Sunday, April 14, 2013

Italian Mussels and Pasta

About a week ago we decided to go to the Farmers Market for something to do on a Sunday. You never really know what you'll find or what you'll be inspired to make. We had recently had some pretty amazing Mussels at the new pub by our place and figured we could attempt our own. I had never made them or even really looked at them when we've been at the fish shop so this was all around new for me.

Mussels are probably one of the cheaper shell fish varieties at around $6/lb. Considering we're no where near an ocean, that is fine with me. We also picked up some nice scallops - those ring in at closer to $25/lb. Worth every cent, as long as you take the time to cook them right. But back to the mussels. I knew I had a few different recipes hidden away, in favourites folders, cookbooks and so on. At first we were really feeling a beer steamed mussel feast. But we kind of decided that was better for more of an appetizer situation and we were cooking for dinner. So this is the recipe I picked and changed in traditional fashion. It comes highly recommended, even the basic tomato sauce was really good.

Italian Mussels and Pasta
Adapted slightly from Here

  • 8 ounces  buccatini
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 large cloves garlic, grated
  • 1 15-ounce can crushed tomatoes
  • Basil, about 2 tbsp packed. 
  • pound  mussels, cleaned
  • 3/4 cup dry white wine
  • Big pinch of crushed red pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Freshly ground pepper to taste
    If you've never made mussels or just want a refresher, I found this page (with a video even!) to help you figure out how to prep them. It is a bit of a pain, also I would highly recommend that you buy an extra half pound of mussels in case some die. All of ours were very much alive but after the scrubbing they had died (So Sad..)
    Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and transfer to a large serving bowl. Cover to keep warm.
    Meanwhile, heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add garlic and cook, stirring, until it just begins to colour, 2 to 3 minutes. Carefully add crushed tomatoes (the mixture may splatter) and bring to a simmer. Cook, stirring frequently, until thickened slightly, about 5 minutes.
    Meanwhile, bring mussels and wine to a boil in a Dutch oven (or other large pot) over high heat. Cover, reduce heat to medium and cook until the mussels open, 4 to 6 minutes. Transfer the mussels with a slotted spoon to a large bowl. (Discard any unopened mussels.)
    Strain the mussel broth through a fine-mesh sieve into the tomato sauce. Stir in crushed red pepper and simmer over medium heat for 1 minute. Season with salt and pepper. Ladle about half the sauce over the pasta and toss to coat. Divide the pasta, top with mussels and spoon the remaining sauce over the mussels.

    We served ours up with a tosted bun with garlic butter.

    A Pinterest St Patricks Day - Recipes and Fun

    I know I may be a little late with this post. St Patricks Day is sort of the reason that I ended up pretty much addicted to Pinterest. I basically google imaged St Patricks day food and everything that I liked linked back to Pinterest. And that was it. Hooked. So here is my random collection of recipes I made for our St Patricks day party.

    It was also my man friends housewarming aka my housewarming do over, since he moved in here! It was by far a better experience than my first one. No broken bones and we had a keg and way more people. It was great. The best themed party I've had, ok, except for maybe our Mad Men/NYC party. That was pretty spectacular. I don't know how many of my friends read this, but really, thanks for always going out of your way to dress up and be a part of my theme parties. They are pretty awesome.

    Key Lime Jello Shots

    So because this was 2 very awesome occasions mixed into one, jello shots were called for. They were the fastest thing to go on our counter for sure.

    2 packs Lime Jello
    2 Cups Pinnacle Whipped Cream Vodka
    2 Cups Boiling water

    Mix the boiling water and the lime jello mix until dissolved, add the vodka.
    Pour into 1 oz (ish) cups and let sit in the fridge for 4 hours or up to overnight

    I got little 1oz plastic cups at the wholesale store. For less than $5 for 200. Because you'll never know when you'll want to whip some up!

    Green Velvet Cupcakes

    Red velvet is most of my friends favourite cupcake. So I figured I'd do that... except green. These are your every day red velvet, chocolate cupcake with cream cheese icing. I just used green dye! Pretty much epic. Just saying.

    Recipe adapted slightly from here

    2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
    2 cups sugar
    1 Tablespoon cocoa
    1 teaspoon salt
    1 teaspoon baking soda
    2 eggs
    1cup canola oil
    1 cup buttermilk*
    1 Tablespoon vinegar
    1 teaspoon vanilla
    1 oz. green food colouring (Yes, that is a whole little bottle)
    • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
    • Prepare 2 muffin tins with cupcake liners, makes about 24 cupcakes. And yes! I did get little white, black, gold and green shamrock liners at Michael's!
    • Lightly stir eggs in a medium bowl with a wire whisk. Add remaining liquid ingredients and stir together with whisk until blended. Set aside. (You can also use your stand mixer for this, I did)
    • Place all the dry ingredients in your stand mixing bowl and stir together until well mixed.
    • Add wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix on medium-high for about a minute or until completely combined.
    • Pour into prepared cupcake liners/tins, let settle to avoid bubbles.
    • Cupcakes take about 18 minutes in my oven. Instead of 30 for a cake. Just in case, start checking (for a toothpick to come out clean) at about 12 Minutes for a convection oven and 14 for a regular oven.
    • Let cool before frosting, otherwise frosting will melt.
    *If you don't have buttermilk, you can make one cup of "soured milk" with 1 Tbsp vinegar or lemon juice and 1 cup (less 1 Tbsp) Milk. Let it sit for 5 - 10 minutes and you'll get pretty much the same flavour. I never have buttermilk so this is what I do, unless I know I need a lot.
    Cream Cheese Frosting

    Everyones favourite part of a red velvet cupcake...

    This is my favourite recipe I've found for cream cheese frosting. Its actually less sweet than many others I've tried, but definitely still has the sugar. With "icing sugar" adding more of it will NOT thicken the icing. Only more cream cheese with thicken the icing, and sometimes not even then. Its a bit of a different texture to deal with. A few tries though and you'll figure it out in no time.

    Recipe from Here

    2 (8 ounce) packages of cream cheese, softened (I used light)

    In a medium bowl, cream together the cream cheese and butter until creamy. I like to use a hand mixer or stand mixer for this, depending on the amount. 
    Mix in the vanilla, then gradually stir in the confectioners' sugar.

    I piped the frosting using a large, round, tip. You can do whatever you like! I like to pipe.

    Store in the refrigerator if you aren't ready to use it right away, or have some left over.

    Margarita Lime Cupcakes

    I've made these cupcakes before, last year for St Patricks day actually! Since we were expecting close to 30 people (or more) I figured I'd be safe and have 2 kinds of cupcakes. These are lighter and less sweet than a standard cupcake I found. The lime helps balance them out and swiss meringue buttercream is pretty much amazing.

    I DID have some major issues with it this time. Which is the first time that has ever happened to me. I think I was just trying to do too many things at once. Here is a link on how to fix it if something goes wrong.

    Here is the link back to these cupcakes. I would write it out myself, but I think she does a really good job of it and I didn't change anything!

    Margarita Cupcakes

    Spinach Dip with Shamrock Chips

    I don't think you can go wrong with Spinach dip, pretty much ever. I like to think of it as the sort of healthy dip on the counter. I mean, look at all that green right? Ok, probably not the best thing. But that's ok, its a party.

    First things first, buy an awesome loaf of bread. We used sour dough, shaped into a big circular loaf. Cut into the top of the loaf at about a 45º angle to make an inverted cone in the loaf that you can take out. Here is your bread bowl lid. I cut most of the bread off the cone so that it really is just a lid. You can scoop out more of the loaves insides if you need to make room for the spinach dip. Hopefully you can tell by the photo what I mean.

    I pretty much always use this Spinach Dip Recipe, with a few changes. Here's mine below.

    1 cup miracle whip
    1 (16 ounce) container non fat greek yogurt
    1 package dry leek soup mix, I used Knorr
    1 (4 ounce) can water chestnuts, drained and chopped
    1 Full, 10 ounce package fresh chopped spinach
    1 (1 pound) loaf round sourdough bread

    In a bowl, mix together miracle whip, greek yogurt, dry leek soup mix, water chestnuts and chopped spinach. Chill in the refrigerator 6 hours, or overnight.If you don't have time for this, its not a big deal. But a few hours is ideal.
    Remove top and interior of sourdough bread as I mentioned above. Fill with spinach mixture. Tear removed bread chunks into pieces for dipping. Unless you make the awesome Shamrock chips below!

    Shamrock Chips
    Adapted from here
    These were super easy, and like a craft inside cooking. Which is kind of my favourite thing ever.
    Preheat oven to 375 degrees. I used a pack of spinach tortilla wraps (10) and a pack of whole wheat wraps (10. Each wrap yielded 5 shamrocks with my cookies cutter.
    Push a shaped cookie cutter firmly through the wrap and wiggle while pressing until a clean cut is made. Place the cut-outs on a cooling rack placed in a cookie sheet and sprinkle salt and pepper across the chips. I also added some garlic powder for extra flavour.
    Cook the chips for approx 10 minutes. Keep an eye on them though, as ovens are different and they could burn easily. Burnt spinach wraps don't taste as good.
    Vegetable Rainbow
    I saw a few pictures of this on Pinterest and knew it had to be done. Most of the ones I saw were fruit though and being a night party I figured vegetables were a better choice. I bought some chocolate gold coins at the dollar store and put them in a little dish at the end of the rainbow. All in all it was just a fun way to arrange the veggies.
    I used, in order from top to bottom: Red Peppers, Carrots, Yellow Peppers, Celery, Green Peppers and some Blueberries at the bottom.

    Thursday, April 11, 2013

    Shepherd's Pie 2.0

    I know. We've all made Shepherd's Pie. I've made it and talked about it, probably more than once. However, I thought I would try something new tonight. We had all the ingredients except beef, but we had buffalo! I love ground buffalo in place of ground beef. It has so much more natural flavour and spice to it. Plus its way leaner.

    I honestly just googled Shepherd's Pie and this was obviously the most interesting one that popped up. I did change it a little, mostly because that's what I do. But I like to think the ways that I changed it, probably cut the calories and fat a bit more and "beefed it up", sort of. I've linked to the original recipe (as always), but am putting how I made it below. The directions are a little more in depth than usual, but its a bit more in depth for a recipe! I basically added more vegetables, less meat and changed the "fat" in the potatoes. Not huge changes, but good ones!

    Shepherd's Pie
    (Adapted Slightly from Here)


    1 cup frozen corn
    1 cup frozen peas
    2 tablespoons butter
    1 large onion, chopped
    4 large carrots, chopped
    3 stalks celery, chopped
    1 pound ground buffalo
    4 garlic cloves, grated
    2 tablespoons flour
    1 cup low sodium beef stock (Kitchen Basics)
    1 cup diced canned tomatoes
    1 teaspoon dried thyme
    1/2 teaspoon summer savory
    1 teaspoon fresh oregano
    1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
    1 tablespoon Franks Thick (or hot sauce)
    salt and pepper

    Mashed Potato Topping

    6 cups peeled and chopped potatoes
    2 teaspoons salt, plus salt to taste
    4 tablespoons butter
    1/2 cup non fat greek yogurt
    1/2 cup skim milk (any milk fine, may need less)
    1 cup grated cheddar cheese


    1. Start the potatoes for the topping. Put them in a large pot with enough water to cover them by a couple of inches, I used a large pasta strainer pot. Add about 2 teaspoons of salt to the water. Bring the potatoes to a boil, over high heat. Cook them for 10 to 13 minutes after boiling uncovered. Meanwhile, make the meat filling.
    2. Melt the butter in a large skillet or braiser over medium heat. Sauté the onion, carrots, garlic and celery in the butter, stirring often, for about 5 to 6 minutes.
    3. Add the ground buffalo to the pan and break it up with a spoon as it browns. Remove the skillet from the stove and, resting it on a heatproof surface so it won't feel so heavy, tilt the pan so that the excess fat runs to the side. Carefully spoon out the fat and discard it (this will make the dish leaner and healthier, as well as lighter tasting). With buffalo there wasn't much to drain, but it will make a difference. There will also be a bit of "water" from the vegetables.
    4. Put the skillet back on the burner and set the heat to medium low. Stir the flour into the beef mixture. Stir in the beef broth, then the canned tomatoes, then the herbs, frozen corn, frozen peas, hot sauce and Worcestershire sauce.
    5. Gently simmer the mixture for several minutes, partially covered, then add salt (1/4 teaspoon, give or take a little) and pepper to taste. I made this in a cast iron braiser that can go from the stove to oven. If you don't, transfer the mixture to a large buttered casserole type dish. Set the oven to 400°, and while it heats, check to see if your boiling potatoes are done.
    6. To test the potatoes, use a slotted spoon to transfer a cube from the water to a cutting board and allow it to cool for 30 seconds or so. If you can slice through the chunk easily with a butter knife, the potatoes are done.
    7. Set a large colander in the sink and drain the potatoes in it if you don't have a strainer pasta pot. Transfer the drained potatoes to a large mixing bowl and scatter the butter pieces over them. Spoon the greek yogurt over the hot potatoes as well. Wait a few minutes for the butter to melt and the greek yogurt to warm so the ingredients will be easier to blend, then partially mash the potatoes with a hand masher. Mix in about 3/4 of the cheese into the potatoes while mashing.
    8. Sprinkle the cheese over the top, then sprinkle on some paprika. Bake the pie on the center oven rack for about 20 minutes, until the top is golden brown. Cool for several minutes before serving. My pot may have been a little small, but the gravy mixture in the pan has a tendency to boil over in the oven. If this happens, next time you turn your oven on over 400º, it will probably light on fire. So I put a baking sheet on the rack under the dish to keep the drippings off the bottom of the oven.

    Saturday, April 6, 2013

    Roasted Cauliflower and Chickpeas

    I went to a really great restaurant in Calgary a little while ago called Double Zero, they're mostly known for their pizza but we went to try something different. One of the appies that we ventured out to try was their Roasted Cauliflower. It was so good. I'd like to say that this one came close... but it came up a little short. I still think I would use this recipe (as a base) again because I did really like it. I think that the Double Zero one had potentially a little more oil than this one, and was probably roasted a little bit longer than this one.

    We made this for my family for Easter as a side dish, to try to con them in to eating more vegetables. We might have hoarded it a little at our side of the table. If you don't think you like cauliflower  at least try it like this first. Add more, less or different spices that you like - but these are a good start. I always buy 2 heads of cauliflower because there's usually some weirdness on them that you'll need to cut off. These two didn't have much, so I probably used way more than I needed too, close to the two full heads. I probably should have doubled the spices, or at least added some extra. Note to self for next time.

    Here is the recipe I used:

    Roasted Cauliflower and Chickpeas
    Adapted and changed slightly from here


    1 tablespoon ground coriander
    1 tablespoon cumin
    1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
    1/3 cup vegetable oil
    1 head cauliflower, cut into florets
    One 19-ounce can chickpeas, drained
    1 tablespoon Toasted Onion Flakes (Or an Onion I suppose)
    1 teaspoon roasted garlic (Or real garlic)
    Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper
    1/2 cup grated Grana Padano
    Juice of 1/2 lime


    Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

    Pour the oil into a large mixing bowl, and then add the spices. Add the cauliflower, chickpeas and onions, and toss to coat everything evenly. Place on a sheet tray and season with salt and pepper. Roast in the oven for about 10 - 15 minutes until it starts to get a little softer and brown. Add the Grana Padano over top. Put back in the oven until browned and the cauliflower is tender, 30 to 35 minutes. Finish with a squeeze of the fresh lime juice.

    There's no picture because it probably doesn't look that appetizing to most people... but I will promise you it was all gone, quickly.

    Thin Crust Time!

    We may have been going through a bit of a pizza phase. I like it, Sean likes it, you can make it how you want it. Instant win. The problem with pizza (just kidding there isn't one... but sort of...) is all that crust. So I figured this time around we could do a thin crust. Cooked true to form on a hot pizza stone, it was great. We might do thin crust forever now. Unless of course I had a bad day and want to medicate with carbs in food form instead of beer form.

    Fresh off making another batch of our home made mozza and ricotta, which we obviously needed pizza for, I googled "Thin Crust Recipe", as soon as a Williams Sonoma version came up I figured I couldn't go wrong! And I didn't. After being split into two, 10-12" sort of rounds , it cooked in 10 minutes on a pizza stone that had been preheated with the oven to 425ºF. I don't have a "real" pizza stone. I have a cooking stone (like this one) from Pampered Chef. I always forget I have it truthfully. I usually cook my pizza on one of these. Which by the way, is great on the bottom rack for some thick crust pizza.

    But in any case, I remembered today that I had this stone. What I don't have is one of those fancy pizza peels. I might have to get one now... but, if you don't have one and want to start cooking your pizza this way, here is how I did it. Since the stone is already super hot in your oven, you can't very well build the pizza on it and slide it in. I flipped over one of my cookie/baking sheet pans and sprinkled cornmeal (flour will work too) liberally over it. This is where I built my pizza. On an upside down baking sheet. When you're ready to put the pizza in the oven, quickly sprinkle some more of that cornmeal on the stone and gently shake the uncooked pizza off the baking sheet and onto the stone. If you put the cornmeal on too early, it will burn and it will smoke and its horrible.Unlike with a pizza peel, you cant use this same tool to pick the pizza up off the stone after it's done cooking, I used two large spatulas. Worked great, since the crust was firm and crispy.  I don't remember where I saw this tip, but I really wish I did because it worked really well. I like cornmeal for this over flour solely due to the flavour it adds to the finished pizza.

    *Update September 17

    I now have a pizza peel! Its pretty great, I'd highly recommend it. I even use it to get bread loaves (french) out of the oven. Also, you can definitely make this crust by hand if you don't have a mixer or a food processor. *

    Back to the pizza dough, here's the recipe below. The only thing I would probably do different is change the sugar to honey or brown sugar. Just because I tend to like the taste better. That doesn't mean it will work though. Worth a try. I also didn't make the dough in a food processor, I used my kitchen aid mixer (with the dough hook) because it never leaves my counter. This is the pizza we made, in case you were curious.

    Thin Crust Pizza Dough
    From Here


    1 1/2 tsp. active dry yeast
    1 tsp. sugar
    3/4 cup warm water (about 105°F)
    1 cup cake flour
    1 cup plus 3 Tbs. all-purpose flour
    1 1/4 tsp. kosher salt
    2 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil

    In a small bowl, whisk together the yeast, sugar and warm water and let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes.
    In the bowl of a food processor fitted with the dough blade, combine the cake flour, all-purpose flour and salt and pulse 3 or 4 times.

    Whisk 1 Tbs. of the olive oil into the yeast mixture. With the motor running, slowly add the yeast mixture to the flour mixture, allowing each addition to be absorbed before adding more. Pulse the machine 10 to 15 times to knead the dough. The dough should clean the insides of the bowl but will be slightly sticky.

    Coat the inside of a large bowl with the remaining 1 Tbs. oil. Dust your hands with flour and remove the dough from the food processor. Form the dough into a ball and place in the bowl. Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and let the dough rise in a warm place until doubled in size, 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Divide the dough in half and roll out as directed in the pizza recipe. Makes two 10-inch thin-crust pizzas.

    ** Update, April 14

    Made this dough again with whole wheat flour in place of the all purpose and honey instead of the sugar and it turned out great. It did take a little longer to cook and I think it puffed up all over a little more instead of just random bubbles. We just had the one pizza and a salad and were stuffed, overall a good choice. This time we made Grilled South Western Pizza. Except on the pizza stone at 450º, not on a grill. There is still waaay too much snow for that!