I apologize to Nic and Tina (who stopped by to drop something off) .

Caramelized Onion and Goat Cheese Pizzas

6 small/medium sized onions - cut into thin strips
Olive oil
Kosher salt and pepper
3 stretched naan bread
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/2 cup goat cheese

To prepare the onions, I like to peep the skin, and then cut the pepper in half. Placing the cut side down on the cutting board, slice very thin strips. When the onion cooks they will break into the thin strips.

Heat 2 tbsp of olive oil. Add the onions and and a couple pinches of kosher salt. Saute over medium heat for about 45 minutes - stirring continuously. Once the onions are golden brown - and have caramelized, they're ready for the pizza.

Add 1 tsp of olive oil to each piece of naan bread. I love using the stretch naan bread - I love cutting them up into 4 slices - love the way it looks. Brush the olive oil to coat the bread. Sprinkle 1/3 of the parmesan cheese. Then add 1/3 of the caramelized onions and spread them to cover the bread. Then crumble 1/3 of the goat cheese over top of the goat cheese.

Try to resist eating before they go in the oven.

Place in a 375 oven, directly on the rack, and bake for 15 minutes.

Cut into 4 strips. And enjoy!!

Caramelized onions are so delicious - mixed with goat cheese - hello! They are also delicious in little tarts - and make fantastic appetizers.

Stay tuned for the Apple Tart recipe.

Well - I hope that your Sunday has been good to you. And that the coming week goes by quick.



Saturday, September 25, 2010


I am not good with surprises. I can keep them. That's not what I am talking about. I am talking about how, I cannot stand it if I know that something may be happening, some sort of surprise. I CAN'T STAND IT. It makes me frickin' freak out. If I know that something may be happening, I can't handle not knowing what it is.

Some examples of this are:

10 years old - Christmas - found out every present that I was getting from Santa. I had Shannon keep look out - while I very carefully unwrapped the presents, opened to see what it was, and then carefully re-wrapped them again.

My engagement - Chris kept hinting that he had been looking at rings, had picked one out - and that I had to be patient. I couldn't take it.

That's really all I can remember right now... not too many examples...

Last night was the surprise of all surprises. A surprise that I knew nothing about. Nothing! I had no clue. It completely threw me off guard.

My friend Tina hosted a wedding shower for me. My GFs were all there. It was amazing. The plan was that Tina and her husband, John, were hosting an 'end of summer' barbeque for us, with our friends Chrissy & Jim, and Karen & Randy. I remember thinking that it seemed a little late in the year to have a barbeque since the weather has been so crappy. Our friend David was coming with us and I told him that I didn't realize that he was invited - and he was so fast on his feet and said that he was coming b/c Tina had invited him when they were out on a dog walk when he was taking care of the pups.

We arrived at Tina's house, I had bags with me - a bag of beverages, a bag of Hallween candy that I had wrapped up (I hate coming empty handed to someone's house), and my purse. The guys are up the stairs before me, b/c they were empty handed (thanks guys). The door opens, and Chris goes in, and I see Pilar sitting on the love seat. It took me a moment, and I thought 'why is Pilar here'. And then I just started laughing. I couldn't believe it! then I started shaking, and then I started to cry. And then I couldn't stop laughing.

I am still in shock that I had no clue. Not one.

It was an incredible night. My girlfriends, and my mom, put on an incredible feast. The plan for them was to make something that I had inspired them to make. I couldn't believe how much thought that they put into this. The food was so delicious. They all spoiled me with the most incredible gifts.

It was an amazing night. I just was so incredibly honoured that anyone would do this kind of surprise for me. I felt so blessed. I had a moment during the night where I had to just say 'this is my wedding shower'. It's all so exciting. I just feel so loved - and so sincerely happy to have such an incredible group of ladies to share this wonderful experience with.



This week has been a full on week of wedding. We have mailed our invites, we have rented our tuxes, I have started the fitting process with my dress, we have picked out our wedding bands, we have done our registries, I have met with the decorator for the wedding, we have booked our JOP, we have our photos from our engagement shoot, and I had a wedding shower!!!

Sorry for the wedding talk - if you are opposed to this - please skip to the next section. Don't throw things, or punch your computer in disgust - it will only cause you harm. I think that I am going to do wedding updates though - I wasn't going to - but I am going to be purely selfish - and write down things. The reason - so that in about 5 years, when I am sitting on the couch on a Saturday night and I am bored b/c Chris has gone to bed b/c he has to go to bed even earlier than he normally does, I can look back and remember all the excitement. And... if you are interested, you can too.

Alright, enough about wedding talk. Stop talking about it. Ok fine, if you want to - call me. I have a lot more chitter chatter where that came from.

I watched about 5 minutes of Bobby Flay's 'Throw down' today. They were making some dish - I don't know what it was called or what the ingredients were - but I know there were tomatoes and I heard Bobby say that he added coconut milk to the rice. I had plans to try and make something with this in mind. I had a plan in place - I started cooking - and realized that I was missing lots of the ingredients (rice, canned tomatoes). Time for Plan B. Plan B turned out to be a nice surprise.

Curry Barley Stew

3/4 cup barley
2 onions - chopped
2 chicken breasts - cut in half
1/2 cup white wine
3 cups fresh tomatoes - chopped
5 links of italian sausages - broiled and then chopped into thin slices
1 zucchini - chopped into small pieces
2 peppers - chopped
2 cups button mushrooms - cleaned and the stems cut off - kept whole
1 can of coconut milk
2 tbsp of curry powder
1/2 tsp pepper flakes
1 tbsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp cumin

In a large pot, drizzle olive oil and saute your onion over medium heat. Sprinkle with kosher salt. Saute for about 5 minutes.

In the meantime, start boiling the barley. Add the 3/4 cup of barley to a pot with 4 cups of water and season with kosher salt and pepper. Boil over medium to high heat. Keep an eye on the barley, you may need to add more water. Boil the barley for 30 minutes.

Add a little more olive oil before adding the chicken. Add the chicken skin side down, give it another sprinkle of kosher salt and pepper. Be sure to give the chicken a little nudge to prevent it from sticking to the bottom of the pan. Cook for about 10 minutes. Take the chicken out of pan and place it on to a plate. The bottom of the pot should be nice and dark - don't worry, the wine will make everything better. Hey - I've heard that before!

Add the wine to the pot and deglaze the pan. Get all of those bits off of the bottom and mix it all up. Then add the fresh tomatoes. I used tomatoes from my garden - they were ripe - and they were deelish. Let that simmer over medium heat for a couple of minutes before adding the coconut milk. Once you have added the coconut milk, add the spices. Then add the rest of the vegetables and the sausages. Add the chicken back to the pot. Then add the barley and let it continue cooking in the pot and absorbing all of the incredible flavours. Let it simmer away until the barley is cooked until the consistency that you like.

And that's it. You're ready to serve it up. It's a hearty and healthy dinner. Chris rated it a 5+.

Well friends - I am still on a high from last night - and ready to sit on my Royal Canadian for a bit before tucking in for the night.



Wednesday, September 22, 2010


Invitations - signed, sealed and ready to be mailed!

3 years ago today, we had to say farewell to our beautiful Maggie Mae. Oh how I miss her. Chris and I had a rare occasion, and we actually got to go for a walk together tonight. We were going through the forest path, and we were reminiscing of when we met our wee Magnum in the exact same place as we walked today. Maggie loved the park, and it's fate that we met Magnum a day before the one year anniversary of her passing.

Maggie loved lounging in the yard

Magnum loves lounging on the loungers

Chris and I often chat about how much Magnum would have loved Maggie. Maggie would have thought that he was pretty neat too. She probably would have growled every time he touched her, and he would be obsessed with her and want to lay on her, and then after awhile she would just give in and they would become best friends. Jozie would probably stand off to the side and be grumpy, secretly wanting in on the action.

So I am simmering as I type, a pot of soup. I had 1 containers of turkey stock and 1 container of turkey soup in the freezer. I knew that they would come in handy at some point. And what a week for a frozen turkey stock. Dear turkey stock, thank you. I love you.

I had a meeting with our Wedding decorator, Sandy from Details tonight. It's getting so exciting, and I knew that with the meeting tonight - I would either want to eat peanut butter from the jar, or I could try and make something healthy and delicious. H&D. Heyoh!

Anyways, I took the stock out, let it partially defrost and then added it to a big soup pot. Then, I had some frozen chicken breasts* (bone in), defrosted them, and then let them boil to cook in the stock.

I added a medium sized zucchini, a couple of peppers, 4 celery stalks and 3/4 of orzo. I removed the chicken from the soup after letting it simmer for about 2 hours, and took the chicken off the bottom, gave it a rough chop, and added it back to the soup. Be mindful when you are simmering the orzo, as it may stick to the bottom of the pot.

I added some kosher salt, a pinch of celery salt and 1 tsp of red pepper flakes.

And that was it. I have made this soup many times before - it's easy - it's delicious - and it's a weeknight winner.

*Chicken breasts bone-in - I love buying these. You can find them and get a great deal on them. They are great to use for stock and perfect on the bbq.

Well friends, that is it for me for tonight. I am going to dish up a big bowl of soup, hang around in my comfy clothes and watch some tele.

I hope that if you're reading this, that you have had a great day - you have enjoyed the sun - and our official last day of summer. Hoorah for fall!!! I heart fall. If I could marry a season it would be fall. Is that weird?



Tuesday, September 21, 2010


Hello friends.

I know that this is supposed to be a cooking blog and all, but since this has been a week that I am calling 'Get y'er damn wedding invitations out', cooking has been put on the back burner - but not literally, b/c I haven't really turned on the stove.

Our chili from the other night lasted us for 3 days. This is a bonus I must say. I enjoy not having to come home and think about what to make for dinner. I can simply open the fridge, add some to a pot, heat and then eat.

Last night, since Jules was coming over to help with the invitations, I paid her labour and efforts, in Chinese Food. Not homemade. It was quite deelish. There is a little spot around the corner from me - Szechwan City. They have neat decor. I prefer to eat at home, instead of staring at the paper lanterns and colourful Christmas lights that should really only be up at Christmas.

I do promise to cook again soon. I promise. How about in the meantime, who knows when I will cook again, tell me what you are cooking. I would love to hear from you. I need some inspiration. Chris needs to know that I will cook again - so would appreciate the ideas too.

Alrighty then... time to hit the hay. Whattup Hay!!



Saturday, September 18, 2010

When I was...

Chili - a great one pot dinner

When I was 3 - I broke my femur. I was trying to climb a trellis and on about the 4th step, about 3 feet off the ground, the step broke and I fell to the ground and broke my femur. I had to spend 2 months in the hospital in traction. 2 months! Can you imagine my poor parents. 2 other kids at home, and one 3 year old in the hospital on her lonesome. When I was finally released from the hospital, my grandparents gave me a nice fruit basket that had a bunch of fruit, and chocolates and I didn't share any of it with my sister and brother.

When I was 8 - all of my skating dresses had zippers in the back. One time I had to use the loo so badly (shocking) and I ran off the ice and made it to the washroom on time; however, I didn't have enough time undo my dress - actually I could not reach the zipper to undo the dress. So... awkward... I wet my skating dress and the floor around me. During the time that I was standing in shock, b/c I didn't really know what to do, I could hear my skating coach Barb Cooper yelling at me to get back on the ice. After about 5 minutes of me standing in one place not moving, one of the mothers came into check on me. Embarrassing. In the end, they gave me someone else's jeans so that I could still practice. Everyone was wondering why I had jeans on and Barb felt bad for yelling at me. Rightfully so.

When I was 12 - I went to my first 'girl/boy' party - Mena's 12th birthday. We played Spin-the-bottle and I kissed a boy for the first time. He knew how to 'kiss'. He knew that the lips were not supposed to be so tight together, so stiff. I did not. He knew that you were supposed to use other parts of your mouth. I did not. He knew that you were supposed to keep your eyes closed. I did not.

When I was 16 - I passed my driver's test on the first try. After asking the driving tester (is that the name) if he wanted me to put my seat back so that his knees were touching the dash and him reminding me that I wouldn't then be able to touch the pedals, being 4 feet away from the curb on my first parallel park try - on the curb on my second - and nowhere even close to a parallel park on my third and him saying that it was 'good enough', after speeding through a school zone - I passed. After passing with 37 demerits, my dad did NOT let me drive home.

Ok, so those are just a few 'When I was...' stories. I am sure that I will have more to share.

Now speaking of sharing, I would like to share what we had for dinner tonight. We had a big 'ol pot of chili. Healthy, delicious chili. I have been making chili for years. Chili was another one of those meals that we had a lot of when we were kids. I love my mom's chili. My recipe is very different from my mom's. I am not sure really why - but it doesn't have the same seasoning or textures. I thank my brother for my recipe. He makes a wicked bowl of chili.


2 medium sized onions - chopped
2 packs of ground meat - I usually use ground pork or turkey
1 small can of tomato paste
2 large cans of tomatoes
2 cans of kidney beans - rinsed
1 can of black beans - rinsed
2 cans of Heinz beans - in tomato sauce
2 yellow peppers - chopped
2 green peppers - chopped
1 orange peppers - chopped
2 cups of mushrooms - sliced
3 stalks of celery - thinly sliced
1 cup of frozen corn
4 cloves of garlic - minced
1/4 cup chili powder
1 tsp chili pepper flakes
Kosher salt and pepper
1/2 cup Cheddar cheese - shredded

In a saute pan - saute the onion in a dash of olive oil and sprinkle with kosher salt. Saute for about 8 minutes. Add the ground meat and continue to saute until the meat is cooked. When the meat is cooked, drain off any excess fat and add the tomato paste.

Meantime, add the rest of the ingredients to a large pot, stir everything together, and heat over low to medium heat. When the meat is ready, add the meat to the chili and continue to simmer.

When it is ready to serve, scoop it into a good sized bowl and top with cheddar cheese. And enjoy!

*When I made it tonight - I had a bunch of cherry tomatoes, so I added them in whole and they were a delicious bonus.

We have had a busy day of wedding stuff. And tomorrow is another full day as well. Wedding Fair, tuxedo shopping, and hopefully time to put the feet up and bawl about how much I have to do. I hope that you're all enjoying your weekends.



Friday, September 17, 2010

Dear Rashmi.

Dear Rashmi,

Your name has been popping up in my life the last couple of days and it has been lovely. Pure loveliness.

I have known you since we were 13. That is a really long time (@10 yearsish... well... kind of). I remember things that we did as if they just happened yesterday. I remember 'studying' at your house and working on school projects. I remember your mom making the most amazing Indian food. I remember that everytime I said the word 'Dahl' (is that how you spell it?) you and your mom would crack up laughing. I remember how you taught me my numbers 1 to 14 in Indian - and to this day I still know them - Ek, do, tien, chay, bun, chut, sut, ut, no, dus, gara, buta, terra, choda, noda (I just don't know how to spell them). I remember you driving us in your parents 'woody' to Terrace during school hours to go to McDonalds', see the boy that you adored and be rebels. I remember the time that we tried to run over your calculator while driving your parents 'woody'. I remember when we named their wood paneled station wagon, 'woody'. I remember being at your wedding - I remember that day so vividly. I overslept, Sam was waiting for me while we should have been at the ferry already. I remember how stunning you looked and I remember how much love you had for your husband and how you would have risked everything to be with him.

And I remember... when I saw all of your comments this week how much I missed you. I love that you remember where I came from and are happy to see where I have been.

You have always been an incredible friend and hearing your voice has made me remember that I need to do a better job of keeping in touch with you.

I would like to invite you for dinner, and if you came, I would make you a feast.

On the menu:

Cocktails: Lemon Spritz - I like vodka, you like vodka, who doesn't like vodka?
Appetizer: Lettuce Wraps - they're fun to eat, you'll like them
Main: Lasagna - so that the dish can be in the oven and we can catch up while it cooks
Dessert: Cheesecake with blueberry bruschetta - b/c I have to confess my addiction to blueberries

During dinner we will talk about a lot of stuff. We will talk about your family, your career, you being a mom, what it is like to cheer for the Canucks while living in Calgary, if you like the snow, and I will ask you if you can introduce me and my cuz to any cute cowboys. I will tell you about my fiance, my love for Mark Wahlberg, my pups, my addictions, my wedding, how sometimes I dream of chocolate all the time, how I miss my dad, how I miss my MIL, how I can't stop talking and how you should be telling me to shutup so that you can talk, how my house is really messy and I think that you should be nervous that I am a hoarder (I'm not really but my guest room looks like a bomb may have went off in it), how I ate an entire bag of cheezies in two days, how my cat Ogre just brought something home for me the other day and I cried. See!!! There is so much to tell you.

Ok, my friend. I miss you. I hope that you are well. I hope that you know who I am, and this letter isn't freaking you out and that you may have a stalker on your hands. If you don't like the menu, please tell me what you would prefer instead.

Rashmi - it's me! This is the colour my cheeks go when I have too many lemon spritz'.

I will write again soon.



Wednesday, September 15, 2010


I just had a moment. One of those moment's that catch you off guard. Tomorrow is Chris' birthday - and that's not why I had the moment. I had it because I realized that it will be his first birthday without his mom. It just kind of caught me off guard.

I remember after my dad passed away, I thought about that kind of stuff all the time. I remember when his birthday would come, or Christmas, I would try and think of what I would have given him as a gift. And there were times that I would stop and think - he's not going to be here for this. 13 years later, I still do this.

I know that days will be tough, and days will be even tougher, but I know that having love and support of family and friends will make things easier.

We're having dark, wet fall weather already. It seems to early for it really. I secretly want to stay home one day, curled up on the couch watching tv, drinking hot chocolate with the blinds open watching the rain. Secretly.

About a month ago, we had a very rainy day. It was the worst rain day that we had had in a very long time. I was needing to cook some comfort food that day - so made a nice big pot of homemade soup. Good 'ol homemade soup. I wanted to make a pot tonight, but I had to shop for Chris' birthday. Secretly, I think that he would have loved a bowl of my homemade soup than a birthday prezzie. Unless, the present was 50 inch flat screen, or a new jeep, or $10000, or season's tickets to the Canucks.

Sims Style Summer Soup

1 onion - chopped
3 cloves of garlic - minced
1 large zucchini - sliced into small slices
1 red pepper - chopped into small pieces
8-10 slices of bacon
3 1/2 cups of stock (I used chicken, but vegetable can keep it vegetarian)
1 can of white beans - drained
1/2 cup orzo
Fresh rosemary
Kosher salt and pepper

In a large pot, saute the onion in olive oil and a sprinkle of kosher salt. Saute for about 8 minutes. In a separate pan, saute the bacon until it is cooked - not too overly cooked.

When the onions are done, add the garlic another sprinkle of kosher salt and black pepper and continue to saute for another minute. Add the stock and the white beans and let simmer for a couple of minutes. With a hand blender, puree the white beans. This will allow a creamy texture, without the cream. Add the zucchini and peppers and orzo. Cut up the bacon into small pieces and add that to the soup as well. Simmer over low heat, stirring often to ensure that the orzo does not stick to the bottom of the pot. Finely chop the rosemary and add to the soup and allow to simmer for the last couple of minutes.

When it is seasoned to the way you like it, bring out the bowls and serve away.

This is a hearty soup that can be served on a summer day or on a cold fall evening.

I served this soup along side a grilled sandwich with roasted vegetables, prosciutto salami and bocconcini.

Grilled Sandwich with roasted vegetables, prosciutto and bocconcini

2 peppers - red and yellow - cut in half
4 slices of prosciutto salami
1 tomato - thinly sliced
Bocconcini cheese - 2 small balls for each sandwich
Sourdough bread

I used my panini grill to grill my peppers. I cut them in half and grilled for about 10 minutes.
On a slice of sourdough bread, add a couple of spinach leaves, the prosciutto, the peppers, 2 slices of tomatoes - season with kosher salt and pepper, and the slices of bocconcini, and then another slice of bread.

Grill on the panini grill for a couple of minutes. If you don't have a panini grill, toast the bread first. Then place all of the ingredients on the bread and then bake in the oven for a couple of minutes on high heat.

Enjoy these together. It's a hearty meal, it's good comfort food.



Tuesday, September 14, 2010


Do you ever just catch yourself trying to catch your breath? And then just as you take that breath, you realize it's all ok - it's all good - it's all just the way I like it. I had one of those moments the other day.

Life has been very busy lately. With our unexpected trip to Ontario, it really made life change - in so many more ways than I would have imagined. Among the chaos of life, I get about an hour break everyday to walk the pups, get fresh air, time for me, time to think and put things into perspective.

The other day when I was rounding a bend and thinking about how happy that I was that I had made a feast of Veggie Shepherds Pie on Sunday, enough for a couple of dinners, so that I wouldn't have to make dinner that night. And then I was thinking of how lucky I think that Chris is that he doesn't have to worry about making dinner each night and how he doesn't have to worry about walking the dogs every day. And then I thought, why would I even think that, this is my life, our life, the life that I chose. And I love it.

With Chris' mom passing - it reminds me of hour precious life is, how you really need to make the most of it, and how you have to be happy. I think that there are always going to be things that I want to change - I guess it should be that way, right? I will try and realize when I have those moments - that they are opportunities - opportunities for making a change.

So, that is my thought for today. I need to keep catching my breath over the next couple of weeks so that I don't turn into Bridezilla. I need to remember how wonderful life is - and how blessed I am.

Ok - enough of that kind of talk for now. Enough already!

When we were in Ontario, I tried to help out as much as I could with what comes naturally to me - cooking. I introduced my bro-in-law to goat cheese - and after a few beverages and 2 nights of it - he said that he liked it. I'm not really sure if he was telling me the truth or if he was being polite.

On the last night that we were there - we made a big feast at Chris' dad's house. His sister, Kim, made ribs and fried rice - she will be a guest chef soon.

We found a huge pack of figs at Costco (I was surprised to see them there) and made these.

Simplest appetizer ever.

Figs cut in half, a crumble of goat cheese and a sprinkle of cracked black pepper. Put in a 350 oven for 12 minutes.

Alright, that's it for me for tonight. Be good to yourself.



Monday, September 13, 2010

Veg it up.

In the middle of pulling out my hair, eating chocolate that I shouldn't be, spazzing at Chris for messing up my already my messy kitchen, while I attempt printing our wedding invitations, I needed to take a short break and post the new Vegetarian Shepherds Pie recipe that I just made.

I watched someone on tv make it the other morning - I tried to remember the ingredients - and then gave it a shot. It turned out to be very delicious.

The tomatoes in background are roasting as I write (3 for $5 at the RootCellar this week - go!!)

Vegetarian Shepherds Pie

10 yukon gold or new white potatoes (medium sized)
1 butternut squash
1 medium sized onion
2 carrots - diced
2 celery stalks - chopped
1 cup of dry lentils
2 cups of bread crumbs
1 cup of milk
3/4 cup goat cheese
1/4 cup melted butter
1/2 cup milk or cream
1 bulb of garlic
Kosher salt and pepper

For this recipe, you kind of have to do a bunch of things at once, but don't be intimidated. It's easy stuff, and everything can be timed perfectly.

Pre-heat the oven to 400. Slice the butternut squash length wise in half, season with kosher salt and pepper and place, cut side up on a baking sheet and cook for 40 minutes - or until tender. You can also roast the garlic at this time as well. Cut the top of the garlic bulb and place, the bulb in aluminum foil. Wrap it up and cook in the oven for the 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare your potatoes for boiling. The thing that I love about yukon gold or new white potatoes, is that when you use them for mash potatoes, you don't have to remove the skins. The skins hold a lot of nutrients and give a nice texture to the potatoes. I add my cut potatoes to the water and then start the boiling process, with both the water and the potatoes already in the pot. Boil for about 15-20 minutes, or until the potatoes or soft.

While the potatoes are boiling, add 1 cup of dried lentils to a pot with 3 cups of water. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to medium-high and boil for 30 minutes. Drain and set aside.

While the potatoes and lentils are boiling - saute the onion, celery and carrots in a dash of olive oil and a sprinkle of kosher salt. Place them all in a saute pan and saute over medium heat for about 30 minutes. Don't let the carrots go too soft - so you may want to keep an eye on them.

When the potatoes are done, drain them and put them in a large bowl. Using your potato masher, mash the potatoes. Season with kosher salt and pepper.

Remove the garlic from the foil, and squeeze the cloves in the potatoes. Add the goat cheese, the melted butter and the milk. Mash everything together and set aside.

Remove the squash from the oven and gently peel off the skins with a knife. Cut the squash lengthwise in half, and then in half the other way. And then cut into thin strips.

For the breadcrumbs, I didn't have any. I used 6 pieces of bread, I placed them on a cooking sheet and broiled on high for 2 minutes each side. I removed them from the oven, cut off the crusts and then chopped each piece into small squares. I placed them in a bowl with the milk and let the milk absorb all of the bread.

Breathe - you're almost there.

Now time to assemble.

Mix the breadcrumbs, lentils and carrot/celery mixture together. This was my favourite part. Place this mixture into the bottom of a large casserole dish.

Add a layer of the butternut squash.

Then add the mashed potatoes.

Place in a 400 degree oven and bake for 30 minutes.

And voila - vegetarian shepherds pie.

I loved this dish. I loved how the lentils tasted so rustic and hearty. I loved the softness of the squash. And I loved the roasted garlic and goat cheese in the potatoes.

Chris rated this a 5 (5+ with ketchup - but I think that is sacrilegious).

I will definitely make this again.

Alright - I have to run - off to get some z's.



Saturday, September 11, 2010

Lasagna - Lazagnuh.

lasagna. or la.zawn.ya.


I think that it is really important to say 'lasagna' however you want to. And even more importantly, cook it however you want to. Lasagna is a very, very easy dish. It is a bit time consuming - prepping the sauce, veggies, noodles, cheeses - but once that is done (which is easy) - you can put it in the oven and never fuss* with it again.

*You kind of do - taking it out of the oven and eating it, unless you have a butler or something that does that stuff for you.

Funny story about lazagnuh (I do enjoy saying it this way). When I was about 9 or 10, my mom was introduced to lasagna. I am not sure how, why or by who, but she found herself an easy recipe where she could make up about 1/2 million at a time and put them in our freezer. And then we had lasagna all the time. Seriously, at least once or twice a week. Now I am not complaining, but to this day, I still remember that we ate it a lot. Now in Jules' defense, she had 3 children (I was one of them and probably her favourite) who were very involved in skating and hockey. And a husband who worked a lot and was also involved in hockey. Hey - why wasn't he involved in figure skating.... hm? Anyways - there was a lot of dinners at different times, lots of driving here, there and everywhere, so this must have been an easy dish that she could have made up to keep in the freezer for when a dinner was needed. In her case, 1-2 times a week.

I find that I tend to make lazagnuh when I have a lot of people over for a casual dinner. I can make them in advance, and then just put them in the oven and not have to touch them until they are ready. I enjoy that type of a dinner when there are a lot of guests over, it actually gives you an opportunity to visit.

Gail, my MIL, really liked my lasagna recipe. She always told me that I must have 'eye-talian' in me, because I could cook it so well. I don't have any Italian in me, but when I went to college my first year, I dated a boy named Fabian who was 100% Italian. Yes, his name was Fabian. And we went on one date to a movie and then to dinner. And he sat beside me in the booth at dinner instead of across from me. And when I was 18, that was horrifying for me. So, I didn't answer the phone again when he would call, but did accept a stuff Gund cat from him. In my defense, I was 18. Oh Fabian, if you didn't sit beside me in the booth and smell as though you bathed in garlic, I may have went on a second date with you.

Alright, so this Lasagna recipe is from a cookbook that I 'borrowed' from my mom. It's a Pillsbury recipe book from 1984. I tend to never make the same lasagna twice. I recently made lasagna when we came back from Ontario. I wanted to give one to Uncle David for taking care of our house, our pups and Ogre and one to our neighbour who also helped out with the house and Ogre. When we were in Ontario we had my SIL, Joanne's, lasagna which was deelish, and I had a craving for it, so I knew that I had to make it.

One-Step Lasagna (this recipe is enough to make 2 9x9 lasagnas - you can make 3 by using 2 containers of cottage cheese or ricotta and 2 eggs - and then you can be like Jules and freeze them)

2 lb ground meat - I usually use ground chicken or pork. And sometimes I use fresh boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 large onion
5 cloves of garlic
1 large can of Hunt's tomato sauce - I usually get the original and like to add my own spices
3 28 oz cans of diced tomatoes - drained
Vegetables for sauce - peppers, mushrooms
Fresh basil - 8-10 leaves
Dried oregano - 2 tbsp
1 tsp of sugar
1 large container of cottage cheese, or 1 large container of ricotta cheese
1 egg
5-6 cups of fresh spinach
1 box of lasagna noodles - I really like to use the whole wheat ones - uncooked
3 cups of mozzarella - shredded
1 cup parmesan - grated

Pre-heat oven to 350.

First - make the sauce.
Saute the onion in a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of kosher salt over medium heat for about 8 minutes. For the last minute, add the minced garlic - don't let it burn.
In a large pot, add the sauce, the drained tomatoes and simmer over low to medium heat. Add the onions and garlic. Then add the peppers and mushrooms, dried oregano and the sugar. In the same pan that the onions were in, add the ground meat and saute until it is lightly browned. Add the meat to the tomato sauce and let simmer for about 10 minutes.

Second - prepare the cheese filling.
In a mixing bowl combine the cottage cheese (or ricotta) with the egg. Season with kosher salt and pepper. And add 1/4 cup of parmesan cheese.

Third - start to assemble.
In your 9x9 pan, add one layer of uncooked lasagna noodles. I usually carefully break the top off to fit. If you want, you can use a 9x11 pan so that the noodles fit nicely. Then add a layer of the
the sauce. Then 1/4 of the cheese mixture. Then 1/4 of the fresh spinach (don't forget we are making 2 lasagnas with this. Then 1/4 of the mozzarella. I then like to add all of the layers again. For the last section, I add the noodles, then the sauce and then the mozzarella and a sprinkle of parmesan. Are you confused? I hope not. It's super easy.

Fourth - prepping for cooking.
Cover the dish with aluminum foil. I like to put mine on a baking sheet just in case the sauce bubbles. Place in the 350 oven for 40 minutes. Go and grab a beverage, put your feet up and watch an episode of Jersey Shore or Dog the Bounty Hunter, or come over and help me with my wedding invitations.

Fifth - getting ready to almost take it out of the oven.
Remove the tin foil, take a look to see if the noodles are al dente and if they are, turn the broiler on, and broil for 2 minutes. The cheese will golden and bubble and you will want to marry it when it comes out of the oven.

Sixth - Enjoy a nutritious and delicious meal.

Chris rated this a 5+.

I am not sure why Pillsbury named this recipe 'One Step Lasagna'. Uh, it takes far more than one step. I'm like 'Pillsbury - 1984 called and they want their recipe back'. Anyways it really is easy and so worth the effort.

I know that Gail would have loved having lasagna with us the other night. She would have enjoyed every bite. And Chris' dad would have loved it too, but would have especially loved the bread and butter that was served with it.

I didn't mention the other night, but Chris' mom was an AMAZING quilter. She made the most beautiful, intricate quilts. She won awards for them. I always remember her sitting in her recliner, patiently pinning and sewing countless pieces of material together to make the most amazing masterpieces.

We were so fortunate to have brought one of her smaller quilts home with us. I knew where we were going to hang it right away. It's in our 'tiny' hallway, above a very old bench that I inherited from my grandpa (my mom's dad). I think that it looks like it has always been there. It brightens up the area so much, and I can't help but think of Gail in her recliner, with Chris' dad on one side and her cat Shamus on the other side of her.


Alright - get to bed you have to get up early. Oh wait, that's just me. I don't really have to get up early, but I have this curse of not being able to sleep past 7 on the weekends. It's probably a curse for not answering Fabian's phone calls. Whatevah!!



Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Love the ones you love.

Dear friends. I have been absent for two weeks.

On Friday, August 20th, we received a phone call from Chris' mom, letting us know that she was not well, and that they found a mass on one of her lungs. On Saturday, she was taken to the hospital via ambulance because she was unable to breathe. By Monday, she was hooked up to a breathing machine to help her breathe. On Tuesday I booked us tickets for us to go for a visit. Wednesday morning, at 1 AM we received a phone call from Chris' sister to tell us that we had to come sooner. We left Victoria for Barrie, Ontario, after noon on August 25th. We arrived in Barrie at 8:45PM.

Gail Joanne Cunningham passed away at 7:45 PM on Wednesday, August 25th.

We were not able to be there to say 'goodbye'.

We thought that she was ill, and that she would get well and be coming home soon.

Over the days following we helped make plans to ensure a beautiful and peaceful celebration of her life. We spent time with Chris' brothers and sisters, nieces and nephew, and his dad. His amazingly strong, loving dad.

I have known Gail for 11 years and about 1 month. I liked to refer to her as my MIL (mother-in-law). I remember the first time that I met her; it was actually on the phone. Chris had told her that he had a date over and she didn't believe him. She spoke with me - and I remember to this day, how excited she was that her son had met someone. She had a smile in her voice.

Over the years we were blessed to spend a lot of time with her. We did Sunday dinners together, we liked to stop in on Thursday or Friday nights to sit with them on their couch and eat treats, we went to many restaurants together, we spent holidays with them. They moved back to Ontario, 2. 5 years ago. Gail was missing her family out east and she wanted a change. I was very saddened to see them leave, but part of me understood why she made the move. We went and visited them 5 months after they left, and had a nice visit.

Although there were times that we struggled with our relationship, I know deep in my heart that Gail was a wonderful woman, who loved her children, and always meant well. I think that she sometimes had a difficult time expressing just how much she loved them, but one thing that I do know, is that she loved who she loved, and she loved to be loved.

I miss her already. I miss that she won't be at our wedding most of all. Months ago, she asked Chris if she could walk him down the aisle. I sort of laughed at the question and said that our wedding wasn't traditional, so she could do whatever she wanted. And now, she won't be there to walk her beautiful son down the aisle on his special day. I know that she will be there in spirit, there watching us declare our love, but I would much prefer to see her smiling at us, her dancing with her son, her holding her husband's hand, and her basking in the pride that she had for her boy on his wedding day.

That is all that I have the energy to write this evening. Gail loved the food that I made. She always told me that I must have 'Italian' in me because I always made her the best pasta. My favourite part of that, is that she pronounced 'Italian' as 'Eye-talian'. I will share my lasagna recipe that I know was one of her favourites.

I hope that you are all well. Staying out of trouble. Telling those around you how much you love them.