Spicy mustard chicken with zuchinni and orzo

This chicken marinade was, like many dishes I come up with, borne out of necessity due to lack of standard ingredients.  I regularly make my chicken marinade with olive oil, balsamic vinegar and seasoning; but I realized too late that I was out of my beloved vinegar.  I don’t especially like the taste of chicken with lemon, so I was forced to find another acid to balance out my lovely olive oil.  I was introduced to Inglehoffer mustard by a friend who used it as a dip for appetizers, and became hooked immediately.  It is spicy and a bit creamy: very different from your regular deli mustard.  If you don’t have this particular mustard any spicy version will do, but I highly recommend picking up a bottle.

1 lb chicken breast, skinned and deboned
4 tbsp olive oil
Salt, to taste
1 tbsp mustard (my favourite is Inglehoffer Sweet Hot Pepper Mustard, found in the deli section of your grocery store)
1 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp chilli powder
1/2 tsp dried oregano

Mix your marinade ingredients thoroughly.  It will be more of a paste and less of a liquid: don’t worry, it will still flavour your chicken beautifully.

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Spread the marinade over your chicken and set aside in the fridge until ready to barbeque.

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2 zucchini, cut in half lengthwise
Olive oil
Salt, to taste
Pepper, to taste
Onion powder, to taste
Pastry brush

Brush over your zucchini and barbeque.

1 cup orzo pasta
3 cups chicken stock (I used homemade but you could also use Campbells if you’d prefer)
Salt, to taste
1/2 cup Parmesan, grated
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp dried basil
Pepper, to taste
Pasta pot

If you are using a homemade stock from a roasted chicken carcass, a pinch of salt is all that is required.  Heat your stock until it boils then add your pasta and cook to 1 minute less than al-dente.  Drain your pasta and set aside.

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Barbeque your chicken at medium high heat until browned on both sides and thoroughly cooked.  When pierced, only clear juices should run out.  The marinade will caramelize and leave your chicken a blackened colour, don’t worry it’s not burnt.  Remove the chicken from the heat and allow it to rest for a few minutes before serving.

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Finally, pour your pasta back into the pot and mix with the grated Parmesan and seasoning, mix until thoroughly combined then serve immediately with your chicken.

 

Enjoy!

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Baked farfale and mushroom casserole

This is a variation of a comfort food dish my mother used to make when I was younger.  She would use loads of yellow cheddar and bake the whole mixture until it browned and bubbled.  Cheese and pasta are two of my favourite things so combining them in a dish is like comfort food heaven.  I decided to make this dish a bit more complex by using mushrooms as well as several kinds of cheese instead of just cheddar.  I added ricotta because of the creaminess it adds to baked pasta dishes; ensuring they stay moist and delicious in the oven.  Although ricotta is delicious, it has a mild flavour which is nicely balanced by the sharpness of the old cheddar.  Finally, I finished it all off with a salty favourite, parmesan.

7-8 large Crimini mushrooms, thickly sliced (they will shrink when baked and you still want some texture)
2 1/2 cups grated cheddar (I like using white old or extra old for added flavour)
Box of farfale pasta (these are shaped like little bow ties.  I buy Barrila)
1 cup ricotta
3 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
1 1/2 cups marinara (I used my homemade recipe from earlier posts)
Parmesan, grated to taste
Salt, to taste
Pepper, to taste
Dried basil, to taste
Chili flakes, to taste

Cook your pasta for 2 minutes less than al dente: you want it slightly undercooked so it doesn’t get mushy when baked.  Once your pasta is fully cooked, drain and pour back in the pot.

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Spoon a bit of marinara onto the bottom of your baking dish, spread to ensure the bottom is covered.

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Next, add the remaining marinara to your pasta and mix.  Grate your cheddar and set aside.  Reserve 1/2 cup of cheddar, and add the rest to the pasta along with your ricotta, garlic, salt and pepper.  Taste, and add more salt or pepper as needed, add your mushrooms and mix well.  Pour your pasta mixture into the baking pan and spread to ensure it is even.  Sprinkle the remaining cheddar over your pasta and grate some fresh parmesan over the top.  Add your dried basil and chili flakes then cover with aluminum foil.

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Preheat your oven to 400F and bake for 30 minutes.  Finally, remove the foil and finish your pasta for 10 minutes at 425 F until browned.

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Enjoy with a fresh salad 🙂

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Shrimp pad thai

One of my favourite meals is pad thai from Kao San Road in downtown Toronto.  Something about the sweet and spicy sauce mixed with the tangy citrus of freshly squeezed lime is absolute perfection.  As much as my husband and I love it, the restaurant is too far from our home to allow for regular visits so I decided to try my hand at homemade pad thai.  I looked up some recipes and after finding several, some with disconcerting ingredients like tomato sauce, I found a few that I adapted to make this one.  My pad thai is no where near as delicious as Kao San Road and if you are ever in the Toronto area I strongly recommend a visit, but it’s a pretty tasty substitute.  You could easily make this dish with chicken or tofu instead of shrimp depending on your tastes.

Package Thai rice noodles
1 lb shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 tsp cornstarch
3 tbsp soya sauce
1 tbsp tamarind paste disolved in 1/4 cup warm water
2 tbsp fish sauce
2 tsp Sriracha
3 tbsp brown sugar
1/8 tsp white pepper
4 cloves garlic, minced
Red bell pepper, thinly sliced
Handful of cilantro, chopped
2 chives, minced
Canola oil
Peanuts, chopped
Lime
Large pot
Wok (you can also use a regular frying pan, but this will likely be harder and more messy)

First, dissolve your cornstarch in the soya sauce then mix with your shrimp and set aside.

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Next, mix your tamarind, fish sauce, brown sugar, Sriracha and white pepper and set aside.  This will be the sauce for your pad thai.

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Finally, chop up your veggies and set aside.  This dish cooks very quickly and if you have to chop as you go your noodles and shrimp will become overcooked.

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Put a large pot of water on to boil, then add your noodles and cook for 3-4 minutes (or the time on the bag).  The noodles should be cooked through, but essentially al dente.  When they are finished, rinse immediately with cold water to prevent sticking and set aside.  Next, heat some oil and the minced garlic in your wok at medium heat until fragrant, then add your shrimp and cook.  The shrimp are finished when they become entirely pink.  You do not want your shrimp to be completely curled up, this means you’ve overcooked them and the result will be the texture of rubber and less flavourful.

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When your shrimp are cooked, add your noodles and pad thai sauce.  Mix and cook for 2-3 minutes then add your peppers and cook for another 1-2 minutes then turn off the heat.  Taste your dish to decide if you’d like more fish sauce at this time, I sometimes add another tablespoon or two.  Finally, squeeze half a lime over your pad thai and mix.

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Portion your pad thai into servings and top each bowl with some chives, cilantro and peanuts (plus more lime juice).  Enjoy!

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Turkey lasagna with homemade pasta and ricotta

Anyone who knows me well will tell you that if I can make something from scratch, I refuse on principle to purchase it from the grocery store.  This comes from wanting to know all the ingredients in my food and also an increasing desire to improve myself as a home cook.  Several years ago, my husband bought me a pasta maker attachment for my favourite kitchen appliance: my KitchenAid Mixer.  I was incredibly excited but also very nervous because making homemade pasta sounded so complicated to me.  I have by no means perfected my pasta making method, but this recipe is quite tasty.  If you want a dough that is easier to handle, albeit possibly less authentic, you can use straight AP flour.  You could, of course, fore go making your own pasta entirely and use store bought noodles.  If you decided to do this I suggest buying fresh noodles, not dried.  Despite this being a healthier version of a traditional lasagna, with these flavours you won’t miss the beef or bechamel sauce.

2 cups AP flour
2 cups durham wheat semolina flour
Pinch of salt
6 eggs
2-3 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp basil
Pasta maker

Thoroughly sift together your flour, semolina flour, and pinch of salt.  In mixing bowl, make a mountain out of flour your mixture in then make a deep well in the center.  Break the eggs into the well and add your olive oil and seasoning.

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Whisk the eggs very gently with a fork, gradually incorporating flour from the sides of the before mixing with your stand mixer. Knead your dough with the mixer for 8 to 12 minutes, until it is smooth and supple.  Wrap dough tightly in plastic and allow it to rest at room temperature for 30 minutes.

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Finally, roll out your dough and run it through your pasta maker to make thin, almost translucent, sheets of pasta (start at the largest setting and feed it through 3-4 times on consecutively smaller settings).

1 lb ground turkey
2 tsp olive oil
4 garlic cloves, sliced
2 cups marinara sauce (I used my homemade marinara from my earlier post Ricotta Gnocchi and Marinara Sauce)
Tsp chilli flakes
Salt to taste

Heat some olive oil on medium-high and sautee your garlic slices.  Next, add your turkey and mix with some salt and chilli flakes.  Cook until browned then add your marinara and simmer while you prepare your pan and ricotta.

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Container of ricotta (I like Tre Stella low fat)
Egg
Tsp basil, dried
Pinch of pepper
Pinch of salt
Bowl

Mix your ricotta ingredients until combined and set aside.

2 cups marinara
1/2 ball mozzarella, grated
Parmesan, to taste
Chilli flakes, to taste
Basil, to taste
Zucchini, sliced thin
Large glass baking dish (I prefer to use this instead of an opaque dish because it enables you to see how well your lasagna is cooking from all angles)

Spread one cup of marinara on the bottom of your pan and place a layer of noodles down.

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Layer your meat sauce, zuchinni slices and ricotta then place another layer of pasta.

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Repeat and place your last layer of pasta.  Spread your final cup of marinara over your lasagna and spread the mozzarella.  Season as desired with Parmesan, chilli flakes and dried basil.

Bake uncovered for 45 minutes at 375 F until golden and bubbling.

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Let cool and enjoy with a large side salad 🙂

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Pasta bolognese

This meal is the ultimate comfort food.  When my husband and I were in Italy we had the most amazing bolognese in Tuscany and I was determined to replicate it at home.  After reading many recipes, I compiled my own from bits and pieces.  I still haven’t recreated the magic of a perfect bowl in the Tuscan countryside, but I think this recipe is quite delicious.  One way to make this recipe even more authentic is to use ground veal instead of beef.  I have mentioned before that I don’t use veal in my recipes and avoid eating it for ethical reasons, however I’m quite sure that was part of the deliciousness in Italy.  You should either make this first thing in the morning on a weekend to enjoy that night, or overnight as it takes about 11 hours total (including preparation).  If you don’t own a slow cooker you could always simply use your pasta pot set on low, just keep a close eye on it.  Your leftovers will freeze very well in containers or Ziploc freezer bags.  I hope you find this meal worth the time as I do!

1 large onion or 2 small, cut into 1-inch dice
2 large carrots, cut into 1/2-inch dice
3 ribs celery, cut into 1-inch dice
4 cloves garlic
Tbsp chili flakes
I cup cubed pancetta
Extra-virgin olive oil, for the pan
Kosher salt
3 pounds ground beef
2 cups tomato paste
3 cups hearty red wine (remember, your dish will be as good as the wine you use so open a fresh bottle for this)
Water (if necessary)
3-4 bay leaves
1 bunch thyme, tied in a bundle
Penne
Parmigiano-Reggiano, grated
Olive oil, for finishing
Food processor
Large pasta pot
Slow cooker

Puree onion, carrots, celery, and garlic into a coarse paste in your food processor.

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Coat your pot with oil and heat at medium. Add the pureed veggies and season generously with salt. Bring the pan to a medium-high heat and cook until all the water has evaporated and your veggies become nice and brown, stirring frequently, about 15 to 20 minutes.

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Add the ground beef and pancetta and season again generously with salt. Caramelize your beef! This is where all the delicious flavours develop in your sauce.  Cook another 15 to 20 minutes.

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Add the tomato paste and cook until browned, about 4 to 5 minutes then add the red wine. Cook until the wine has reduced by half, another 4 to 5 minutes.  Finally, add water to the pan until the water is about 1 inch above the meat. Toss in your bay leaves and the bundle of thyme and stir to combine everything. Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer, stirring occasionally.  Taste your sauce and and season with salt, if needed (you probably will).

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Add your sauce to your slow cooker and leave to simmer on low overnight 8-10 hours.

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30 minutes before eating, heat some heavily salted water. When the water is at a rolling boil add your pasta and cook for 1 minute less than it calls for on the package.  Drain the pasta and heat your sauce in the pot. Stir or toss the pasta to coat with the sauce. Add some of the reserved sauce, if needed, to make it about an even ratio between pasta and sauce.  Heat the sauce and pasta together then turn off the heat.

Sprinkle with Parmesan, drizzle with olive oil and enjoy!

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Roasted chicken with Parmesan orzo and carrots

This meal is the result of a combination of laziness and ingenuity.  My husband and I had returned the previous day from vacation and had almost nothing in our fridge and freezer.  I had taken out a chicken and some homemade chicken stock to thaw with the intention of making roasted chicken with farfel (a variation on my first blog post recipe, Roasted chicken with Israeli couscous and mushrooms).  Several hours later after much procrastination, we realized how exhausted we were from jet lag and decided we were too lazy to go to the grocery store after all.  My dilemma was twofold: I had to cook my now defrosted chicken, and I had nothing to serve it with.  I scoured the pantry and fridge and found orzo pasta and a few carrots.  The orzo was simple, I would cook it with the chicken stock to make a tasty farfel alternative.  The carrots I decided to treat like Thanksgiving sweet potatoes, adding a few items from my baking pantry.  Despite it’s last minute inspiration, this dinner was quite tasty.  I hope you agree!

Whole chicken
2 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp chilli
5 garlic cloves
1 tsp pepper
2 tsp garlic powder
Olive oil
Roasting pan

Preheat your oven to 375 F.  Drizzle the olive oil and spices over both sides of your chicken and stuff the cavity with whole garlic cloves.

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Bake 1-1 1/2 hours until crisp and golden brown.  Reserve the roast drippings and set aside.  Allow your chicken to rest before carving, this allows the juices to soak into the meat for a tender, delicious bird.

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3 medium carrots
Tbsp sliced almonds
Tbsp dried cranberries
Tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp chilli
2 garlic cloves, chopped in half
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1 inch chunk butter, diced
Olive oil
Dish for roasting

Chop your carrots into one inch chunks and place in a roasting pan.  Drizzle with olive oil and mix with spices, cranberries, butter and almonds.  Bake for 1 hr, until tender.

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1 cup orzo pasta
3 cups chicken stock (I used homemade but you could also use Campbells if you’d prefer)
Salt, to taste
1/2 cup Parmesan, grated
Chicken drippings
Pasta pot

If you are using a homemade stock from a roasted chicken carcass, a pinch of salt is all that is required.  Heat your stock until it boils then add your pasta and cook to 1 minute less than al-dente.  Drain your pasta and set aside.

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Pour your pasta back into the pot and mix with the grated Parmesan and reserved chicken drippings.  You should not need additional seasoning, however feel free to add salt or pepper to taste as desired.

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Serve immediately and enjoy.

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Four cheese macaroni with pancetta

I recently went out to dinner with some friends, one of whom ordered the house made mac and cheese.  Seeing it reminded me why such a simple dish was a childhood favourite of mine.  I decided to make my version a bit more adult (and decadent) with the addition of gourmet cheeses and pancetta.  This recipe was inspired by ingredients I had in my fridge on a gloomy, snowy day.  I already had Gruyere, Pecorino and Parmesan but I felt that the robustness of an aged cheddar was also needed.  I had originally planned on making a different meal and had defrosted some pancetta accordingly.  I couldn’t let it go bad so I decided to add it to the dish, after all what goes better with gooey cheese than bacon?  If you’d like, you can remove the pancetta or switch up any of the cheeses I used (Gruyere is admittedly very expensive) but please don’t use mild cheddar or only one cheese, the different flavours are what make this dish so delicious.

2 cups Gruyere, grated
1 cup Aged Cheddar, grated (I used 2 year old white cheddar)
1/2 cup Pecorino Romano, grated
1/2 cup pancetta, diced
Pinch of chilli powder
2 large garlic cloves, finely diced
Box of macaroni (I like Barilla)
1/4 cup butter
2 tbsp flour
1 1/2 cups milk
Sea salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/2 cup Panko breadcrumbs (these maintain their crunch better than regular breadcrumbs)
1/4 tsp chilli flakes
Dash of chilli powder
1/2 cup Parmesan, grated
Large pot
Sautee pan
Baking pan/Corning ware

Grate your Gruyere, Cheddar and Pecorino and set aside.  Put a large pot of heavily salted water on to boil.  Fry your pancetta with a dash of chilli powder until nice and crispy and set aside.  Next, dice your garlic cloves and mix with your pancetta.

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Cook your macaroni pasta for 2 minutes less than the box instructions (you want it slightly undercooked).  Once your pasta is cooked, drain and set aside.

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In your pasta pot, melt your butter then add your flour to form a roux: your roux will become a nutty colour when it’s finished.  Next, slowly add your milk while whisking.  Once your sauce has thickened, add your grated cheeses and mix until melted.  Salt and pepper to taste.

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Turn off the heat and add your pasta and pancetta.  Mix until your pasta is fully coated and taste to ensure you have enough salt and pepper.

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Next, pour the macaroni mixture into your greased baking pan.  Sprinkle your panko breadcrumbs and grated Parmesan evenly over your pasta.  Finally, sprinkle your chilli flakes and powder over the entire thing.

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Bake for 30 minutes at 375 F, until the breadcrumbs are lightly browned and the sauce is bubbling.

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Delicious!

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