Gastronomy and Life's Other Pleasures

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Posts tagged dinner

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Weeknight supper: cocoa sloppy joes
In continuing to cook my way through Jennifer Bain’s Toronto Star Cookbook, I have realized that I love this cookbook! The recipes are simple but also interesting and totally, lip-smackingly delicious.
In honour of Sloppy Joe Day on March 18, I took a chance on Jennifer’s cocoa sloppy joes, which, I have to admit, I wasn’t sure about. Cocoa in beef? But it was delicious! The meat was moist and the flavours were unique.
Cocoa sloppy joes - from the Toronto Star Cookbook
Serves 4
Ingredients - 1 lb extra lean ground beef
- 1/2 cup ketchup
- 1 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1 tbsp chili powder
- 1 tbsp yellow mustard
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp freshly cracked pepper
- 1 small yellow onion, chopped
- 4 buns of your choice
DIrections
In a small bowl, mix together the ketchup, cocoa powder, chili powder, mustard, salt and pepper.  Set aside.
Heat a medium non-stick frying pan over medium-high heat, and cook onion and ground beef until beef is browned and cooked through, about 10 minutes. Drain off any fat if necessary.
Reduce the heat to low and stir the ketchup mixture into the beef mixture, and let cook, stirring often, for 5 to 10 minutes.
Toast the buns lightly and divide the meat evenly among the buns.  We added some and sliced pickles to our buns for extra texture and flavour. Enjoy!

Weeknight supper: cocoa sloppy joes

In continuing to cook my way through Jennifer Bain’s Toronto Star Cookbook, I have realized that I love this cookbook! The recipes are simple but also interesting and totally, lip-smackingly delicious.

In honour of Sloppy Joe Day on March 18, I took a chance on Jennifer’s cocoa sloppy joes, which, I have to admit, I wasn’t sure about. Cocoa in beef? But it was delicious! The meat was moist and the flavours were unique.

Cocoa sloppy joes - from the Toronto Star Cookbook

Serves 4

Ingredients
- 1 lb extra lean ground beef

- 1/2 cup ketchup

- 1 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder

- 1 tbsp chili powder

- 1 tbsp yellow mustard

- 1/2 tsp salt

- 1/2 tsp freshly cracked pepper

- 1 small yellow onion, chopped

- 4 buns of your choice

DIrections

In a small bowl, mix together the ketchup, cocoa powder, chili powder, mustard, salt and pepper.  Set aside.

Heat a medium non-stick frying pan over medium-high heat, and cook onion and ground beef until beef is browned and cooked through, about 10 minutes. Drain off any fat if necessary.

Reduce the heat to low and stir the ketchup mixture into the beef mixture, and let cook, stirring often, for 5 to 10 minutes.

Toast the buns lightly and divide the meat evenly among the buns.  We added some and sliced pickles to our buns for extra texture and flavour. Enjoy!

Filed under food beef recipe cocoa dinner supper Jennifer Bain sloppy joes sandwich hot sandwich

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Prep and bake: sausage lasagna
As I get older, I’m learning that prepping makes all the difference. Doing your prep work in the kitchen saves time, money and frustration. It helps to make weeknight dinners get on the table faster and without any stress.
I feel this way about lasagna: why not make it a head of time and bake it the night you’re going to eat it? It had been quite some time since I had made a lasagna, so, under my new initiative to prep, I made this on a Sunday but wrapped it up and put it in the fridge to bake off the next night.
The result was fantastic! It is delicious, cheesy, meaty lasagna. So hearty and belly warming!  I loved the single layer of ricotta - it was so fluffy and light.  I will be making this again!  The recipe comes from the lovely and talented Rachel of the Baked by Rachel blog.  Her recipes are always fantastic!
Sausage lasagna
Adapted from Baked by Rachel (click on my photo to link to her recipe).
Ingredients
- 1/2 lb extra lean ground beef
- 2 hot Italian sausages, casings removed
- 1 1/2 tsp ground black pepper, divided
- further salt and pepper to taste wherever you like
- 3/4 tsp red pepper flakes, optional
- 2 tsp dried Italian herbs
- 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
- 1 red bell pepper, chopped (any colour would work)
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 14oz petite diced tomatoes, undrained (I used garlic and olive oil flavoured tomatoes)
- 1 720 ml jar passata (strained tomatoes - or use a tomato sauce of your choosing)
- 12-15 lasagna noodles (not oven ready)
- 15oz ricotta cheese
- 1 egg
- 1/3 cup Parmesan cheese
- 4 cups mozzarella cheese, shredded
Directions
Prepare your lasagna noodles.  You can boil them, but because my lasagna sat in the fridge for 24 hours before baking, all I did was simply soak my noodles in boiling water for about 20 minutes.  It is up to you how you choose to do this. I think oven ready noodles might work here but I have not tried it with them so I cannot vouch for it.
Heat a frying pan over medium heat.  Remove the sausages from their casing and break up in the frying pan.  Add the ground beef and cook until no longer raw.  Add onions, bell pepper and garlic and cook until softened, a few minutes.  Add salt and pepper to taste, Italian herbs and red pepper flakes.  Remove from heat and set aside.
In a separate bowl, combine ricotta, egg, Parmesan cheese and 1/2 tsp of pepper.  Stir well to combine.
Now you can start putting together your lasagna! Start by taking a 9X13 baking dish and giving it a one over with cooking spray.  Now, put 1 cup of the passata in the bottom the dish.  Top with a layer of lasagna noodles (however many will fit - feel free to break some to fit in the ends).  Top this with all of the ricotta mixture, and then another layer of noodles.  Next, add half the meat mixture, then more noodles. Top this with half of the mozzarella cheese and then the remaining meat mixture.  Add a final layer of noodles, the rest of the passata sauce (it will be saucy! But it sinks down throughout the dish) and the rest of the mozzarella cheese.
You can bake this at 375° for 30 minutes, or, let it cool (if necessary) and cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until you want to cook it. To cook from being refrigerated, remove lasagna from the fridge a half hour before cooking, and preheat oven to 400°.  Bake for 30-40 minutes, or until warmed through and the top is bubbling and slightly browned.  I would recommend placing the baking dish on a baking sheet to catch any sauce that bubbles over.
Try to wait about 10 minutes after removing it from the oven before serving to let it rest.  Serve with salad, bread and top with more Parmesan and red pepper flakes if desired!

Prep and bake: sausage lasagna

As I get older, I’m learning that prepping makes all the difference. Doing your prep work in the kitchen saves time, money and frustration. It helps to make weeknight dinners get on the table faster and without any stress.

I feel this way about lasagna: why not make it a head of time and bake it the night you’re going to eat it? It had been quite some time since I had made a lasagna, so, under my new initiative to prep, I made this on a Sunday but wrapped it up and put it in the fridge to bake off the next night.

The result was fantastic! It is delicious, cheesy, meaty lasagna. So hearty and belly warming!  I loved the single layer of ricotta - it was so fluffy and light.  I will be making this again!  The recipe comes from the lovely and talented Rachel of the Baked by Rachel blog.  Her recipes are always fantastic!

Sausage lasagna

Adapted from Baked by Rachel (click on my photo to link to her recipe).

Ingredients

- 1/2 lb extra lean ground beef

- 2 hot Italian sausages, casings removed

- 1 1/2 tsp ground black pepper, divided

- further salt and pepper to taste wherever you like

- 3/4 tsp red pepper flakes, optional

- 2 tsp dried Italian herbs

- 1 medium yellow onion, chopped

- 1 red bell pepper, chopped (any colour would work)

- 4 cloves garlic, minced

- 14oz petite diced tomatoes, undrained (I used garlic and olive oil flavoured tomatoes)

- 1 720 ml jar passata (strained tomatoes - or use a tomato sauce of your choosing)

- 12-15 lasagna noodles (not oven ready)

- 15oz ricotta cheese

- 1 egg

- 1/3 cup Parmesan cheese

- 4 cups mozzarella cheese, shredded

Directions

Prepare your lasagna noodles.  You can boil them, but because my lasagna sat in the fridge for 24 hours before baking, all I did was simply soak my noodles in boiling water for about 20 minutes.  It is up to you how you choose to do this. I think oven ready noodles might work here but I have not tried it with them so I cannot vouch for it.

Heat a frying pan over medium heat.  Remove the sausages from their casing and break up in the frying pan.  Add the ground beef and cook until no longer raw.  Add onions, bell pepper and garlic and cook until softened, a few minutes.  Add salt and pepper to taste, Italian herbs and red pepper flakes.  Remove from heat and set aside.

In a separate bowl, combine ricotta, egg, Parmesan cheese and 1/2 tsp of pepper.  Stir well to combine.

Now you can start putting together your lasagna! Start by taking a 9X13 baking dish and giving it a one over with cooking spray.  Now, put 1 cup of the passata in the bottom the dish.  Top with a layer of lasagna noodles (however many will fit - feel free to break some to fit in the ends).  Top this with all of the ricotta mixture, and then another layer of noodles.  Next, add half the meat mixture, then more noodles. Top this with half of the mozzarella cheese and then the remaining meat mixture.  Add a final layer of noodles, the rest of the passata sauce (it will be saucy! But it sinks down throughout the dish) and the rest of the mozzarella cheese.

You can bake this at 375° for 30 minutes, or, let it cool (if necessary) and cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until you want to cook it. To cook from being refrigerated, remove lasagna from the fridge a half hour before cooking, and preheat oven to 400°.  Bake for 30-40 minutes, or until warmed through and the top is bubbling and slightly browned.  I would recommend placing the baking dish on a baking sheet to catch any sauce that bubbles over.

Try to wait about 10 minutes after removing it from the oven before serving to let it rest.  Serve with salad, bread and top with more Parmesan and red pepper flakes if desired!

Filed under food dinner supper make ahead makeahead lasagna sausage meat ground beef beef tomato mozzarella pasta Parmesan vegetables onion bell pepper Italian herbs herbs Italian blog recipe Baked by Rachel adapted

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Weeknight dinner: pork chop casserole
This particular dinner was something of a stretch for me: we aren’t much into casseroles around my house, but with some boneless pork chops taking up space in the freezer and the fact that it was too damn cold outside to bbq, I needed a solution, and this casserole was it!
I came across this recipe on the funny and lovely Bev Cooks blog and deemed it perfect for my pork chops.  It is very much a meal made up of pantry staples as the other ingredients are simply red new potatoes, a can of cream of mushroom soup, sliced onion and cheddar cheese. Click on my photo above to link to her recipe: I followed her directions exactly.
To my surprise, both the husband and I really liked this! It is very much a basic “meat and potatoes” kind of meal, but sometimes it is nice to have something simple.  We ate ours with a side of steamed green beans to balance the meal veg-wise.  I would make this again, but perhaps with thin chicken breasts (cutlets).  
A couple of recipe pointers - be sure that all of your ingredients (including the top layer of potatoes) are covered in the milk/soup mixture in order to cook properly and thoroughly.  No one likes undercooked potatoes!  
Enjoy!

Weeknight dinner: pork chop casserole

This particular dinner was something of a stretch for me: we aren’t much into casseroles around my house, but with some boneless pork chops taking up space in the freezer and the fact that it was too damn cold outside to bbq, I needed a solution, and this casserole was it!

I came across this recipe on the funny and lovely Bev Cooks blog and deemed it perfect for my pork chops.  It is very much a meal made up of pantry staples as the other ingredients are simply red new potatoes, a can of cream of mushroom soup, sliced onion and cheddar cheese. Click on my photo above to link to her recipe: I followed her directions exactly.

To my surprise, both the husband and I really liked this! It is very much a basic “meat and potatoes” kind of meal, but sometimes it is nice to have something simple.  We ate ours with a side of steamed green beans to balance the meal veg-wise.  I would make this again, but perhaps with thin chicken breasts (cutlets).  

A couple of recipe pointers - be sure that all of your ingredients (including the top layer of potatoes) are covered in the milk/soup mixture in order to cook properly and thoroughly.  No one likes undercooked potatoes!  

Enjoy!

Filed under food dinner supper recipe blog Bev Cooks casserole pork pork chop potato onion soup cream of mushroom soup mushroom cheese cheddar easy pantry pantry staples weeknight week night quick

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Weekend project: slow cooker baked beans (round 2)
I loved making baked beans so much the first time (see here) that I have already made my second batch!  I tried a different recipe this time around - this batch has no booze and I soaked the dried beans overnight before putting them in the slow cooker.  Why eat baked beans from a can when you can make your own?
I was very pleased with this batch of baked beans.  They were so tender with a hint of sweet and smoke - perfection to me. This recipe is a keeper!  Click on my photo to link to the original recipe or see my adaptation below.
Slow cooker baked beans - serves 8-10 as a side dish
Slightly adapted from chow.com
Ingredients
- 1 pound dried navy beans (about 2 1/2 cups)
- 8 ounces thick-cut bacon slices (about 6 slices), small dice
- 1 medium yellow onion, small dice
- 2 1/2 cups water, plus more for soaking the beans
- 1/2 cup ketchup
- 1/4 cup dark molasses, also known as robust (not blackstrap)
- 1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard (I used grainy Dijon)
- 1 tablespoon salt, plus more as needed
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more as needed
Directions
Place the beans in a large bowl or stock pot and pick through them, discarding any broken beans or stones. Cover the beans with at least 3 inches of cold water. Allow to soak uncovered at room temperature for at least 8 hours or overnight. Drain in a colander. Place the beans, bacon, and onion in the slow cooker.
Whisk the remaining measured ingredients in a bowl until combined. Pour into the slow cooker and stir with the beans, bacon and onions until thoroughly combined. Cover and cook on low heat until the beans are tender and the liquid thickens slightly (it will thicken more as it cools), about 9 hours (test them at 8 hours to see if they are tender to your liking.
These freeze really well; I like to freeze them in batches for the husband and I to enjoy on the weekends for breakfast.

Weekend project: slow cooker baked beans (round 2)

I loved making baked beans so much the first time (see here) that I have already made my second batch!  I tried a different recipe this time around - this batch has no booze and I soaked the dried beans overnight before putting them in the slow cooker.  Why eat baked beans from a can when you can make your own?

I was very pleased with this batch of baked beans.  They were so tender with a hint of sweet and smoke - perfection to me. This recipe is a keeper!  Click on my photo to link to the original recipe or see my adaptation below.

Slow cooker baked beans - serves 8-10 as a side dish

Slightly adapted from chow.com

Ingredients

- 1 pound dried navy beans (about 2 1/2 cups)

- 8 ounces thick-cut bacon slices (about 6 slices), small dice

- 1 medium yellow onion, small dice

- 2 1/2 cups water, plus more for soaking the beans

- 1/2 cup ketchup

- 1/4 cup dark molasses, also known as robust (not blackstrap)

- 1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar

- 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard (I used grainy Dijon)

- 1 tablespoon salt, plus more as needed

- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more as needed

Directions

Place the beans in a large bowl or stock pot and pick through them, discarding any broken beans or stones. Cover the beans with at least 3 inches of cold water. Allow to soak uncovered at room temperature for at least 8 hours or overnight. Drain in a colander. Place the beans, bacon, and onion in the slow cooker.

Whisk the remaining measured ingredients in a bowl until combined. Pour into the slow cooker and stir with the beans, bacon and onions until thoroughly combined. Cover and cook on low heat until the beans are tender and the liquid thickens slightly (it will thicken more as it cools), about 9 hours (test them at 8 hours to see if they are tender to your liking.

These freeze really well; I like to freeze them in batches for the husband and I to enjoy on the weekends for breakfast.

Filed under food slow cooker crockpot beans baked beans recipe chow chow.com molasses brown sugar vinegar Dijon bacon slow food side dish breakfast brunch dinner

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Weeknight supper: honey dijon baked salmon with walnuts
One of the quickest weeknight dinners that I know how to make is baked salmon.  Pair it with a salad, and voila: dinner is ready!  The other great thing about salmon is that it can be seasoned with so many different flavours to keep your taste buds interested.  
One recent weeknight (while the husband was filling his craving for a pizza) I decided to top my salmon with a mixture of honey Dijon mustard, honey, salt and pepper, and then top it with chopped walnuts.  I baked it at 425° for about 15 minutes (bake for more or less time depending on how well done you prefer your salmon - I don’t mind if mine is just slightly underdone in the middle) and served it with a side of Farm Boy’s freshly prepared Mediterranean orzo salad.  This is definitely one of my new favourite ways to season my salmon!  What’s yours?

Weeknight supper: honey dijon baked salmon with walnuts

One of the quickest weeknight dinners that I know how to make is baked salmon.  Pair it with a salad, and voila: dinner is ready!  The other great thing about salmon is that it can be seasoned with so many different flavours to keep your taste buds interested.  

One recent weeknight (while the husband was filling his craving for a pizza) I decided to top my salmon with a mixture of honey Dijon mustard, honey, salt and pepper, and then top it with chopped walnuts.  I baked it at 425° for about 15 minutes (bake for more or less time depending on how well done you prefer your salmon - I don’t mind if mine is just slightly underdone in the middle) and served it with a side of Farm Boy’s freshly prepared Mediterranean orzo salad.  This is definitely one of my new favourite ways to season my salmon!  What’s yours?

Filed under food dinner supper salmon baked walnuts honey dijon mustard orzo salad mediterranean Farm Boy artichoke recipe healthy quick

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Sunday supper: slow cooker beef stroganoff
I came across this recipe for slow cooker beef stroganoff a while back on the Serious Eats website.  I was intrigued by the idea of making stroganoff in the slow cooker: it seemed easy and I like the idea of cooking something I’ve made before in a different way.
This recipe has all the regular components of stroganoff, except that the beef is slow cooked instead of being pan fried.  However, the original recipe doesn’t contain mushrooms, and stroganoff just isn’t the same without mushrooms to me, so I added them in while making the sauce during the last stage.  I fried them first and then added them to the sauce that I made using the juices from the slow cooker.
This is definitely an interesting take on stroganoff: the beef ends up being like pulled beef depending on how you break it down after being in the slow cooker, which is a very good thing. It is incredibly tender and juicy.  The sauce turned out pretty good too, and I think adding the mushrooms makes it even better!  Click on my photo above to link to the original recipe.  I made it exactly as described except that I added fried mushrooms to the sauce right before serving and I used red wine instead of dry sherry. As well, you might want to play around the sauce recipe to suit your personal taste: perhaps a bit more wine/sherry for more of a zing.

Sunday supper: slow cooker beef stroganoff

I came across this recipe for slow cooker beef stroganoff a while back on the Serious Eats website.  I was intrigued by the idea of making stroganoff in the slow cooker: it seemed easy and I like the idea of cooking something I’ve made before in a different way.

This recipe has all the regular components of stroganoff, except that the beef is slow cooked instead of being pan fried.  However, the original recipe doesn’t contain mushrooms, and stroganoff just isn’t the same without mushrooms to me, so I added them in while making the sauce during the last stage.  I fried them first and then added them to the sauce that I made using the juices from the slow cooker.

This is definitely an interesting take on stroganoff: the beef ends up being like pulled beef depending on how you break it down after being in the slow cooker, which is a very good thing. It is incredibly tender and juicy.  The sauce turned out pretty good too, and I think adding the mushrooms makes it even better!  Click on my photo above to link to the original recipe.  I made it exactly as described except that I added fried mushrooms to the sauce right before serving and I used red wine instead of dry sherry. As well, you might want to play around the sauce recipe to suit your personal taste: perhaps a bit more wine/sherry for more of a zing.

Filed under food dinner supper recipe beef beef stroganoff mushrooms sauce slow cooker crockpot Serious Eats egg noodles noodles sour cream red wine

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Did anyone else in eastern Ontario/Ottawa give in to firing up your BBQ last night? With the temperature finally rising just above freezing, the husband and I couldn’t resist breaking out our BBQ. 

We didn’t have any fresh meat on hand, so instead we grilled up a whole bunch of veggies (potatoes, broccoli, bell peppers and mushrooms) and served them over a bed of brown rice with some feta cheese. Yum! You just can’t beat that grilled flavour!

Did anyone else in eastern Ontario/Ottawa give in to firing up your BBQ last night? With the temperature finally rising just above freezing, the husband and I couldn’t resist breaking out our BBQ.

We didn’t have any fresh meat on hand, so instead we grilled up a whole bunch of veggies (potatoes, broccoli, bell peppers and mushrooms) and served them over a bed of brown rice with some feta cheese. Yum! You just can’t beat that grilled flavour!

Filed under food dinner vegetarian bbq grilled veggies Ottawa potato broccoli mushrooms bell pepper supper

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Dinner at Devlin’s Country Bistro

As one of my parent’s favourite local dining spots, it is funny to me that I have really only been to Devlin’s one other time in recent history, when my parents took the husband and I out for dinner to celebrate our engagement (see here). Not living close to my family means that I miss out on some special occasions, and even those less formal occasions like a relaxing dinner out on a Friday night to a lovely spot like Devlin’s.

So when the husband and I went to visit my family one recent weekend (to celebrate my niece’s first birthday - see her amazing cake here), my parents asked if they could take us out to Devlin’s for a relaxing dinner, and to share some of their huge array of appetizers.

After spending some time settling into the cozy bar side of the restaurant and perusing their recently updated menu, we decided on a whole bunch of items to share, including (from top to bottom of my photos): their pasta special of the night, made into an appetizer-sized portion, which was seafood linguine with squid ink pasta; lamb lollipops with roasted garlic jus; another nightly special, the tuna tartare with in-house made chips for serving; Asian fried calamari; a personal pan pizza with anchovy, sundried tomato and basil; and turkey sliders done three ways.  The food was, as demonstrated on our previous visit, fantastic, and it was so fun to be able to taste and share so many different items.  I think my favourite dish of the night had to be the lamb lollipops: I’ve heard my parents talk about these for so long, I had been dying to try them, so it was delightful to finally sink my teeth into something so rich and meaty!

We all couldn’t resist sharing a dessert, and we managed to agree on the white mousse cake with fresh berries.  It was the perfect way for all of us to end our dinner with a few bites of light and fluffy sweetness!

Filed under food dinner supper restaurant Devlin's Devlin's Country Bistro Brantford Mt. Pleasant Ontario appetizers sliders pizza lamb calamari tuna tartare pasta

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Weekend cooking project: tomato stew with farro and roasted eggplant
I am a big planner.  I like to know when things are going to happen down to specific dates, times, locations etc. I am habitual.  And all of this applies to how I feel about my weekday work lunches!
As someone who brown-bags it for lunch most days, I like to prepare so that I’m not scrambling every morning to gather up something that is healthy and that I actually want to eat each and every day.  I find that, with a little planning and preparation, a brown-bag lunch can be just as exciting as going out!
One of my favourite ways to make easy brown-bag lunches is to make my own frozen dinners of sorts. By making a big batch of stew and freezing it into individual portions, I make the ritual of preparing my work lunch each and every day easy and tasty.  It also allows me to try recipes that the husband wouldn’t be interested in, like stews such as this tomato stew with farro and roasted eggplant.
This stew is fantastic! If you’re looking for a hearty stew that is packed with veggies (and can be totally vegetarian if you like - I used chicken broth so mine is not vegetarian), this one will warm you up and fill your belly.  I love the unique mixture of flavours and textures in this stew, from the slight hint of cinnamon and the raisins to the luxurious sundried tomatoes. I came across this stew on the fabulous Honeycomb blog, and modified it slightly. Click on my photo above to link to Honeycomb’s original recipe.

Tomato stew with farro and roasted eggplant - serves 4 as a main (large servings)
(Adapted from Honeycomb)
Ingredients
- 1/2 cup farro, cooked (I used PC Italian farro)
- 1 can (796 ml/28 oz) low-sodium or no salt added diced tomatoes
- 1 eggplant (approx. 1lb), chopped into bite-sized pieces
- 1 onion, chopped/diced
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 can (540 ml/19 oz) low-sodium or no sodium chickpeas
- 1/2 lb carrots, quartered and chopped into small pieces
- 1/2 red bell pepper, diced
- 2 tbsp tomato paste
- 2 1/2 cups chicken broth
- 1/2 cup raisins
- 1/2 cup sundried tomatoes, chopped (use the ones packed in oil)
- 3/4 tsp cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp cracked black pepper
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 tsp sugar
Directions
1.Get your eggplant roasting! Preheat your oven to 450 degrees.  Chop eggplant into bite-sized pieces, toss with olive oil and roast for about 20 minutes.
2. Cook the farro according to your package’s directions.  Set aside.
3. In a large pot heated on medium, add a splash of olive oil.  Add onions, carrots and bell pepper.  Cook until just slightly tender and the onions are translucent, about 10 minutes.  Add garlic, cooked eggplant, cinnamon and tomato paste and cook for a minute.  Add canned tomatoes, using the liquid to scrape any burnt bits off the bottom of the pan.  Next add your chicken broth, chickpeas, sundried tomatoes, raisins and salt and pepper to taste.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for about 20 minutes or until carrots are tender.
4. Once the carrots are tender, add the 1 tsp of sugar and the cooked farro and stir.  Enjoy!

Weekend cooking project: tomato stew with farro and roasted eggplant

I am a big planner.  I like to know when things are going to happen down to specific dates, times, locations etc. I am habitual.  And all of this applies to how I feel about my weekday work lunches!

As someone who brown-bags it for lunch most days, I like to prepare so that I’m not scrambling every morning to gather up something that is healthy and that I actually want to eat each and every day.  I find that, with a little planning and preparation, a brown-bag lunch can be just as exciting as going out!

One of my favourite ways to make easy brown-bag lunches is to make my own frozen dinners of sorts. By making a big batch of stew and freezing it into individual portions, I make the ritual of preparing my work lunch each and every day easy and tasty.  It also allows me to try recipes that the husband wouldn’t be interested in, like stews such as this tomato stew with farro and roasted eggplant.

This stew is fantastic! If you’re looking for a hearty stew that is packed with veggies (and can be totally vegetarian if you like - I used chicken broth so mine is not vegetarian), this one will warm you up and fill your belly.  I love the unique mixture of flavours and textures in this stew, from the slight hint of cinnamon and the raisins to the luxurious sundried tomatoes. I came across this stew on the fabulous Honeycomb blog, and modified it slightly. Click on my photo above to link to Honeycomb’s original recipe.

Tomato stew with farro and roasted eggplant - serves 4 as a main (large servings)

(Adapted from Honeycomb)

Ingredients

- 1/2 cup farro, cooked (I used PC Italian farro)

- 1 can (796 ml/28 oz) low-sodium or no salt added diced tomatoes

- 1 eggplant (approx. 1lb), chopped into bite-sized pieces

- 1 onion, chopped/diced

- 1 clove garlic, minced

- 1 can (540 ml/19 oz) low-sodium or no sodium chickpeas

- 1/2 lb carrots, quartered and chopped into small pieces

- 1/2 red bell pepper, diced

- 2 tbsp tomato paste

- 2 1/2 cups chicken broth

- 1/2 cup raisins

- 1/2 cup sundried tomatoes, chopped (use the ones packed in oil)

- 3/4 tsp cinnamon

- 1/4 tsp cracked black pepper

- 1/2 tsp salt

- 1 tsp sugar

Directions

1.Get your eggplant roasting! Preheat your oven to 450 degrees.  Chop eggplant into bite-sized pieces, toss with olive oil and roast for about 20 minutes.

2. Cook the farro according to your package’s directions.  Set aside.

3. In a large pot heated on medium, add a splash of olive oil.  Add onions, carrots and bell pepper.  Cook until just slightly tender and the onions are translucent, about 10 minutes.  Add garlic, cooked eggplant, cinnamon and tomato paste and cook for a minute.  Add canned tomatoes, using the liquid to scrape any burnt bits off the bottom of the pan.  Next add your chicken broth, chickpeas, sundried tomatoes, raisins and salt and pepper to taste.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for about 20 minutes or until carrots are tender.

4. Once the carrots are tender, add the 1 tsp of sugar and the cooked farro and stir.  Enjoy!

Filed under food supper dinner recipe blog Honeycomb food tomato farro eggplant chickpeas President's Choice Blue Menu Italian farro vegetables hearty stew

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Dinner at El Camino

It took me a long time to finally get my butt (and my appetite!) to El Camino to try the tacos that everyone has been raving about. I was sorry I waited so long!

El Camino is brought to you by Chef Matthew Carmichael, someone who has been making waves in the Ottawa restaurant scene for many years now.  I first tasted his delicious talents at Sidedoor (see here), so I already knew I’d be a fan of El Camino. 

I managed to only snap a photo of the plate of tacos I shared with some friends, but I also tried a few other items at El Camino.  I started off the night with one of their cocktails: the pina colada.  But this wasn’t your ordinary blender version, it was a silky, modern take on the classic drink with coconut crème, coconut water, agave nectar, lemon, pineapple juice and 2 oz cachaça rum.  Garnished with a hunk of coconut, this was one of the best pina coladas I’ve ever had. But it didn’t come cheap at $15!

Before digging into the main event, the tacos, I tried a few of El Camino’s other menu items, including their in-house salsa, which was incredibly smoky and flavourful and comes served with tortilla chips. I also tried the tuna tartare crispy taco with queso and iceberg lettuce, which was a beautifully presented dish jam packed with fresh tuna. I think it was my favourite of the night!  Last but not least, I tried three different kinds of tacos: the ox tongue, the pork, and the crispy fish. All three were pretty mind-blowing, but I have to say that the ox tongue was a new experience for me.  It was very smoky and rich, and I loved every bite! 

All in all, El Camino was a fantastic experience. Another great spot in Ottawa for excellent food and ambiance!

Filed under food dinner supper Ottawa restaurant El Camino tacos soft taco pork ox tongue beef fish fresh delicious tuna salsa review Matthew Carmichael Chef

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Sunday supper: spicy chunky beef chilli
I adore chili: it is one of my favourite hearty wintertime meals. It is a blast to experiment in the kitchen with different chili recipes as they can each be so different in terms of flavours yet very much the same in terms of components.
During a recent trip to Bulk Barn, I noticed that they had chipotle powder in the spice section, so I got some to try. I thought it would be a delicious new ingredient to try in my classic chili recipe.  I was right - but it was spicy! I have used canned chipotle peppers in adobo sauce before, and I knew to play it safe and that a little goes a long way. But I was not so safe when adding the chipotle powder to my chili, and it packed a spicy punch!  But along with the spicy kick comes a rich, smoky flavour that I love, so this was a resounding success.  We also had a box of cornbread mix on hand so I made cornbread muffins to accompany our chili - a classic accompaniment!
Spicy chunky beef chili (my own recipe)
Ingredients
- 1 to 1 1/2 lb extra lean ground beef
- 1 bell pepper (colour of your choice), seeded and chopped
- 1 8 oz package mushrooms, cleaned and chopped or sliced
- 1 yellow onion, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/2 cup frozen corn
- 1/4-1/2 cup red wine
- 1 28 oz (796 ml) can diced tomatoes (or pureed tomatoes)
- 1 19 oz (540 ml) can sodium free black beans, drained and rinsed
- 1 19 oz (540 ml) can sodium free red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
Spice Mixture
- 1 tbsp chipotle powder
- 2 tbsp chilli powder
- 1 tbsp smoked paprika
- 1 tbsp dried oregano
- salt and pepper to taste
- garlic powder to taste
Directions
Make the spice mixture - mix all of the spices in a bowl and set aside.
Heat a large pot over medium-high heat.  Add ground beef and cook until no longer pink.  Add onion, bell pepper and mushrooms and cook until softened.  
Add the garlic and the spice mixture and cook for about 30 seconds. Add the red wine (you can use this at any point during the cooking process to deglaze the pain if the meat and veggies start to stick), the tomatoes, the corn and all the beans.  Simmer for 20 to 30 minutes.
Serve topped with shredded cheddar cheese, sour cream, cilantro, avocado and your other favourite chili toppings.

Sunday supper: spicy chunky beef chilli

I adore chili: it is one of my favourite hearty wintertime meals. It is a blast to experiment in the kitchen with different chili recipes as they can each be so different in terms of flavours yet very much the same in terms of components.

During a recent trip to Bulk Barn, I noticed that they had chipotle powder in the spice section, so I got some to try. I thought it would be a delicious new ingredient to try in my classic chili recipe.  I was right - but it was spicy! I have used canned chipotle peppers in adobo sauce before, and I knew to play it safe and that a little goes a long way. But I was not so safe when adding the chipotle powder to my chili, and it packed a spicy punch!  But along with the spicy kick comes a rich, smoky flavour that I love, so this was a resounding success.  We also had a box of cornbread mix on hand so I made cornbread muffins to accompany our chili - a classic accompaniment!

Spicy chunky beef chili (my own recipe)

Ingredients

- 1 to 1 1/2 lb extra lean ground beef

- 1 bell pepper (colour of your choice), seeded and chopped

- 1 8 oz package mushrooms, cleaned and chopped or sliced

- 1 yellow onion, chopped

- 2 cloves garlic, minced

- 1/2 cup frozen corn

- 1/4-1/2 cup red wine

- 1 28 oz (796 ml) can diced tomatoes (or pureed tomatoes)

- 1 19 oz (540 ml) can sodium free black beans, drained and rinsed

- 1 19 oz (540 ml) can sodium free red kidney beans, drained and rinsed

Spice Mixture

- 1 tbsp chipotle powder

- 2 tbsp chilli powder

- 1 tbsp smoked paprika

- 1 tbsp dried oregano

- salt and pepper to taste

- garlic powder to taste

Directions

Make the spice mixture - mix all of the spices in a bowl and set aside.

Heat a large pot over medium-high heat.  Add ground beef and cook until no longer pink.  Add onion, bell pepper and mushrooms and cook until softened.  

Add the garlic and the spice mixture and cook for about 30 seconds. Add the red wine (you can use this at any point during the cooking process to deglaze the pain if the meat and veggies start to stick), the tomatoes, the corn and all the beans.  Simmer for 20 to 30 minutes.

Serve topped with shredded cheddar cheese, sour cream, cilantro, avocado and your other favourite chili toppings.

Filed under food dinner supper chili chilli beef ground beef tomato beans black beans kidney beans corn chipotle recipe hearty meat chunky red wine

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Weeknight supper: pasta bake
I don’t really have a recipe for this pasta: I tweak it a little bit each time that I make it so it always turns out a little bit differently.  Basically, I gather whatever vegetables I have on hand (usually onions, bell pepper, mushrooms and broccoli) and meat (usually pork sausage or ground beef), and cook them together, throw in some passata (strained tomatoes), some dried herbs and other seasonings (garlic and red wine).  When that has all come together, I toss it with some cooked pasta, then pour into a casserole dish.  I top the whole thing with some cheese and bake it off until good and bubbly.  This is comfort food at its best!

Weeknight supper: pasta bake

I don’t really have a recipe for this pasta: I tweak it a little bit each time that I make it so it always turns out a little bit differently.  Basically, I gather whatever vegetables I have on hand (usually onions, bell pepper, mushrooms and broccoli) and meat (usually pork sausage or ground beef), and cook them together, throw in some passata (strained tomatoes), some dried herbs and other seasonings (garlic and red wine).  When that has all come together, I toss it with some cooked pasta, then pour into a casserole dish.  I top the whole thing with some cheese and bake it off until good and bubbly.  This is comfort food at its best!

Filed under food dinner supper pasta bake rigatoni tomato broccoli cheese sausage pork

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Grand opening of Panera Bread in Ottawa!

The husband and I visited Panera Bread last night for it’s grand opening in Ottawa.  This is the very first location in our city, so we were very excited to see how it compared to the U.S. locations that we have visited over the years.

When we arrived, the line up was almost out the door! But the restaurant itself seemed less busy; most of the tables were unoccupied.  I think most people were taking their food to go.

Our wait wasn’t too long, and we didn’t mind since we were just so happy to not have to drive over 2 hours to our nearest location.  The husband ordered his tried and true favourite Panera meal, the bacon turkey bravo sandwich with the mac and cheese for his side. I opted to try two items that I have never tried, the Napa almond chicken salad sandwich and one of their brand new salads, the Mediterranean shrimp couscous salad.  Both were delightful! The salad was incredibly fresh, with a mixture of spinach and romaine, and topped with lemon balsamic dressing, Panera’s “signature couscous blend,” sundried tomatoes, feta, olives and shrimp.  I would order both again in a hearbeat!

We talked with a few of the employees both while waiting in line and while dining, and they explained that Panera is taking a new approach in their restaurants in terms of how the food is delivered.  If you’re familiar with Panera’s current operating standard, you will know that, as the customer, you place your order at the cash, and you’re given a buzzer that advises you when you’re food is ready for pick up at the pick up counter.  Panera’s new model (which they told us that they would soon be rolling out in their U.S. and all other restaurants) is that, after the customer orders, they are still given a buzzer and can go and sit down at a table (if dining in), and the food will be delivered by an employee right to your table.  We were told that Panera feels this is what the customer wants and it will provide a more enjoyable experience.  It also allows them to make a few subtle changes to the way they serve their food, such as serving the sandwiches on real porcelain/ceramic plates instead of the lightweight melamine plates.

We were pleased with the service: our food came very quickly and there was no confusion or mix-ups with our order. We are both looking forward to enjoying everything Panera has to offer, now close to home!

Filed under food restaurant Ottawa Panera Bread grand opening dinner lunch sandwich salad napa almond chicken salad mediterranean shrimp couscous salad shrimp couscous

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Weekend project: slow cooker ribs

I have achieved yet another first with my slow cooker: ribs! This is something that I have wanted to cook for a long time, but had not worked up the courage to do so. In fact, it took a push from the husband while at the grocery store for me to do it!

We were at our favourite grocery store, Farm Boy, doing our usual weekend grocery trip when the husband noticed that their pork back ribs were on sale.  So we threw a couple of good sized packs in our cart and off we went!

We looked at a whole bunch of recipes online and ended up basically blending together quite a few recipes.  Removing the silver skin (a thin layer of skin on the bone side of the ribs) was an interesting first time experience for me, but it came off quite easily. I’d recommend Googling this technique if you are not familiar with it as it is an important step in the preparation of ribs.  We were very pleased with the result! The meat was fall-off-the-bone tender, and the seasonings were super delicious.  We were quite proud for our first attempt!

Slow cooker bbq ribs (serves 2-4 with a side dish)

Ingredients

- 3 to 4 lbs pork back ribs (silver skin layer removed)

- 1 onion, chopped

- 1/2 bottle of beer (we used Bud Light Lime)

- 1 cup of your favourite bbq sauce (I like a smoky sauce)

For the dry rub

- 1 tbsp chilli powder

- 1 tbsp smoked paprika

- 1 tbsp garlic powder

- 1 tbsp dried oregano

- 1 tbsp freshly cracked pepper

- 1 tsp salt

Directions

Mix the spices for the dry rub together in a bowl.  Using your hands, massage the spice rub into the ribs. You can do this either right before you cook the ribs or the night before.

Pour the beer and the onions into the bottom of the slow cooker. Place the ribs in the slow cooker standing upright, with the meaty side facing out.  

Cook on low for about 6 hours.  At this point, using a spoon or a basting brush, slather the ribs with the bbq sauce (if they won’t stand upright anymore, that’s ok, they can be laid down).  Cook for another hour or two to let the flavours of the sauce soak in, and the meat is falling off the bone.

Filed under food dinner supper ribs pork pork back ribs meat slow cooker bbq bbq sauce sauce

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Weeknight supper: honey Dijon salmon with quinoa
It was one of those nights where the husband was craving a pizza and I was not, so I whipped up this delicious dinner for myself.  
I constantly crave salmon. The flavour, the texture - everything about it is just so tasty.  I topped my salmon fillet with a mixture of grainy Dijon mustard, honey and lemon juice, and baked it in the oven.  
For the quinoa, this is one of my oldest and most favourite quinoa recipes, which has green onion and dried cranberries in it.  It is similar to the recipe I posted here.  I basically make different variations of the same quinoa salad depending on what I have in my fridge and pantry. Basically, this is my most perfect meal!

Weeknight supper: honey Dijon salmon with quinoa

It was one of those nights where the husband was craving a pizza and I was not, so I whipped up this delicious dinner for myself.  

I constantly crave salmon. The flavour, the texture - everything about it is just so tasty.  I topped my salmon fillet with a mixture of grainy Dijon mustard, honey and lemon juice, and baked it in the oven.  

For the quinoa, this is one of my oldest and most favourite quinoa recipes, which has green onion and dried cranberries in it.  It is similar to the recipe I posted here.  I basically make different variations of the same quinoa salad depending on what I have in my fridge and pantry. Basically, this is my most perfect meal!

Filed under food supper dinner salmon quinoa Dijon Dijon mustard honey quick easy lemon