Thursday, March 31, 2011

Extraordinary Nachos

To My Lovely Jess,

I woke up this morning thinking it was Friday. I got to the office only to realize it is actually Thursday. Not the best start to the day, but it could be much worse.

I have signed up to do a 30 day hot yoga challenge at the studio I'm working at. It starts on April 21st and ends on the 20th of May (right before the long weekend and Jason and my One Year Anniversary!) So up until then I'm trying to get as much done as I can in order to be completely committed for those 30 days.

After my 90 minute yoga class last night, Jason picked me up and we went to his place to play some cards and eat. There was not much in terms of dinner food at his house, so we took a quick inventory of what we had to work with. We decided to get creative with nachos!

Now, firstly, I did not intend to make this a blog entry. But when we got them together, I looked at them and knew they were something special. Secondly, the smell of them broiling in the oven was surreal, and when we dug into them, we couldn't stop until they were all gone!

Tasty Nachos
Whole grain nachos (I wanted to use the gluten free ones from Costco ... Next time for sure.)
Marble Cheese
Broccoli, cut in small pieces and blanched
Hot Peppers (we used the ones that come in a jar)
Medium Salsa
Chili Powder

1. Layer as follows:
Chips, cheese, salsa, hot peppers, broccoli, a little more cheese. Sprinkle with Chili Powder.

2. Broil for 3-5 minutes.

3. Eat them all!

I hope you're doing well! I miss you as always. I am getting very excited for all the trees and grass to turn green, and so many fruits and vegetables to come into season. Have a wonderful weekend.


Thursday, March 24, 2011

Impromptu Pizza Night

Dear Sally,

WHAT is with the weather eh? The freak snowstorm here yesterday totally threw a wrench in our plans. Jesse and I were supposed to have dinner with Karis and Alex but that did not end up happening. Instead Jesse came here and we ended up making homemade pizzas! I love when you can make something fun and delicious with the things you always have in the cupboard and a few yummy extras.

I kinda love those nights when your plans go wrong but something else really fun happens anyways :) I will warn you that there are lots of pictures with this one so be prepared. It was just too much fun making the pizzas. I made homemade pizza dough with white and whole wheat flour. We threw on mushrooms, hot peppers, sweet peppers, cheese (goat for me of course), pepperoni (for Jesse) and potato. Basically you can just say that we were playing with our food!

Hope you stayed safe and warm. I love you so much!


Quick and Easy Pizza Dough
The Joy of Cooking
2 1/2 tsp yeast
1 1/3 cups lukewarm water
1 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp salt

3-3 1/2 cups flour
2 tbsp oil

Mix the water, yeast, sugar and salt together in a large bowl. Let stand until the yeast has dissolved. Add your oil and stir then add the flour. Mix and knead for 5 minutes. Place the dough in an oiled bowl at let rise in a warm place for about 45-60 minutes.

While the dough is rising cut up desired pizza toppings. Divide the dough, roll, sauce, top and bake for about 10-15 minutes at 350 C.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Girl's Night

Dear Jess,

It was so amazing to be able to hang out with you and Jesse last weekend. Jason and I had an amazing time, and concur with Jesse when he says 'I wish they lived closer.' You and I are tremendously blessed with each other. I can't wait to see where the next few years take us!

Tonight's dinner came from a few things. I was sitting at the office thinking of what to make for a 'girl's night' dinner with my friend Alicia. We hadn't had a night with just us in far too long, and she has this adorable, cozy apartment where we planned to snuggled down and watch the first disc of the first season of Friends.

You know those recipes in the BBC Good Food Magazines where they only use 5 ingredients to make a delicious, healthy dinner? I absolutely love that. So, I thought back to what is in my pantry and got really excited when I remembered that I have two huge Costco jars full of Sun-dried Tomatoes! I Googled Sun-dried Tomatoes and found this website devoted entirely to this simple, little, tasty treat.

This recipe was adapted from a simple pasta dish they had. I just added one or two things. The combination of the Sausage, Sun-dried Tomatoes and Basil is mind blowing. It leaves you extremely satisfied, and excited for leftovers the next day.

Sun-dried Tomato Pasta
(serves 3-4)
2tbsp extra virgin olive oil
3/4 package whole wheat spaghetti
2 Italian Sausages
7-10 large sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
1/2 large container of spinach
3 cloves garlic, minced
fresh basil
Parmesan cheese

1. Cook pasta according to the box instructions. In the last minute, dump in all your spinach to blanch. Strain.

2. Meanwhile, take sausage out of its casing. Break up in a skillet on medium to medium/high heat. Cook until no longer pink.

3. Add Sausage, Sun-dried tomatoes, Garlic, Basil and Parmesan Cheese to the noodels and spinach. If you find it is too dry, add a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.

4. Serve!

I am very excited to hear what opportunities come your way in the next few months. You are always in my prayers. I love you, and can't wait for our next get-together!

So much Love,

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Breakfast in Bed

Dear Sally,

It was so wonderful to see you this weekend. As Jesse and I were pulling out of the driveway last night he said to me, "I wish Sally and Jason didn't live so far away." I agree with him but I have to say that I am so glad that no matter where we are living our relationship doesn't change.

As you know I made breakfast in bed for Jesse on Saturday morning. Funny enough, I got the recipe from Cosmo Magazine and although I didn't take any pictures from when I made it I have included the one from the Cosmo website. I made Jesse warm bread pudding, cut up fruit and mimosas. The cinnamon and sugar used in the bread pudding were soaked up in homemade bread that I had made two nights before. It smelled so delicious when it was baking it made me think of the Cinnabon at Eglinton subway station.

I love you so much and I am so excited to see where the future leads you!

Cinnamon-Swirl Breakfast Bread Pudding
Cosmopolitan Magazine
4 eggs
1 1/2 cups milk
3 tbsp brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 loaf day-old bread, torn into small pieces

In a large bowl, whisk eggs and milk. Add the brown sugar, vanilla extract, cinnamon and whisk until all the ingredients are completely incorporated. Stir the bread into the egg mixture. Grease a 8x8 inch baking pan. Pour in the bread pudding and cover with foil. Let sit in the refrigerator at least one hour and up to overnight. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake the bread pudding, covered, for 30 minutes. Remove the foil and bake an additional 10 minutes until the pudding is browned. Serve hot with maple syrup.

Morning Mimosas
orange juice (no pulp)

Fill a champagne flute half full with orange juice. Top with champagne and enjoy!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Man Food: Jamie Oliver's Sausage Carbonara

Dear Jess,

I am happy to say: things are quite busy. There's work, yoga, drawing, church, cooking, running, and so much more. The weather is slowly getting warmer which will lead to running outside, and other adventurous outings.

Friday night has become a 'resting point' for Jason and myself. We really enjoy pouring a large glass of red wine before picking a low-maintenance (yet delicious)  meal to make. On this particular Friday, however, we were invited to a friend's house for coffee and dessert. Since my yoga class went until 6:45, it really didn't leave much time for making dinner before going out for dessert. All of this leads to today's feature recipe: Sausage Carbonara.

Jason and I had made this in the 'pre-blog' days. Knowing what to expect from this one, he offered to whip it together so it would be ready by the time I got home. (What a nice young man!) I have to admit, that Jason cooking Jamie Oliver for me makes him even more attractive... if that's even at all possible.

What I love about this particular dish, is it's lightness in spite of the pasta and meat. The egg and lemon zest really make it a sweeter dinner. Jamie accurately describes it as the 'breakfast pasta.' We originally found this recipe in Jamie Oliver Italy, but this time we pulled it off

Sausage Carbonara
From Jamie's Italy
4 good quality organic Italian sausages
olive oil
4 slices of thickly cut pancetta, chopped (we use 6 strips of bacon)
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
500g dried linguine pasta
4 large free-range or organic egg yolks
100ml double cream (we used 2% milk)
100g freshly grated Parmesan cheese
zest of 1 lemon
a sprig of fresh flat-leaf parsley, shopped
extra virgin olive oil

1. With a sharp knife, slit the sausage skins lengthways and pop all the meat out. Using wet hands, roll little balls of sausage meat about the size of large marbles and place them to one side.

2. Heat a large frying pan and add a good splash of olive oil. Gently fry the sausage meatballs until golden brown all over, then add the pancetta and continue cooking for a couple of minutes, until it's golden. While this is cooking, bring a pan of salted water to the boil, add the linguine, and cook according to the packet instructions.

3. In a large bowl, whip up the egg yolks, cream, half the Parmesan, the lemon zest and parsley. When the pasta is cooked, drain it in a colander, reserving a little of the cooking water, and immediately toss it quickly with the egg mixture back int eh pasta pan. Add the hot sausage meatballs and toss everything together. The egg will cook delicately from the heat of the linguine, just enough for it to thicken and not scramble. The sauce should be smooth and silky. If the pasta becomes a little claggy, add a few spoonfuls of the reserved cooking water to loosen it slightly. Sprinkle over the rest of the Parmesan, season if necessary, drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and serve. Eat immediately!

I am thrilled that God is making himself known to you, and giving you little pushes. I'm reading a lot of John Piper lately, and it is definitely enlightening. I am very excited to hear more details. Also I am looking forward to this upcoming weekend of laughing and sharing.

So much love,

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Travel Food

Dear Sally,


I can't remember if I told you that Jesse and I are going to Ohio this weekend but I'm telling you now :)

In preparation for the trip I thought I would do some baking. The boys requested White Chocolate Macadamia Nut cookies and I threw in some Reese's Pieces Cookies. I was also inspired by a recipe from Handle the Heat for soft pretzels and so I made little pretzel pieces and coated them in chocolate (and then some were rolled in Reese's Pieces).

Hopefully there will still be some treats left for our hosts after our 7 hour drive tonight but with two boys in the front of the truck and me sleeping in the back I highly doubt it!

I miss you so much but we will see each other soon! Hope you are staying warm and dry in this weather.


Reese's and White Chocolate Cookies

1 1/3 cups unsalted butter (room temperature)
2 eggs (room temperature)
1 cup white sugar
1 cup brown sugar
2 tsp vanilla
3 cups flour
3 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup white chocolate chips

1/3 cup macadamia nuts
1 cup Reece's Pieces

1. Combine butter, eggs, vanilla, and sugars in a mixing bowl. Slowly add flour,baking powder and salt mixture to the rest of the ingredients. Add the chocolate chips and nuts and mix. Bake at 350 for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown.

2. Let cool and enjoy! Add crushed Reece's Pieces for an interesting change.

Soft Pretzels
1 1/2 cups warm water
2 tablespoons light brown sugar  
1 package active dry yeast  
3 ounces unsalted butter, melted  
2 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt  
4 cups all-purpose flour vegetable oil  
3 quarts water
3/4 cup baking soda  
1 whole egg, beaten with 1 tablespoon cold water
coarse sea salt

1. Combine water, sugar, yeast, and butter in a bowl and mix until combined. Let sit for 5 minutes.

2. Add the salt and flour and mix with a dough hook on low speed until combined. Increase the speed to medium and continue kneading until the dough is smooth and begins to pull away from the side of the bowl, about 3 to 4 minutes. If the dough appears too wet, add additional flour, 1 tablespoon at a time. Remove the dough from the bowl, place on a flat surface and knead into a ball with your hands. Oil a large bowl with vegetable oil, add the dough and turn to coat with the oil. Cover with a clean towel or plastic wrap and place in a warm spot until the dough doubles in size, about 1 hour.

3. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Bring the water to a boil in a small roasting pan over high heat and add the baking soda.

4. Remove the dough from the bowl and place on a flat surface. Divide the dough into 8 equal pieces, . Roll each piece into a long rope measuring 22 inches and shape. Cut the dough into one inch pieces to make the pretzel bites. Boil the pretzel bites in the water solution in batches, boiling no more than 15 bites at a time, for about 30 seconds. Remove with a large slotted spoon. Place boiled pretzel bites on a baking sheet that has been sprayed with cooking spray. Make sure they are not touching.

5. Brush the tops with the egg wash and season liberally with the salt. Place into the oven and bake for 15 to 18 minutes until golden brown. Remove to a baking rack and let rest 5 minutes before eating.

6. Melt 10 ounces of milk chocolate in a microwavable bowl and dip pretzel pieces. Roll in crushed Reese's Pieces for extra goodness.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

A weekend in Bradford

Dear Sally,

I have discovered that I am a country girl at heart. I like living in the city BUT nothing beats the sunset over snow-covered hills and the crisp country air.

Jesse and I were inspired by your soup the other day and decided to make chili on Saturday afternoon. Between the rain and the cold we really just wanted to curl up with something warm and delicious and relax. We picked up some ingredients for chili and st
arted throwing things in a pan. We added a little bit of this and some of that and made a delicious spicy chili.

Hot Tamale Chili

2 cans crushed tomatoes
1 can red kidney beans
3 stalks celery
1/2 green pepper
3/4 yellow pepper
1/2 onion
2 tbsp. brown sugar

4 tbsp. Valentina hot sauce
4 tbsp. chili powder
2 tsp. red chili flakes
ground beef
olive oil
2 cloves garlic
1 tsp dijon mustard
3/4 cup chicken stock

1. Pour both cans of crushed tomatoes and chicken stock into a large soup pan and turn on medium heat.

2. Pour a small amount of olive oil into a frying pan and cook the garlic for about 2 minuted. Chop onion, peppers and celery into small pieces and add to the pan. Cook for about 5 minutes over medium heat till softened. Add to the crushed tomato.

3. Cook ground beef until no pink or liquid is left and also add to the tomato mixture. Open the kidney beans and pour half of the can into the pot. Crush the remaining half of the beans using a fork and pour them into the pot.

4. Bring the pot to a boil and stir everything together. Add the red pepper flakes, chili peppers, dijon and brown sugar. Simmer till all ingredients have blended. EAT!

Today God really spoke to me about some fears I have that are stopping me from furthering his kingdom and he gave me a nice little shove in the right direction. I realize that this has nothing to do with cooking but I know you would be able to appreciate his little nudge in our lives. I hope you had a wonderful weekend.

I love you so much and am truly blessed to have you in my life.

See you soon!


Saturday, March 5, 2011

Snickerdoodles Galore!

Dear Jess,

Firstly: you are amazing. Secondly: it's raining again.

I woke up on this dreary Saturday morning to a note from Jason stating that the coffee maker was all set up, and just had to be turned on. The day only got better from there! After yoga with Rhiannon we came back to make cookies. There have been a few that I wanted to try, so there's nothing like a rainy weekend and a zen state of mind to bring on the gumption to make 4 dozen cookies!

On today's list: White Chocolate Macadamia Nut Cookies, Almond-Butter Snickerdoodles. (I absolutely love the word snickerdoodle!)

White Chocolate Macadamia Nut Cookies
(makes 2 dozen)
2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups white chocolate chips
1 cup chopped macadamia nuts

1. Adjust an oven rack to the lower-middle position and heat the oven to 325 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Whisk the flour, baking soda, and salt together in a medium bowl.

2. In a large bowl, beat the melted butter and sugars together until smooth. Beat in the egg, egg yolk, and vanilla until combined.

3. Slowly add the flour mixture until combined. Mix in the white chocolate chips and macadamia nuts until incorporated.

4. Working with 2 tbsp of dough at a time, roll the dough into even balls and lay them on the baking sheets, spaced about 2 inches apart.

5. Bake the cookies until the edges are set and beginning to brown but the centers are still soft and puffy, about 12-16 minutes. Let the cookies cool on the baking sheet for about 10 minutes, then serve warm or transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely.

Almond-Butter Snickerdoodles
(makes 2 dozen)
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/3 cup (about 3 ounces)
1/3-less-fat cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
2 tbsp smooth almond butter
1 tsp grated lemon rind
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 large eggs yolks, lightly beaten
1 1/3 cup whole-wheat flower
1 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon, divided
1/2 tsp salt
2 tbsp granulated sugar

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line baking sheets with parchment paper or silpats.

2. Place the first 4 ingredients (brown sugar, cream cheese, butter and almond butter) in a medium bowl, and beat until well combined. Add lemon rind, vanilla extract, and egg yolks; beat until well blended.

3. Combine flours, baking soda, 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon, and 1/2 tsp salt using a whisk. Add flour mixture to butter mixture; beat until well combined. Combine the remaining 1 tsp cinnamon and granulated sugar in a small bowl. Roll rounds of dough in cinnamon sugar then drop dough onto prepared baking sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 6 minutes; flatten cookies with the back of a spatula. Bake an additional 6 minutes. Cool on pans 1 minute. Remove from pans, and cool on wire racks.

I hope your weekend is relaxing, and a true breath of fresh air.

So much of my Love,

Thursday, March 3, 2011

March Medley

Dearest Jess,

I can't believe it's already March! I woke up this morning to the birds singing and the sun shining! It was still -15, but things are looking up! I do believe Spring will be here before we know it, and all this cold and mush will just seem like a distant bad dream.

I was on 'dinner duty' on Wednesday, and with all the rain we've been getting, I have been craving a big bowl of soup! I made this recipe up, so bare with me as I try to remember the ingredients. I needed lots of greens (as you know) for my blood vs. medication levels. I was going to use broccoli, but realized we had some bok choy to use up. I am thrilled this happened, because the bok choy-and-spinach combo really set the 'tone' for the soup.

Green Medley Soup
1 large spanish onion, diced
2 sticks of celery, chopped
2 large carrots, chopped
1 large red bell pepper, diced
3tbsp butter
1.5lb ground turkey
1 cup of medium salsa
1 1/2 tbsp chili powder
1 tbsp cumin
2 containers of chicken broth
1 cup uncooked rice (I used a medley my Mom has)
1 can of lentils
2 large bok choy (chopped)
half of a large box of spinach
Salt and Pepper to taste

1. Put butter, onions, celery, red pepper and carrots into your pot on medium head until they start to get tender. Add ground turkey and simmer until cooked (you can turn the heat up if needed.) Add your salsa, chili powder and cumin. Stir well. Add chicken broth and rice. Bring to a boil. Turn down to low heat and let simmer for 15 minutes, covered.

2. Add lentils. Cook for 3 minutes more. Add Bok Choy and spinach. Let cook for 2-3 more minutes. Add Salt and Pepper if needed.

3. Serve!

I hope you're doing well! I miss you (as always!) I can't wait to see you in a few weeks when Caitlin and G come to visit!

I love you,