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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Garlic lemon salmon with green beans and couscous

This is the first barbeque post on my blog.  Unlike many couples, I’m the one that barbeque’s.  I love cooking, so why not cook on the giant outdoor grill we have available in the summer?  We use a propane grill but I would imagine any of my dishes would work just as well with charcoal, just adjust the time accordingly.  This meal, as with many I make, came about when I opened my fridge with no idea about what to make for dinner.  I had fish and green beans, but no starch.  I could, theoretically, have made fish and green beans alone but I always feel that something is missing in a meal without starch.  I decided to make couscous simply because I hadn’t made it in some time and it’s a favourite in our home.  The lemon and garlic marinade was also an afterthought, I was out of balsamic vinegar and needed a good acid to balance out the extra virgin olive oil; lemon seemed very summery and appropriate.

4 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp Sriracha
1 tsp garlic powder
Dash of chilli flakes
Salt, to taste

Mix your marinade and pour over your salmon in a sealed container.  Leave at least 3o minutes to marinate.

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4 cloves garlic, sliced lengthwise
Salt, to taste
Pepper, to taste
Dash of chilli powder
Evoo

Trim then cook your green beans until done but still crunchy.  Drain and lay out on foil.  Season and seal the foil package.

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Make the couscous the same as my earlier recipe, Roasted chicken with Israeli couscous and mushrooms.  Once the couscous is nicely cooked, pour onto some foil and fold the edges to make a dish.

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Preheat your barbeque at medium high, I had mine around 500 degrees.

Cook your fish skin down to prevent sticking and place your foil packages on the grill.  Barbeque until your fish is cooked through; your couscous and green beans will be nicely cooked at that point.

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Drizzle a bit of olive oil over your couscous and serve immediately.  Yum 🙂

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Rich and creamy chocolate mousse

Chocolate mousse is one of my husband’s favourite desserts so naturally I’ve made this many times.  This mousse is light and airy, while still being incredibly decadent.  It is extremely easy to make and takes very little time to prepare, but you must make it in advance.  I decided to make this for Mother’s Day because my Mom loves chocolate.  This dessert is best served with something to cut the decadence slightly: I normally serve it whipped cream and fresh berries.  This time I decided to do something slightly different and make a chocolate crisp as decoration.  Another way to make this dessert a bit fancier is to serve it in wine glasses, you could obviously use a bowl just as easily but I like the look of a stemmed glass filled with mousse.

¼ cup semisweet chocolate chips or pastilles (I like to use PC Black Label semi sweet chocolate because it melts very smooth)
1 tbsp Khalua (you can also use milk or espresso, if you like the coffee flavour)
1 egg yolk, lightly beaten
1 ½ tsp vanilla extract
½ cup whipping cream
½ tbsp sugar
Extra whipping cream for decoration
Oven safe bowl
Small pot
Mixing bowl

First, melt your chocolate and Khalua in a double burner.

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Once your chocolate has melted, stir a small amount of it into your egg yolk to temper it.  Next, add your yolk to the melted chocolate and stir approximately 2 min until thickened.

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Remove it from the heat and stir in your vanilla extract.  Cool, stirring several times.

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While your chocolate mixture is cooling, beat your whipping cream and sugar until soft peaks form then fold it into chocolate mixture.

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Scoop your mousse into wine glasses and refrigerate 2 hrs-overnight.

6 ounces white chocolate (Baker’s)
6 ounces semi sweet chocolate (Baker’s)
Silpat sheet

Melt your white chocolate in a double burner then smooth onto a Silpat.

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Next, melt your semi sweet chocolate in the double burner and drizzle it onto the white.

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Place your Silpat in the freezer for at least an hour before breaking up the chocolate and using it to garnish your mousse.

Before serving your mousse, whip a cup of cream with a few drops of vanilla extract until stiff peaks form then add to the mousse.  Garnish with the chocolate and serve with fresh berries.

Enjoy!

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Satisfying kielbassa and potato hash

This is a meal that my Father frequently made when I was growing up.  It’s a typical Polish meal, involving sausage, potatoes, and of course, paprika.  For those who aren’t used to paprika, it is an extremely common seasoning in Hungarian food and is made from dried red peppers (chilli peppers, however it is not normally spicy).  It adds an earthy flavour and is delicious on meat and root vegetables, as well as in soup.  My Father always made this dish by first frying the ingredients, then transferring them to a baking pan and roasting them until brown and crispy.  If you prefer your kielbasa and potatoes less browned, simply roast for less time or omit the oven all together.

300 g turkey kielbasa sausage (you can also use pork or beef, I personally like the taste and low fat of the turkey)
1 bag mini potatoes
Extra virgin olive oil
1/4 onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
Salt, to taste
Black pepper, to taste
1/4 tsp white pepper
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp chilli flakes (this type of food doesn’t normally have any heat, but both my husband and I love chilli flakes)
1 tsp paprika
Large pot
Stainless steel pan (if you don’t have one, you can use a regular pan but you will need a roasting pan for the oven as well)

First, peel the plastic casing off your kielbasa.

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Boil a large pot of salted water.  Next, cut your potatoes in half and cook until fork tender.  While your potatoes are cooking, heat some olive oil on medium heat and add your onion and garlic.  Cook until fragrant, then chop up your kielbasa and add to the pan.

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When your potatoes are cooked, add them to the pan.  You may wish to add a bit more olive oil at this point as well.  Add your seasoning to your mixture and cook until it starts to brown.  During this time you can pre heat your oven to 375 F.

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Once your mixture has browned, put it in the oven for 30 minutes until crispy.

Enjoy with a nice tossed 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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Sinfully delicious flourless chocolate torte

This torte is not for the faint of heart or someone who just ‘likes’ chocolate.  The cake is so rich and chocolatey you won’t be able to eat more than the smallest piece.  That said, it is absolutely delicious and will freeze beautifully for those times when you just need an indulgent treat.  Not only is this dessert incredibly rich and indulgent, it also is one of the easiest cakes that I make.  This is one of my mother’s recipes and has always been a go to on Pesach when leavened foods are forbidden, however I have made it for birthdays and special occasions as well.  The vanilla whipped cream is optional, but I find the slight sweetness really compliments the almost bitter chocolate flavour of the torte.

1 lb semi sweet chocolate (I like using Baker’s, 2 boxes)
1 cup milk
Small sauce pan
Glass bowl
Spatula

Preheat your oven to 350 F and butter your spring form pan.  Next, break up your chocolate into chunks and melt it and the milk in a double boiler. When the mixture is smooth, remove from the heat and let cool for 5 min.

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Pinch salt
1 ½  cups butter, must be at room temperature
6 large egg yolks
Mixing bowl
Spring form pan (I use a large pan to ensure the cake with be thin because it’s so rich)
Baking pan

Once your chocolate has cooled, pour it into a mixing bowl.  On low, mix your chocolate and alternate tablespoons of butter and egg yolk until thoroughly mixed.  Make sure your batter is completely smooth, the last thing you want is to bite into a tiny blob of butter during dessert!

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Butter your spring form so your cake won’t stick.  Next, pour your mixture into the prepared spring form and bake for 25 minutes until glossy but still jiggly.  Make sure to place your spring form on a baking sheet to prevent the oil from dripping onto the oven elements.  Your cake won’t look quite done but don’t worry, it will set in the fridge.  Let cool for several hours at room temperature then chill overnight.

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Small carton of whipping cream
1 tsp vanilla extract

Add your vanilla to your whipping and beat on high speed until stiff peaks form.  Do not over beat your cream or you’ll end up with a buttery substance instead of delicious fresh whipped cream.

Delicious!

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Moist and chewy macaroons, two ways

You may have seen coconut macaroons in the grocery store: they are the round coconut cookies often dipped in milk chocolate, and served around Easter and Pesach.  They tend to be hard, dry, and have only a hint of coconut flavour; my cookies are nothing like those.  These cookies, my mother’s recipe, are pillows of soft coconut with honey or cocoa powder folded in for extra flavour.  They are a little sweet, and have just enough chew to have an interesting texture.  Make sure not to purchase sweetened coconut, or these will be overly sweet and not as tasty.  These cookies are a staple in my Pesach baking but could certainly be made for any coconut lover year round!

3 egg whites, room temperature (this will help the eggs whip up fluffier)
Salt
3/4 c sugar
1 1/2 tbsp honey
2 1/2 c coarse unsweetened coconut
3 tbsp potato starch
Baking pan
Stand mixer

Beat egg whites with a pinch of salt until soft peaks form.

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Gradually beat the sugar and honey into your egg whites until stiff shiny peaks form.

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Gently fold in your coconut and potato starch until completely combined.

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Drop by the tablespoon onto lined baking sheets.  The Silpat mat works wonderfully but if you don’t have one, simply dust your parchment paper with potato starch.  Ideally, use a cookie scoop because this dough can be incredibly sticky and hard to deal with.

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1 c sugar
1/3 c cocoa
3 egg whites
Salt
2 cups unsweetened coarse coconut
1 tsp vanilla
Baking pan
Stand mixer

Stir the sugar with the cocoa until smooth and set aside.  Next, beat your egg whites and salt as above.  On a low speed, gradually fold in sugar and cocoa mix 1 tablespoon at a time.

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Finally, gently fold in your coconut and finally the vanilla extract.  Drop by the tablespoon onto lined baking sheets and bake at 325 F for 15-18 minutes or until firm (the regular macaroons will also be lightly browned).

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Enjoy!

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