Friday, January 29, 2010

Shepherd's Pie

Sometimes when I can't figure out what to make for supper, I turn to my friends for ideas. I'm always interested in what other people's go-to dinners are. My neighbour was over for tea one afternoon and she said her go-to was a shepherd's pie. I seldom make this dish so it was a good suggestion! I like shepherd's pie but don't like peas or corn mixed in so I adapted the general recipe for my tastes. I made individual shepherd's pies in french onion soup bowls and also made baby ones in little ramekins for my little one (minus the salt). What are your go-to dinners?

500 g/1lb lean ground beef
1 onion, diced
1 carrot, peeled and diced
6-7 mushrooms sliced
2 cups beef broth
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1 bay leaf
1 tbsp cornstarch
4 large potatoes
1/4 cup milk
1 egg
1/4 cup parmesan cheese
1 tbsp butter
generous handfuls of shredded cheddar cheese

Put potatoes in a pot with enough water to cover potatoes and boil until cooked through.
Meanwhile in a large skillet, saute onions and carrots until softened.
Push the veggies to the edges of the pan and brown the ground beef until no longer pink.
Add the mushrooms and cook until softened.
Add thyme and bay leaf, beef broth and allow to reduce a little.
Sprinkle cornstarch over top and mix thoroughly to thicken the gravy.
Prepare the mashed potatoes: drain and mash the potatoes and beat in milk, egg, parmesan cheese butter and season with salt and pepper (I use a hand mixer instead of a potato masher so potatoes are really fluffy and smooth).
Preheat oven to 350 F.
In a large glass baking dish (or individual casserole dishes), layer beef mixture on the bottom and mashed potatoes on top and smother with cheddar cheese. Bake for 25-30 minutes until cheese is bubbling and slightly brown on top.

Easy Oven Baby Back Ribs

This is pretty much a no-fail easy recipe. I was going to finish the last 15 minutes of cooking on the BBQ, but didn't bother because it was too cold outside. The secret to really tender fall-off-the bone ribs is to cook at a low temperature for a long time. Don't rush them!
I served this with a spinach salad with strawberries, mushrooms, feta, walnuts and sunflower seeds.
Rack of ribs
1 tsp ground corriander
1 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper or Indian chili powder
1/2 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup favourite BBQ sauce

Preheat oven to 325 F
Remove membrane from underside of ribs. Mix all the spices together in a small bowl and rub all over the ribs. Place in a large baking pan bone-side down and bake for 2 hours. Brush ribs with bbq sauce and return to the oven for 15 more minutes.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Spaghetti and Meatballs

This might seem like nothing special, but there's a reason it's so popular. I gave some to my 8 month old baby and she LOVED it!

500g/1lb lean ground veal
1/4 cup bread crumbs
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
handful chopped fresh parsley
pinch ground nutmeg
1 egg
1 clove garlic, minced
salt & pepper
1 jar of your favourite marinara sauce
spaghetti cooked al dente

In a medium bowl combine ground veal, bread crumbs, Parmesan cheese, parsley, nutmeg, egg garlic and salt and pepper. Mix lightly with a fork but do not mash or meatballs will be tough. Roll meatballs into to whatever size you like...I make medium sized ones.
Place meatballs in skillet on medium heat and allow to brown on all sides. Pour marinara sauce in pan, bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to low and cook until sauce is hot and meatballs are cooked through. Serve on top of spaghetti and cover with cheese!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

White Chicken Chili

When I saw this recipe on Closet Cooking, I had to try it. It was the perfect way to use my leftovers from last night's roast chicken. I don't know why, but I thought that a white chili would somehow be less flavourful but it was pretty robust! I couldn't find canned chopped green chilies, but I found a jar of salsa verde, so I used that instead.

Here's the recipe copied from Closet Cooking:

1 tablespoon oil
1 onion (diced)
4 cloves garlic (chopped)
1 tablespoon cumin (toasted and ground)
2 (4.5 ounce) cans chopped green chilies (I used salsa verde)
2 jalapeno peppers (sliced)
3 cups chicken (cooked and shredded)
2 (19 ounce) cans northern beans (drained and rinsed)
2 cups chicken stock
1 teaspoon oregano
salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoon masa (or cornmeal)
1/2 cup milk

1. Heat the oil in a pan.
2. Add the onion and saute until tender, about 5-8 minutes.
3. Add the garlic and cumin and saute until fragrant, about a minute.
4. Add the green chilies, jalapenos, chicken, beans, chicken stock, oregano, salt and pepper.
5. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 20 minutes.
6. Mix the masa into the milk and then mix it into the chili and simmer for another 10 minutes.

Roast Chicken with Potatoes, Yams and Asparagus

No need to post a recipe here...This was Mandy's recipe from below. I was inspired by my bestie's roast chicken abilities. I always think of a roast dinner being a big deal, but she insisted that it was very simple, so I tried it last night...she was right! Very easy one dish meal. I didn't stuff the cavity with lemons and celery coz I didn't have any. I also didn't baste with wine. I just put the mustard herb rub on the chicken and tossed some yams and potatoes in olive oil and garlic and rosemary and threw them in the same pan as the chicken. 1 hour later, it smelled so delicious in the house and I felt like a total domestic goddess.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Apple and Spice Baked French Toast

I had this delicious make-ahead brunch dish at a neighbour's house, and decided to make it when my bffs came to visit. It was tasty and the best part was that there was no fussing about in the kitchen in the morning. Just made this the night before and popped it in the oven for 50 minutes and voilà!


1 large loaf of French or Italian bread

8 large eggs

3 1/2 cups of milk or light cream

1 cup of sugar [ I used 1/2 cup plus 2.5 tbsps sugar]

1 tbsp vanilla

3 tsp Cinnamon

1 tsp nutmeg

6-8 medium sized cooking apples (Cortland, Macintosh, Granny Smith)

[I used 5 Red Delicous apples]

1/4 cup of butter


Slice bread into 1 1/2 inch slices. Spray 9x13 glass pan with oil or non-stick spray. Place bread in glass dish, placing tightly together.

In a large bowl, beat together eggs, 1/2 cup sugar [this is where I cut the sugar to just 2.5 tbsp], milk and vanilla (by hand with whisk for about 30 seconds).

Pour one half of the egg mixture over the bread. Peel, core and slice apples. Cover bread with sliced apples.

Pour balance of egg mixture evenly over apples.

Mix remaining 1/2 cup of sugar with cinnamon and nutmeg and sprinkle evenly over top of the apples and dot with butter.

Bake in oven uncovered at 350 degrees for 60 minutes.

Remove from oven and allow it to rest for 5-10 mins before serving.

Friday, January 15, 2010


A cassoulet is a hearty French stew with an assortment of delicious meats...usually pork belly, duck confit and Toulouse sausages. I had it at our favourite French restaurant in Toronto and tried to make a simpler version while replicating the same flavours at home. It turned out really well and the flavours were very similar to the restaurant's version. Next time I feel ambitious, I will attempt to make my own duck confit! It would totally make this dish shine.

4-5 Toulouse sausages (or Oktoberfest, or Bratwurst...choose somewhat smokey sausages)
2 medium onions, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 can tomatoes
1 sprig fresh thyme (or 1/2 tsp dried)
1 sprig fresh rosemary (or 1/2 tsp dried)
pinch ground cloves
1 can white beans
2 slices french bread diced small
1 tbsp olive oil
1 extra clove garlic minced
2 tbsp chopped parsley

Fry sausage in a skillet until brown on all sides and cooked through. Remove from pan and add onions and garlic and sauté until fragrant. Add the tomatoes and herbs and season with salt and pepper. Slice the sausages and add to the skillet along with the white beans. Simmer mixture for 15-20 minutes to allow flavour to develop. Meanwhile, toss diced bread in olive oil and garlic and bake on a cookie sheet at 400F for 10 minutes (watch to make sure they don't burn!). Serve cassoulet in French onion soup bowls or mini casserole dishes and top with the garlic toasted bread crumbs and fresh parsley.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Boeuf Bourgignon

I'm not a huge fan of stews, but this one is just sooooooo yummy. Who wouldn't enjoy tender meat slowly simmered in red wine? I decided to serve this with a baked potato only because I didn't want to wash another pot to make mashed potatoes. It turned out to be an excellent accompaniment. This is French comfort food at its finest.

4 slices bacon, chopped
1 lb cubed beef
2 Tbsp flour
1 large carrot diced
1 large onion diced
1 clove garlic minced
1 bottle red wine (minus a glass or 2!)... preferably Burgundy but any will do
1 bay leaf
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tbsp tomato paste
1 container button mushrooms quartered and sautéd in butter
beurre manie (1 tbsp butter kneaded with 1 tbsp flour) - optional

In a large pot on medium heat, fry chopped bacon until crisp. Set cooked bacon aside on a plate with paper towel.
Meanwhile, toss beef cubes in flour in a bag until coated.
Fry beef in batches in the bacon fat until beef is brown on each side. Place fried beef on paper towel and season with salt and pepper.
If you need more oil at this point, add some olive oil to the pot and sauté onions, carrot and garlic until softened.
Deglaze pot with the wine making sure to scrape the brown bits in the bottom of the pot. Add the bay leaf, thyme, tomato paste and season with salt and pepper.
Reduce heat to low and simmer for at least an hour and a half or until the beef is fork tender.
Half an hour before serving, sauté mushrooms in butter in a separate skillet until golden brown then add to the pot. If sauce needs thickening (and if you want that 'certain je ne sais quoi...'), add the beurre manie and cook for 15 minutes more.
Serve with a baked potato (scrubbed, pierced and baked straight on the oven rack for 45 mins at 400F)

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Ravioli in cream sauce with wilted spinach and toasted walnuts

Cold night + creamy pasta = comfort gourmet

1 package of your favourite ravioli
2 tbsp butter
1 tbsp flour
1/3 cup cream
1/4 cup milk
handful grated Parmesan cheese
dash fresh grated nutmeg
2 cups baby spinach
handful walnuts toasted in a dry skillet

Boil ravioli according to package directions in a large pot
Meanwhile, heat butter small saucepan on medium low heat. Add the flour and stir until you get a sandy texture. Slowly add cream but do not allow to boil. Add milk if you need to thin out the sauce. Add nutmeg and season with salt and pepper. Once the sauce is at the desired thickness (coats the back of the spoon), remove from heat, stir in parmesan cheese.
Pour sauce over cooked ravioli and immediately stir in spinach. Sprinkle toasted walnuts over top.