Friday, March 28, 2014

Shrimp & Bacon Salad

Ok, there's a lot more ingredients in here than just those. But you cook the shrimp in the bacon grease and its pretty much amazing. I loved this salad. I didn't make the dressing from the orginal post, but I probably will next time. I may or may not have forgotten to pick up those ingredients. So we just used a bit of Renee's Dill and Cucumber Yogurt dip on the side. I find with an avocado in your salads they have a nice "built in" dressing from those, so you don't need one as much. Throw in a splash of that feta brine and you're pretty set. This salad hits every craving you might have, but I mostly found I wanted more bacon after... That could just be me though!

Shrimp & Bacon Salad
(Adapted from Here)


1/2 cup corn kernels frozen or shaved off a cob.
3 strips of bacon, diced
10 large shrimp, peeled with tails on or off
4 cups chopped Romaine lettuce
1 avocado, peeled, pitted and diced
1/4 cup crumbled goats feta (whatever kind you have is fine!)


1. Heat a pan over medium high heat. Add the corn kernels and let cook until they start to get a little toasty around the edges, around 6 minutes, stirring off the bottom to help prevent sticking. Transfer the corn to a dish and set aside.

2. In the same pan, add the bacon. Fry for about 5-6 minutes, stirring until crispy or to your liking. Remove the bacon, leaving the grease in the skillet. My bacon didn't have a lot of fat so you may want to drain a bit off if you don't want to drown your shrimp in it. (Here comes the best part!)

3. Add the shrimp and cook for about 3 minutes per side (depending on size). Remove shrimp and prepare your salad.

4. Assemble your salad by tossing together the lettuce, toasted corn, bacon, shrimp and avocado.

5. Top with crumbled cheese and dressing if desired.

Tomato Basil Soup

This is a recipe I've been making for quite a while, I finally decided to take some pictures and add some ingredients. You may have seen it back on my Italian Evening post a year or so ago. Its a decent tomato soup recipe and filling enough to accompany just a salad or a nice grilled cheese. I also really like that it can be done in under an hour, less if you're in a crunch. You can add more layers of flavour to the soup just by buying some more intense ingredients. I used a Tomato basil tomato paste and I used a whole can and I bought tomatoes with basil already in there and mashed them myself. That way you can really get the basil freshness, even if your basil isn't that fresh (mine was not). 

Tomato Basil Soup
(Adapted slightly from Here)


2 tablespoons Grapeseed or olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
4 large cloves garlic, grated
1 carrot, finely diced
Salt and pepper
2 tsp dried thyme leaves or 2 Tbsp Fresh (Chopped)
1 large fresh bay leaf
3 tbsp - 1 small can tomato paste
1 box (946 mL) low sodium chicken stock
32 ounce can whole or crushed tomatoes (I Bought Eden Whole Roma tomatoes with Basil)
A few leaves basil

2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
1 1/2 cups 1% milk (or whatever you have)


1. Heat the oil in a large soup pot over medium-high heat.

2. Once the pot and oil are warm, add onions, garlic, carrot, salt, pepper, thyme, bay and cook partially covered to soften 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally. You will really be able to smell the thyme and onion, such a great kitchen smell.

3. Add tomato paste and stir 2 minutes to let it caramelize a bit, it was in a can. Add the stock, tomatoes and tear in basil leaves. Simmer partially covered for 30 minutes, *Remove and discard bay leaf.

4. Purée soup with an immersion blender, or transfer to a blender and back to the pot when smooth.

5. To make the béchamel sauce to thicken the soup, melt butter in a sauce pot over medium heat, whisk in flour and cook 1 minute. Whisk in milk, season with salt and pepper, and let thicken to coat a spoon. Stir béchamel into soup to combine. **Don't tell the real chefs, but you can do this in the microwave! Melt butter in the microwave, add flour and stir, microwave the paste another 10 seconds, add milk and microwave in 30 second bursts on medium high, whisking in between until thick. It takes a couple minutes.

6. Let soup simmer another 10 minutes or so to thicken and serve with your favourite salad or sandwich (or both!). I served mine with a basic Kale Salad topped with sunflower oil, lemon juice and a few crumbles of goat feta.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

M&M Cookies

My absolute favourite candy or chocolate treat is m&m's. I honestly don't eat anything else chocolate wise at all. You put them in a cookie and I am so in! I love this recipe because it bakes up light and cakey very fast. Around 15 minutes from fridge to belly, you do have to let them set up in the fridge for a couple hours before baking. Which is always a problem for me, I would have got 30 cookies out of this recipe but the dough is just so good! I only got 29. I used a small cookie scoop for them, about an inch across. If you use a larger one, you'll probably get around 15-18.

They're also great because you can do the recipe, make the cookie balls and put them in the fridge and bake them anywhere from 2 hours to 2 days later, or up to a month or two if you freeze them. I like to take the un-baked cookie balls to parties to bake right after the meal so that they are fresh for my friends and family and that way, no one will ask you where you bought them. I recommend buying m&m's in bulk (In Canada anyways) as they're quite expensive in larger amounts otherwise. I always get Sean to bring them back from Houston for me. 2 kg for $8! That's less then half of here, case closed for buying in bulk.

These particular ones made it into a Birthday Cookie Basket for one of my best friends, Jason. He loves cookies, and I hope you do too! In case you're wondering the other treats that made the box were; Chocolate Peanut Butter Swirls, Ginger Snaps and Banana Bread.

M&M Cookies
(Adapted slightly from here)


3/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp cornstarch
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/3 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
3/4 cup milk chocolate M&M's, you may want 1/4 cup extra to add one here and there to the cookies.


To a large mixing bowl, if you have an electric hand mixer or your stand mixer, combine the butter, sugars, egg, vanilla, and mix together on medium-high speed until creamed and well combined, about 2 minutes. The colour will gradually get lighter and that's key to a little bit fluffier cookies.

Add the flour, cornstarch, baking soda, salt, and mix in slighty by hand to avoid flying flour, then with the mixer on low speed until just combined, about 1 minute.

Add the chocolate chips, M&Ms, and combine by hand to avoid cracking those pretty shells.

Using a cookie scoop (Large or Small) or your hands, form equal-sized mounds of dough, roll into balls, and flatten slightly. Small scoop - 30 Cookies, Large Scoop - 15 Cookies

If you feel like you need some extra M&M's in each cookie, press them into the tops now.

Place mounds on dish or baking sheet and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours. If you don't chill the dough for long enough, the cookies will spread out like little pancakes. No one wants that! (But if you do, that's how)

2 Hours later!

Preheat oven to 350ºF, line a baking sheet with a Silpat or parchment. I highly recommend investing in the Silpats, parchment never covers the baking sheet well enough and eventually you'll balance out the cost.

Place dough mounds on baking sheet, spaced at least 2 inches apart, small cookies 15 per sheet, large cookies 8 per sheet and bake for 12 minutes, switching racks halfway through, or until edges have set and tops are just set, even if slightly under cooked, pale, and glossy in the center.

Cookies will firm up as they cool - allow to cool for at least 10 minutes prior to serving.

Store in an airtight container for about a week, they won't last that long! So you can also freeze them for up to 6 months.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Spicy Chicken Lettuce Wraps - Slowcooker

With my recent avoidance of bread and cheese products I was looking for a recipe I could make for my parents that wouldn't scare them off as too healthy. (Shhh, don't tell them) I had pinned this one quite a while ago and while I don't use my slow cooker very often, today was a good day to use it. There's definitely something nice about doing the prep work in the morning (when you're still feeling pretty gung ho) and then dinner just being ready when you need it to be.

I modified this recipe to my parents tastes and what I had on hand. They don't enjoy things too spicy so I used I mild roasted salsa instead of something too hot. I also cut out the chilies. I still used the hot sauce, Cholula is our houses only brand these days and added a little extra seasoning in the way of onion flakes, roasted garlic flakes and some salt and pepper. Nothing too crazy. But half way through the house smelt amazing! The chicken still maintained its structure pretty well at the end of 5 hours, but shredded easily. Since I was a couple hours early, I left it on keep warm until dinner - stirring every half hour or so. It also left me some time to make a quick dessert.

Spicy Chicken Lettuce Wraps
(Adapted from Here)


4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts cut in half lengthwise
1 jar salsa, I used Mrs Renfro's Roasted Salsa, fairly mild
1 tsp onion flakes
1 tsp garlic flakes
2 tbsp Cholula hot sauce
1 tbsp fresh-squeezed lime juice

Avocado Salsa Ingredients:
2 large or 3 medium avocados, diced into small pieces
1/4 cup chopped red onion
1 diced tomato
1/4 cup fresh-squeezed lime juice
Salt and Pepper to taste

For Lettuce Wraps:
2 large heads iceberg lettuce for crunchy shells,
 - Butter lettuce for easy wrap shells

1. Cut chicken breasts in half lengthwise and arrange the chicken strips in the bottom of your slowcooker.

2. Season with salt, pepper, garlic and onion.

3. Shake over hot sauce of desired amount, followed by lime juice.

4.Cover with Salsa.

5. Set for 5 hours on low and walk away and enjoy your free time!

6. When the chicken is done, remove each piece into a bowl, shred apart with two forks and place back into the slow cooker. Stir to combine with the sauce.

7. Peel and chop the avocados and toss with the lime juice, red onion and tomato. Season with salt and pepper.

8. Prepare the lettuce - For iceberg cut head in half across to make two bowl shapes, pull two leaves off to make a cup. For butter lettuce, remove as close to stem and use two leaves for each shell.

9. Fill with a scoop of chicken and a scoop of salsa and feel free to top with any other desired toppings, cheese, extra salsa or tomatoes.

St Patrick's Day Green Pea and Prosciutto Soup

In our quest for new food and solely based on the fact it was St Patrick's day, I found a green pea soup recipe. I wanted something green (that wasn't beer) for dinner. Because why not! This soup is really simple and you probably have everything you need for it in your pantry and fridge/freezer. I added the prosciutto to the original recipe because I had some extra and bacon and peas go together so well. If you don't have Crisco shortening you can use 1 TBSP of oil or butter instead. If you want it to be even more green, use water instead of stock. This soup was really filling and had great flavour, I may add asparagus if I made it again just for a different taste going through it.

St Patrick's Day Green Pea and Prosciutto Soup
(Adapted from Here)


1 medium sweet or white onion
1 Tbsp Crisco Vegetable Shortening
2 garlic cloves, grated
4-6 Slices thin Prosciutto
500 g frozen green peas - I used green giant Spring Sweets
2 Cups Low Sodium Vegetable stock - I used Kitchen Basics
Bay leaf
Salt and Pepper to taste


Chop the onion and slice the prosciutto into thin ribbon like slices.

Heat the Crisco in a soup pot and add the onions and 1 - 2 slices worth of the prosciutto, stir and cook out onions till translucent. Grate garlic over pot.

Add the frozen peas, stock and bay leaf. Cook for about half hour.

Take out the bay leaf and blend the soup with a hand blender or remove to a blender. Once blended (pour back to pot) and add salt and pepper to taste.

Fry remaining prosciutto to add some crispiness and cook off a bit of the fat, a couple minutes.

Top soup with crispy prosciutto!

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Blueberry Rolls

I tried making these before, with a different recipe that used jam instead of actual blueberries. It turned out pretty bad, they got way too brown, didn't rise right and I ended up needing to add almost a cup of extra flour.

This one wasn't anything like that! The dough came together really nicely and was simple to make. The one major thing I changed in the recipe was I used fresh blueberries. It says explicitly not to, but I had a really nice pint of them and I wasn't going out to buy frozen ones with them in front of me. The reasoning was that they didn't release juice the same. That does depend on the berries. I let mine sit for a good half hour with the sugar and cornstarch on them (the entire time it took me to make the dough and roll it out) and the amount of syrupy juice was amazing, even in that small amount of time. If you only have frozen, or want to use frozen go ahead! But I wouldn't go out of your way to buy them if you have fresh ones or there's a good deal at the grocery store.

Blueberry Rolls
(Adapted from Here)


2 and 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3 Tablespoons white sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 1/4 teaspoons yeast
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup milk
2.5 Tablespoons unsalted butter
1 egg

1 pint (11 oz) blueberries
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon cornstarch

Lemon Glaze
Juice from 1 large lemon
Zest from lemon
1 cup powdered sugar
1-2 Tablespoons milk


1. Filling first! Combine the blueberries, sugar, and cornstarch in a bowl. Stir together, don't worry if you mash up a blueberry here and there, it adds to the juice. Let sit while you prepare the dough.

2. Dough! In a large bowl or electric mixing bowl, put the dry ingredients - flour, sugar, salt, and yeast together until evenly dispersed.

3. Heat the water, milk, and butter together in the microwave until the butter is melted and the mixture is warm. Most yeast can only deal with about 105º, so if you go over that let it cool a bit before adding it. I did mine for 1 minute on power 6 in my microwave, stir is together once it comes out, the butter may separate.

4. Stir the wet ingredients into the dry, I added slowly to my mixer while it was going. Add the egg at the end. You may need a bit more flour here depending on your dough. It is ready when it cleans the sides of the bowl and is shiny and stretchy.

5. On a lightly floured surface, knead the dough a couple times to ensure everything is mixed in well. Place in a lightly greased bowl and let rest for 5-15 minutes.

6.After resting, roll the dough out in a rectangle, mine was around 16 inches by 10 inches. I find it helps to get a rectangle quickly if you sort of shape the dough in to a rectangle instead of a ball. Pour the sugared blueberries on top and evenly disperse them on the dough. Roll the dough up from the long edge so your roll will be the longest it can be.

7. Cut into even pieces, I made 9, and place in greased or parchment lined pan, I used a 9x9 square.  Loosely cover the rolls with a damp towel and allow to rise in an oven you've preheated and turned back off. Place rolls inside oven and allow to rise. You won't want to refrigerate these now, they won't puff back up.

8. After the rolls have doubled in size, about 2 hours, take out of the oven and preheat to 375ºF. Bake for 25-30 minutes until lightly browned. Cover them about half way through with loose aluminum foil or they will get quite brown and crispy.

9. Before serving, mix all of the glaze ingredients together. For a thicker glaze add more powdered sugar or less lemon juice or vice versa for thinner.

10. Glaze right before serving, ideally when they are still warm (not hot) right out of the oven.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Jalapeno Cheddar Bagels

I've made bagels a couple times now but have really stuck to the simple starter recipe for Everything bagels I posted a while ago. I really like the Jalapeno Cheese Bagels at Tim Hortons, they have a great kick and a nice cheesy balance to them. Its pretty much the only thing I still go there for. So I of course decided I could make them myself. I found this recipe a long time ago and figured I would give it a try. It's a fairly in depth recipe for bagels, with a sponge starter and you have to leave them in the refrigerator overnight before cooking, so they're not an instant gratification type thing, although no bread really is. If I make them again (which I probably will) I think I'll add another cheese to the mix. Some parm or an Asiago. The cheddar is great, but its only one note and just having that extra sharp saltiness I think would put them over the top! If you want to stick to just cheddar, you may want to up the salt in the recipe.

Before you get really excited and want to make these right away there's a couple things you should be prepared for. I have a 5qt standard kitchen aid mixer, there's no way you can make these in it unless you half the recipe. Mine was dancing all over the counter before I decided to take out the dough and knead it by hand. It takes about 10 minutes to do it by hand and mixing the jalapenos and cheese in isn't a cake walk either. There's definitely something about kneading dough that's extremely therapeutic though. I'd highly recommend it over a stress ball. Plus in the end you have bready, cheesy goodness if you have any stress left.

The next thing is these take hours. Don't expect to start making them early in the morning for a brunch treat. The sponge needs to set up for 2 - 3 hours, the dough needs to sit in balls for half an hour, bagels for half an hour and overnight in the refrigerator. There's not a ton of active time but there's quite a bit of waiting time.

That's all though! Time to make bagels!

Jalapeño Cheddar Bagels
(Adapted slightly from Here)


1 teaspoon instant yeast
4 cups flour, I used AP - bread is probably a bit better
2½ cups water, at room temperature

½ teaspoon instant yeast
3½ cups flour
3 teaspoons salt
1 Tablespoon brown sugar
8 ounces sharp Cheddar cheese, grated
1½ cups minced jalapeño peppers, Seeded if desired (About 10 peppers)

To Finish:
1 Tablespoon baking soda
2½ Litres water
8 ounces sharp Cheddar cheese, grated


1. Sponge: Stir the yeast into the flour in a large mixing bowl. Add the water, stirring  until it forms a smooth, sticky batter, sort of lumpy with air holes. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and leave at room temperature for approximately 2 - 3 hours, or until nearly double in size and collapses when the bowl is tapped on the counter.

2. To make the dough, in the same mixing bowl a couple hours later add the additional yeast to the sponge and stir. Then add 3 cups of the flour and all of the salt and brown sugar. Stir until the ingredients form a ball, slowly working in the remaining 1/2 cup flour to stiffen the dough.

3. Transfer the dough to the counter and knead for at least 10 minutes. Add the Cheddar cheese and jalapeños during the last two minutes or so of kneading, and knead until evenly distributed. The dough should be firm, but still pliable and smooth. There should be no raw flour left over in lumps. If the dough seems dry and rips, add a few drops of water and continue kneading. If the dough seems sticky or tacky, add more flour to achiever the stiffness required. The kneaded dough should feel satiny and pliable but not be tacky.

4. Divide the dough into equal pieces, I cut the dough with a knife into 14 equalish balls and evened them out to make a 15th ball. Roll into balls like you are making dinner rolls (or a snowball!)

5. Cover the rolls with a damp towel and allow them to rest for 30 minutes.

6. Line 2 sheet pans with silpats or parchment. Proceed with shaping the bagels: Push a hole through the center of the roll with the end of a wooden spoon or spatula and stretch out the hole to an inch or so in diameter, try to make sure the ring is fairly even.

7. Place each of the shaped pieces 2 inches apart on the pan. Cover loosely with plastic wrap. Let the pans sit at room temperature for 30 minutes.

8. Check to see if the bagels are ready to head to the refrigerator overnight by doing a “float test”. Fill a small bowl with cool or room temperature water. The bagels are ready to go in when they float within 10 seconds of being dropped into the water. Take one bagel and test it. If it floats, immediately return the tester bagel to the pan, pat it dry, cover the pan with plastic wrap, and place it in the refrigerator overnight or up to 2 days if you're holding off on baking them.

If the bagel does not float, return it to the pan and continue to proof the dough at room temperature, checking back every 10 to 20 minutes or so until it floats. This time can vary, mine was about 30 minutes.

9. The next day, preheat the oven to 500 degrees F with the two racks set in the middle of the oven. Bring a large pot of water to a boil (the wider the better), I used my 3.25 Qt braiser since I can fit 4 bagels in it comfortably, and add the baking soda. Have a slotted spoon or skimmer nearby.

10. Remove the bagels from the refrigerator and gently drop them into the water, boiling only as many as comfortably fit, they should float. After 1 minute flip them over and boil another minute. Sprinkle the bagels with the grated cheese as soon as they come out of the water.

11. When all the bagels have been boiled and topped, place the pans on the two middle shelves in the oven. Bake for approximately 8 minutes, then rotate the pans, switching shelves and giving the pans a 180-degree rotation. (If you are only baking one pan at a time, keep it on the center shelf but still rotate 180 degrees.) After the rotation, lower the oven temperature to 450 degrees F and continue baking for about 8 minutes.

12. Turn the oven to a low broil and place each pan in separately for 3-5 minutes to finish off some browning and cooking.

12. Remove the pans from the oven and let the bagels cool on a rack for at least 15 minutes.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Chicken Broccoli Stir Fry

In interest of trying to be a bit healthier and work on our meal planning, this recipe is a good way to use up some extra and left over ingredients in your fridge. This recipe was in my Food Network Magazine back from November. I picked it because it was under 500 calories/serving. It obviously varies depending on your noodles and what you add in, but I like to keep things around there for our dinners - leaves room for wine! So feel free to add what you want and take out what you don't. If you cut up your veggies when you buy them this is even easier to throw together.

Chicken Broccoli Stir Fry


1 bunch broccoli
1 8oz package Rice or Egg noodles (Egg have way more flavour, but more calories)
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 tbsp water
5 cloves garlic, sliced thin or grated with a microplane
1 pound chicken, cut into 1/2 inch chunks
2 tbsp fish sauce
1 red chile pepper, Sliced and seeded (or keep the seeds for more heat)
1 red pepper, sliced
1 carrot, sliced

Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Add the broccoli and cook until bright green and slightly tender, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl - do not drain the water. Add the rice noodles and return to a boil. Take off heat and let soak until ready to use.

Combine the sugar and water in a Wok or large skillet over medium high heat, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Cook until it is dark amber, about 3 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook for another 30 seconds. Add the carrot and red pepper for 30 seconds before the chicken. Add the chicken and fish sauce and cook while stirring until chicken is no longer pink, about 5-8 minutes.

Stir in the red chile pepper and season with salt and pepper.

Drain the noodles and add them and the broccoli to the wok, stirring to coat all of the mixture in the sauce. Let simmer together for another minute and serve.