Sunday, August 16, 2015

Turkey Apple Brie Sandwiches

These are probably my favourite sandwiches. I had it at a sandwich shop years ago and have been sticking with it ever since. These are the sandwiches we had at our picnic when we got engaged and many other times before and since then. These are a really balanced sandwich, I prefer a slightly more bloomy brie cheese, a goat or an aged would be perfect. I'm very of the belief that you shouldn't bother putting cheese on things unless you can really taste it. Its high in calories and fat which is totally worth it if you can taste it. Brie really adds a savory note to this sandwich that brings it to a meal without feeling hokey. It's great on a bagel, ciabatta, plain old bread or a even a wrap. I hope you love it like we do. To class it up a bit, it pairs wonderfully with a light rose or crisp white wine.

Turkey Apple Brie Sandwiches
Serves 2


4 Slices Bread, or 2 buns/bagels/wraps
Half an apple, thinly sliced - I like gala apples for this
1/2 cup sprouts - we use radish or alfalfa
4-6 slices turkey
6 thin slices of brie, enough to cover the sandwich
Miracle Whip (or Mayo) as desired


Spread miracle whip on two slices of the bread.

Lay turkey slices on top of the miracle whip and the sliced apples on top of the turkey in a thin layer.

Lay brie on other two slices of bread, sometimes I like to toast the bread for just a minute to get some warmth on the bread to make the brie a little "gooey".

Add sprouts to one side of the sandwich as desired, I used about 1/4 cup on each. Feel free to use lettuce as well or in place of sprouts.

Close sandwich and serve!

You can also panini this sandwich and have it warm with a light side salad or potato salad for a full sized meal.

Spicy Ginger Simple Syrup

I've been seeing a ton of simple syrup recipes lately in the name of cocktailing and decided to get in on the action. I love the flavour of ginger. Not as a backdrop, as a full fledged spicy front runner. I like ginger beer, but the good stuff isn't always easy to find. So with a bit of this syrup, and some seltzer or soda water (and some dark or spiced rum!) this makes for an excellent cocktail. Simple syrups are super easy to make and keep well in mason jars. I put mine in the jar while hot and close it, as it cools it seals itself in to help preserve it for a little while.

Ginger Simple Syrup


3/4 cup ginger, thinly sliced
1 cup water
1 cup dark brown sugar


Put all three ingredients into a small saucepan and bring to a boil over Medium - Medium High heat.

Once boiling, reduce to a light simmer and let simmer for 30 minutes. I reduced mine until it was about 3/4 cup worth of syrup.

Strain into mason jar while still warm, leaving a few pieces of the sliced ginger in the jar with the syrup.

The resulting syrup is spicy and sweet and not too thick, makes for an excellent addition to a Pimm's Cup or a Dark and Stormy.

Balsamic Fig & Onion Jam

I've been on a bit of a canning binge this week and wanted to do something different than I usually do. A new Italian Store opened in Calgary and I was fairly intrigued by the fresh figs. They have a pretty short time that they're in season and I tend to buy a lot of onion fig spread for sandwiches and cheese toppers. I have pretty good stock of balsamic on hand and chose to use a mixture of regular and an infused white one but you can definitely use all of just one type. Since I had it already this didn't cost me more than the figs (About $15). If you don't have balsamic kicking around you're probably looking at another $10-40. Even accounting for this, the jam's cost is under $2.50/jar. Way less then the store with nothing in it you don't know about! Once canned it will last up to a year and makes great gifts or is just good to have on hand. I couldn't find a recipe for this that had everything I wanted to I kind of combined three different ones and canned it based on my (limited) canning knowledge.


1.5 - 2 pounds Figs
2 Cups diced red onion (one medium/large red onion)
1 tsp grapeseed oil
1 Cup Brown Sugar
1/2 Cup White sugar
2/3 cup Balsamic (good quality)
1/2 cup White Balsamic (I used an Orange Vanilla infused one)
2 Tbsp Lemon Juice
1 1/2 tsp Salt
Fresh Ground black pepper


Prepare figs, wash and lightly wipe with a paper towel to remove any dirt. Cut off the stem and quarter the figs. Set aside.

Saute the diced red onion in the grapeseed oil, you can't use more oil than this if you're planning on canning the product as oil is a great home for botulism to hide and no one wants that! Add the salt to sauteing onions to help draw out some of their water. I let the onions cook out for about 5 minutes then added a bit of the balsamic and let them cook in that for another 5 minutes, caramelizing in the balsamic a little bit.

Add the figs, sugars, lemon juice, remainder of the balsamic vinegar's and pepper to taste - I added about 1 tsp.

Bring the mixture to a boil and simmer to reduce, this will take anywhere between 15 and 30 minutes. Continue stirring to prevent it scorching to the bottom of the pan. After that point the figs should be really soft and should easily crush under the spoon. It should have been reduced by about a third.

*However, you can pick the consistency you want between very thin and more of a dip, or thick as a spread. I made mine more of a spread, it will coat a spoon.

Save about 1/2 cup of the liquid in the pan and put it aside. You can add this back in to loosen the mixture after blending.

I used my immersion blender to blend the mixture into a spread consistency. You can decide if you want to add back some, none or all of the reserved liquid here.  I did end up adding back in all the liquid and letting it simmer for another 5 minutes. If you don't have an immersion blender you can transfer it to a blender to mix it and puree, do this in batches so your blender doesn't overflow. Even if its only half full, hot liquids will expand a ton in the blender.

Once the mixture has reached a consistency you would like to can, remove it from the heat and process. I had a little short of 2lbs of figs but I think if I had had the full 2lbs I could have made 12, 4oz jars - I only got 11.

*Here are some basic canning directions, for a little more in depth on the process, use this site as a guide.

Bring a large pot of water with canning rack to a boil and let boil for 2-5 minutes before starting.

Ensure your jars and lids are sanitized and fill with the mixture. Wipe rims of jars to ensure a good seal. Place lids on jars and tighten gently.

Place jars in boiling pot on the rack and lower in to pot, boil for 15 minutes.

Remove from pot, let rest and cool.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Homemade Baked Beans

My soon to be Mother in Law makes great homemade beans for all of our events so I wanted to make them for her and Sean's Dad when they came over for dinner. We served them with Slow Baked Ribs and Roasted Cauliflower and Brussels Sprouts. A lot of the recipes I found were using canned beans which seemed kind of counter intuitive for "homemade". I found this one and it was originally by Alton Brown, who happens to be one of my favourite cooks. Anyone remember Good Eats? Loved that show! These beans ended up being a hit and I will continue to use this same recipe until I'm the one bringing beans to all our parties. These end up having a lot of great flavour and just an underlying bit of heat, nothing crazy. I hope you love these as much as we do! While you need to have a full day for this recipe to cook, the prep time is fairly quick. Since I made ribs and roasted veggies to go with this I was able to do them all in the same oven over different points in the day. The bacon cooks down most of the way and just adds an extra layer of flavour.

Homemade Baked Beans
(Adapted Slightly from Here)


1 pound dried navy or pinto beans
1 pound thick bacon, chopped
1 large onion, chopped
1 - 2 jalapenos, seeds and ribs in, chopped (Depending on heat preference)
1 Can garlic tomato paste
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
4 Tbsp Blackstrap molasses
2 Cups Beef stock
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp Worcestershire
1 tsp fresh ground black pepper
1 tsp Five Pepper Blend (from Epicure) crushed in a Mortar & Pestle

2 tsp salt


Soak beans overnight (8-12 hours) in a large bowl placed in the fridge, make sure beans are covered with cold water,

The next day (or 8-12 hours later) preheat your oven to 250 ยบ F.

Choose a large oven safe pot, such as a dutch oven (I used a 5.5 qt dutch oven). Place over medium heat on the stove. Once pot is slightly heated add in chopped bacon, onion and jalapenos.

While the onion mixture is cooking (5 minutes), drain the beans over a bowl or measuring cup to save the "bean liquid".

Cook for about 5 minutes until the onions are getting soft and stir in tomato paste to coat everything. Let this cook out for a minute so caramelize and add additional flavour. Then the brown sugar and molasses.

Add beans to pot, Save 2 cups of the bean liquid and top up with the 2 cups of Beef Stock for a total of 4 cups of liquid. Adjust this depending on your remaining bean water.

Increase stove heat to high and allow to beans to come to a boil, add cayenne, peppers and salt and stir to combine. Cover pot with lid and move from stove to oven, Cook in oven for 6-8 hours until the beans are soft.

Blueberry Muffins

Blueberry muffins are one of my favourite types of muffins (except maybe a chocolate chip sparkle Muffin, to make an appearance another day). I love the freshness of the blueberry and it really keeps them from being dry. Now muffins aren't the best thing for you out there but this one is a little better. I halved the butter and used Apple Sauce in it's place which alone saves almost 300 calories. You can also use 1/4 cup  of Applesauce in place of one of the eggs, for a total of half a cup. I don't recommend taking out all the fat, you do need some for flavour and texture. I also lightened this up with 1% milk instead of whole milk. The addition of lemon zest just balances out the blueberries a bit, it's not super evident. If you want it to be, add more and a bit of juice. These are a great go to breakfast of morning snack if you're short on time.

Blueberry Muffins
(Adapted from Here)


2 cups all purpose flour
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup sugar
2 eggs
3/4 cup milk (I always use 1%)
1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
1/4 cup unsweetened Apple Sauce
1 tsp vanilla
Lemon Zest to taste (I used about half a lemon's worth)

1 Pound fresh blueberries (more or less, 2 cups)


Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Lightly grease or line a 12 cup muffin pan.

Measure out the dry ingredients and Lemon Zest in a large bowl and whisk together.

In a separate bowl, beat the eggs, milk, apple sauce and vanilla together, continue whisking lightly when pouring in the butter to keep eggs from cooking at all and getting clumpy.

Add wet ingredients to dry bowl and mix together lightly - not all the way. Only mix until almost combined. Fold in blueberries slowly, finishing the mixing.

Scoop batter into the muffin cups, filling pretty close to full, some of mine were over and they still turned out fine.

Bake until risen and lightly browned 25 to 28 minutes or when a cake tester comes out clean.

Cool in pan for 5 minutes or so and then transfer to a wire rack.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Spicy Smoked Ketchup *Canning Recipe*

We went to this restaurant in Calgary (Wurst, you must go) that serves smoked ketchup that they make themselves. We ordered more fries just to eat this ketchup, it was so good! While I didn't get their recipe (although I did try with no luck to buy a bottle) I found this one online. We've only tried smoking things a couple times but figured, what was the harm in throwing some veggies on to smoke next time? This recipe does require a bit of prep work but the end result is so worth it. Ours came out way spicier than I had planned on, but its really good and has that underlying smoky flavour. I would add less chili powder next time and not forget the Worcestershire, which I was sad I forgot. You really can't judge the flavour of this until after the cooking/canning process. It definitely combines nicley, tones down the spice (a bit), and ups the smokiness.

Classic store bought ketchup has sugar 3 ways in it among other types of additives, this one has a very light undertone of sweetness but is tomatoes first. Boiling this in the jars helps preserve it for 6 months or more. This recipe will make close to 7 jars, you could use it as a marinara type sauce as well for dipping or for pizza sauce too.

Spicy Smoked Ketchup
(Adapted from Here)


14  Roma tomatoes
900 mL tomato sauce (I bought Hunt's in a tetra pack, no salt)
1 large yellow onion
4 small shallots
2 jalapeno peppers
2 heads garlic (leave whole)
2-4 Tbsp Chipotle Chili or chili powder (2 for mild, 4 if you like it spicy)
1 tsp Sea salt
½ tsp fresh ground black pepper
4 Tbsp brown sugar
1 ½ Tbsp Apple cider vinegar
1 tsp cumin
½ tsp Cinnamon
½ tsp Nutmeg (or a few grates for fresh grated)
1 Tbsp Worcestershire

Hickory chips (soaked in water for about an hour, any chips will work)


Cut tomatoes and jalapenos in half length wise and scoop out seeds and insides. I used a grapefruit spoon for this, the ones with the teeth on the end. I use these for a lot of things, eating grapefruit isn't one of them.

Peel and slice the shallots and onions into rough chunks.

Peel the garlic down to the last couple layers of "garlic paper skin". Cut off the tops of the cloves but leave it in "head" form.

Arrange tomatoes all either face up or down, onion, shallots, jalapenos and garlic heads in a grill basket.

We have a little smoker box from Williams Sonoma we put the chips in and light up over the burner. We then place the veggies on the side of the grill that is turned off. You can smoke the veggies however you're used to smoking or try something new!

About halfway (45 mins) through smoking turn the veggies over so the opposite side of the tomatoes are facing up. It took about 90 minutes for our veggies to be smoked with this method.

Some before and after smoking pictures below.

While smoking, measure out the spices so they're ready to go. Ensure you have 6 - 8 "1 Cup" jars and lids sanitized and ready to go as well. Ours made almost 7 jars.

Remove the veggies from the grill and cool till you can touch them.

Squish the garlic heads until all/most of the garlic "pulp" is removed into a bowl.

Remove the skins from the tomatoes, the skins should be blistered and remove easily.

Transfer the veggies to a food processor or Vita-Mix and add all of the remaining spices and other ingredients you measured out earlier. Depending on the size of your container you may need to do this in two batches. If you need to do that, try to divide the spices and liquids between the batches. afterward, stir all the batches together in a large bowl or put it all back in the processor or vitamix (if it will fit) to help the consistency between them.

Process until smooth. We did 2 batches on the "Sauce" setting in our vitamix. I poured it all in together and did it one more time on the sauce setting as one batch.

Pour into jars and seal with lids (always use new lids) and secure rings on the jar till just slightly tightened. Place in canning pot and boil for 20-30 minutes. The ketchup will probably be a little darker when it comes out from the cooking.

*More info the canning process Here. Tomato products need a little longer than other canning recipes.




Saturday, June 20, 2015

Spinach Pesto Pasta with Turkey Sausage

This recipe was in my Food Network Magazine a few months ago in the quick weeknight cooking section. I chose to cook it because it had a low calorie count (about 470/serving) with a lot of flavor while still being filling. I usually just adapt it to what we have in our pantry at the time. I've made it a few times both pretty close to the same, but different than the original. Quite often we double the recipe so we have food for the week as it keeps really well in the fridge. To reheat, I add a small splash of water before putting it in the microwave for a couple minutes on medium heat.

Spinach Pesto Pasta with Turkey Sausage
(Adapted from Here)


10 ounces pasta, penne or rigatoni
4 cups spinach (about 3 ounces)
1/2 cup fresh basil (or 2 tbsp dried basil)
1 tablespoon olive oil, you may need more if you like your pesto looser
2 tablespoons pine nuts
Zest of 1 lemon, plus the juice of 1/2 lemon
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese, plus more for topping if desired
3 Hot Italian Turkey Sausages (about 3 ounces each), with the casings removed
3 cloves garlic, grated or finely minced
Salt and Freshly ground pepper


Bring a large pot of water to a boil, add a good bit of table salt to the water once at a rolling boil. Add the pasta and cook as directed. Reserve 1/2 cup cooking water, then drain.

Meanwhile, pulse the spinach, the basil, 2 tablespoons of the reserved pasta water, olive oil, pine nuts, the lemon zest, lemon juice and the red pepper flakes in a food processor until fairly smooth. Scrape down the sides; add the parmesan and pulse until smooth. Set the pesto aside.

Form the sausage into nickel-size patties or chunks, about 1/2 inch thick. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the patties and cook until browned, about 3 minutes. Flip, add the garlic to the skillet and cook until the sausage is just cooked through, about 2 more minutes.

Add the pasta, pesto and 1/4 cup reserved cooking water to the skillet. Toss to coat, adding more cooking water as needed; season with salt and pepper.

Serves 4