I know what you’re thinking. Stop it with the mac & cheese already, right???

Sweet Potato Mac Cheese

Good news, friends – this is the last mac & cheese post in the queue.

For now, anyway…

Sweet Potato Mac Cheese

I actually made this one forever ago. And then I froze it. Yup – froze it. I almost never freeze meals. You would think a gal like me would have a deep freeze filled with Tupperwares, all labeled and organized… but nope. Not me. Only recently have I smartened up and started freezing things like casseroles, apple crisp etc.

I know a lot of people don’t like freezing anything (cough, My Other Half, cough), so let me explain why. I take a lunch to work almost every day. My morning routine doesn’t allow for time to make something before work, so it has to be done the night before. And typically, we’re pretty busy on weeknights, so leftovers aren’t always available. Years and years ago I started cooking up a storm on Sundays, which supplied us with our lunches for the week.

Sweet Potato Mac Cheese

Lately, we’ve been a new level of busy. We’re traveling a lot and when we are home, there is tons to do. My Sundays are jammed with everything EXCEPT cooking lately. Knowing in advance that we were entering a busy season, I seized the opportunity to make a whole bunch of freezer meals.

I made casseroles and soups and… delicious Sweet Potato Mac & Cheese. Obviously.

Sweet Potato Mac Cheese

So the sweet potato is interesting, right? I was eating this at work and everyone was like WHOAAA. It’s supposed to make it healthier, because the puréed sweet potato replaces half the cheese. But if you’ve been reading this blog for, oh, let’s say FIVE SECONDS, you know I’m no calorie/nutrition expert… so I can’t actually tell you if this mac & cheese is indeed healthier… but let’s go with it. For fun.

The good news is that this version is every bit as delicious as my previous three unhealthy versions – the Classic Baked Mac & Cheese, the Buffalo Chicken Mac & Cheese, and the most recent Creamy Slow Cooker Mac & Cheese.

Sweet Potato Mac & Cheese
Adapted from Cookin’ Canuck
S
erves 8

1 lb sweet potato
13 oz macaroni
2 tbsps olive oil
1/2 onion, chopped
2 tsps minced garlic
3 tbsp flour
1 cup chicken broth
2 1/4 cups milk
2 cups shredded marble cheese
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
3/4 tsp ground nutmeg
Salt & pepper, to taste
1 cup panko breadcrumbs
Parmesan cheese

Cook the pasta al dente and drain. Rinse under cold water. Stab the sweet potato all over with a fork. Microwave for five minutes on each side, until it’s soft. Cut it in half and scoop out the flesh. Mash well. Heat the oil in a large pan and sauté the onion. Add the garlic. Stir in flour, whisking constantly for two minutes. Add the broth and milk and continue to whisk until it thickens. Stir in the mashed sweet potato, cheese, mustard, nutmeg, salt and pepper. Stir until the cheese is melted. Add the cooked pasta and stir. Grease a 11×17 baking dish and pour in the macaroni mixture. Top with panko and shaky Parmesan cheese. Bake at 375 degrees for 20 minutes, or until the edges are golden. 

Sweet Potato Mac & Cheese

Over a cup of tea…

July 21, 2014

If we were chatting over a cup of tea this morning, I’d tell you I’m so happy to be playing soccer again! I missed 10 games between the two teams I play on with my toe injury and while I’m not entirely healed, I’m good enough to play again. It feels like I was off forever, and after last week’s two games I was pretty sore. I also managed to run 5 km over the weekend and although I’m now considerably less fit, at least I got through it!

Fish Tacos

If we were chatting over a cup of tea this morning, I’d tell you about the amazing meal we had at our friends’ place on Saturday night! They made balsamic chicken wings, a delicious pancetta and tortellini salad and beer-battered fish tacos with pico de gallo and avocado cream. My Other Half if now adamant we add a deep fryer to our wedding registry because the fish turned out so perfectly. Little did they know fish tacos are my favourite!

If we were chatting over a cup of tea, I’d tell you I haven’t read a page lately. I’ve just been way too busy. By the time I get into bed at night, I am too exhausted to open a book. I’m also still technically reading Orange is the New Black, which I find super boring. I’m probably going to abandon it this week and try to finish The Bluest Eye for book club.

If we were chatting over a cup of tea, I’d tell you my friend Yvonne and I tried canning for the first time last week! We made Yellow Tomato and Mango Salsa. It was a lot of work (>3 hours for two 500 ml jars) but we’re pretty sure the results will be worth it. We’re very excited to try some other things (maraschino cherries, in particular) now that we’ve canned once. I’m also fascinated by freezer jams and want to try those too.

 

I made hollandaise sauce – from scratch!!!

Hollandaise Sauce

Are you an eggs benedict fan? I only recently (like, in the last two years) became one. That’s nuts, right?

The thing is, I never thought I liked hollandaise sauce. I had it over veggies like broccoli and cauliflower as a teenager and didn’t enjoy it at the time. Clearly your taste buds change, or I was just crazy. Because it is all kinds of delicious.

Hollandaise Sauce

Slowly but surely I’ve come to love it. Typically I would use the sauce from a packet, but a few people recently suggested making homemade hollandaise. I’d hear it was really hard to do properly, so I was intimidated, but eventually worked up the nerve.

The results? Devine. So so good.

Hollandaise Sauce

One thing to note – if you’re using salted butter, definitely do not add more salt. If you’re using unsalted, season with salt to your liking.

Also, poaching eggs isn’t so hard either! I thought that would be difficult but it’s not, as long as your water has vinegar in it. Easy as pie. Here’s a great tutorial from Jamie Oliver if you’ve never done it before.

Homemade Hollandaise Sauce
Adapted from Canadian Living
Makes 4 servings

2/3 cup butter
3 egg yolks
4 tsp cold water
2 tsp lemon juice
Pepper, to taste
3 dashes Tabasco sauce

Cut 2 tbsps of the butter into cubes and refrigerate. In pot, melt remaining butter. In bowl, whisk egg yolks with cold water until combined. Place over another pot of simmering water and whisk constantly (seriously – do not stop) until eggs are thickened. Add butter cubes and stir. Very slowly whisk in the warm butter, then lemon juice, pepper and Tabasco. 

Hollandaise Sauce

Ohhhh man.

Creamy Slow Cooker Mac & Cheese

Good heavens this Mac & Cheese kick is a becoming a problem! I am trying not to inundate you with it (hence a week since my last Mac & Cheese post). But it’s hard, because it’s all I’m eating. Cheese and noodles, cheese and noodles!!!

Anyway, this recipe is totally different from the Classic Baked Mac & Cheese I wrote about last week. Because it’s done in a slow cooker, it’s all creamyyyy. Cheesy creamy.

I am a huge fan of dumping things in a slow cooker. Except my slow cooker is too small. I mean, it’s a normal size, but I really badly want this one (it’s on our wedding registry actually). I want it because it’s huge (8 quarts) and isn’t digital. Every digital one breaks, in my experience. Old school is where it’s at.

Anyway, cute story about my current slow cooker – when I left for university, my grandmother (who sadly passed away in February) insisted it was the one appliance I HAD to have and gave it to me as my going-away gift. She was so thoughtful. When we bought our house, she gave us her China set that her four sons bought her for her 25th wedding anniversary. Makes me teary-eyed just thinking about how well she knew me, and how much I’m going to miss her on our big day.

Sorry-not-sorry for being a sap. Do you want to hear about the awesome, creamy Mac & Cheese I made in the slow cooker that my grandmother gave me???

Creamy Slow Cooker Mac & Cheese

Creamy Slow Cooker Mac & Cheese
Adapted from Six Sisters Stuff
Serves 6

2 cups macaroni (elbow pasta)
4 tbsps margarine or butter
2.5 cups grated cheese (I used marble)
1/2 cup sour cream
1 can condensed cheese soup (10 oz)
1 cup milk
1/2 tsp dry mustard
Salt & pepper, to taste

Book pasta al dente and drain. Grease your slow cooker. In it, mix cheese, margarine, sour cream, condensed soup, milk and salt and pepper. When blended, add in the cooked pasta and stir to coat. Cook on low for two hours, stirring twice. 

Over a cup of tea…

July 14, 2014

If we were chatting over a cup of tea this morning, I’d be completely exhausted but so happy! I just arrived back in Ottawa and am thrilled to be home. I had a whirl wind week, flying from Calgary through Montreal to Halifax, where I worked and then took off to a cottage bachelorette party. I barely saw my parents let alone many other family and friends, but I am thankfully back on the east coast in just two weeks for my big cousin’s wedding and some vacation. Crazy!

River Café

If we were chatting over a cup of tea, I’d tell you all about the delicious food I’ve had lately. Last week I had oysters and steak at Vintage in Calgary and it was unreal. I really wanted the full Alberta beef experience and I got my wish! I also grabbed lunch with a friend at the River Café which I heard was devastated by last year’s flooding, but is picture-perfect now. The menu was so diverse and original it was hard to choose, but I ended up with tuna crudo which I loved. When I got to Halifax, I tried the Fireside’s new menu (although I am VERY sad to see all their amazing salads completely gone) and had their portobello burger with beet chips – amazing! I have been dreaming about this sandwich ever since.

If we were chatting over a cup of tea this morning, I’d tell you all about my girlfriend Jeanette’s bachelorette. The weather was amazing! We ate wickedly-good food, did some canoeing and I even got in for a dip in the lake. We also visited Luckett Vineyards (I’d never been before), had lunch and I bought some of their blackcurrant liqueur which I cannot wait to try in a flute of champagne.

If we were chatting over a cup of tea, I’d say how excited I am to get back to my regular routine. Work, home cooking, reading and going to the gym all sounds really awesome right now. And spending time with my fiancé, who is miraculously in town this week. We’ve been like two ships passing in the night. It feels good to be home!

River Cafe on Urbanspoon

Vintage Chophouse & Tavern on Urbanspoon

Fireside on Urbanspoon

Luckett Vineyards on Urbanspoon

Buffalo Turkey Balls

July 11, 2014

These are like buffalo chicken wings.. without the calories.

IMG_8167

Or at least that’s what I heard. They have GOT to be less than restaurant chicken wings, right???

So the buffalo chicken obsession is back in full swing. Or it never left/ended. I still want to drink buffalo chicken sauce every bit as much as the day I discovered it. It’s OMG good.

These totally should have been made during football season, but whatever. They were a yummy snack for a night when it was too damn hot to eat outside, actually. It gets that hot in Ottawa! It’s uncomfortable. Sometimes, at least.

Buffalo Turkey Balls

Anyway, these hit the spot. They’re perfect little turkey meatballs with crumbles of blue cheese inside (don’t worry, blue cheese haters! You can barely taste it!). And then basted repeatedly in buffalo sauce, obviously.Buffalo Turkey Balls

Buffalo Turkey Balls
Adapted from Cookin’ Canuck and I Breathe I’m Hungry
Makes 16

1 lb ground turkey
1/4 cup crumbled blue cheese
2 oz cream cheese
1/2 yellow onion, finely chopped
1 egg
1/4 cup breadcrumbs
Salt & pepper, to taste
Buffalo sauce
Ranch or blue cheese dressing, for dipping

Mix all ingredients except the buffalo sauce and dressing in a bowl. When completely and evenly combined, roll the meat in 2 tbsps portions into a ball and place on a greased baking sheet. Bake at 350 for 10 minutes. Baste all balls with buffalo sauce and bake for another 10 minutes. Rolls each ball in lots of sauce when done. Serve with ranch or blue cheese dressing for dipping. 

Buffalo Turkey Balls

Back to basics today!!!Mac & Cheese
A couple months ago, I was visiting Laura and we were talking about my blog (and I met her gorgeous baby boy, Cooper). Her husband told me he’s a fan of The Domestic Blonde, which always makes me so happy, but that the other day he went looking for a recipe that he was surprised I had never blogged about.

Mac & Cheese!

HOW on God’s green earth have I, the biggest cheese and noodle lover ever, NOT blogged about Mac & Cheese?

Mac & CheeseThere are two possibilities. First, I actually cannot remember the last time I made Mac & Cheese from scratch. Why? Because Kraft Dinner still does it for me, particularly since they came out with the sharp cheddar version. Ummm yum. KD on crack. It’s the only one I buy now.

Secondly, if I’m going to make something – anything – I often overlook the tradition, tried-and-true versions of something. Which is obviously a mistake, since my classic lasagna is my most popular recipe ever and it’s, well… just lasagna. Basic, plain ol’ lasagna.

(But it’s so good and you should totally make it.)Mac & Cheese

 

Anyway, I vowed to make Mac & Cheese for the blog ASAP, if only for Ryan :)

And then I got carried away. I didn’t just made ONE Mac & Cheese… I made three. Three different types. Sooo this is the first of (at least) three versions of North America’s favourite noodle dish.

But they’re all very different! And equally delicious. Ryan may have created a monster here. I want to make ALL the Mac & Cheeses now… buffalo chicken, jalapeño popper, sriracha, vegan, etc. Yikes!

Mac & CheeseClassic Baked Mac & Cheese
Adapted from Kitchen Treaty
Serves 6

2 cups macaroni (elbow pasta)
3 tbsps margarine or butter
1/4 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
Salt & pepper, to taste
1/8 tsp smoked paprika
2 1/2 cups milk
3 cups grated cheese (I used marble)
1 cup panko bread crumbs

Cook the pasta al dente and drain. Melt margarine in a large frying pan. Add the flour, salt and  pepper, dry mustard and paprika and stir constantly until a roux is formed. Add the milk and stir constantly until the sauce thickens. Add 2.5 cups of the cheese and stir. Pour the sauce over the noodles and toss to combine. Grease a loaf pan (or pan of your choice and pour in the noodles. Top with remaining cheese and panko. Bake for 25 minutes at 375 degrees. 

Mac & Cheese

Over a cup of tea…

July 7, 2014

If we were chatting over a cup of tea this morning, I’d tell you that lately, I am…

Julia Kent Stampede

Eating / Steak tonight at Vintage in Calgary! I can’t wait to finally try the famous Alberta beef.
Drinking / Way, way too much. Stampede will do that to you, apparently.
Mastering / Functioning on zero sleep. I think the last night I slept really well was before Canada Day! All the partying isn’t helping, really.
Learning / To deal with never seeing My Other Half!  He has always traveled a lot for work, but now he’s traveling more than ever (and so am I). Women are always asking me how I do it. Thankfully I grew up with an amazing role model in my mother and handle it pretty well!
Reading / Lots of the Bible! We are choosing our readings and I am just loving a reason to read through my favourite passages about love and marriage.
Remembering / That I will be on BBC World Service’s World Book Club today to speak with Herman Koch, author of The Dinner! Isn’t that insane? They found me though book club!
Wearing / Cowgirl attire. Constantly.
Working / From my company’s Calgary office today. I fly to Halifax tomorrow.
Travelling / All over the place!
Wishing / My Other Half was with me!
Wanting / My toe to get better. I am finally diagnosed and have “turf toe”, which is common with football players. It’s basically a severe sprain and can take forever to heal!
Waiting / To fly to Halifax to kiss my nephew, meet our best friends’ son, and throw a wicked bachelorette party for my girlfriend.

You can read the last time I did this list here.

 

THIS SALAD!Grilled Pear Salad

 

Ages ago (like actually three years), some friends had us for dinner and it was unreal. Especially since when we last had them over, we served them raw pork by accident. My Other Half blames me, but he carved the tenderloin so, well… it was totally his fault.

Anyway, this salad was one of the delicious dishes they served us and I’ve never forgotten it.

The warm summer months and all the fresh berries got to me and I finally decided to make it. We loved it just as much the second time as we did the first!

Grilled Pear SaladI‘d actually never grilled pears before, although I know warm pears and cheese is a thing. They were delicious, especially with the goat cheese and raspberries. Perfect intersection of sweet and salty.

Grilled Pear, Goat Cheese & Raspberry Salad
Adapted from Southern Living
Serves 4-6

3 firm ripe pears, cut into wedges
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/2 cup raspberry jam (seedless if possible)
2 tbsps chopped fresh basil
1 tsp minced garlic
Salt & pepper, to taste
1/3 cup canola oil
5 oz. mixed greens or spinach or arugula
1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced
2 cups fresh raspberries
4 oz crumbled goat cheese

Grill pear wedges on BBQ for a couple minutes each side or until golden. Whisk together red wine vinegar, jam, garlic, salt and pepper and oil and set aside. Mix greens, onion, raspberries and goat cheese. drizzle with dressing and toss to combine. Serve with pears arranged on top.

Grilled Pear Salad

Classic Pad Thai

July 2, 2014

This is probably the 20th pad thai recipe I’ve made.

Classic Pad Thai

Honestly, I have tried countless versions of this staple Thai dish, and I never really found one version that was as good as my favourite Thai restaurants.

Most recently, I made spaghetti squash pad thai, which was unreal. I highly recommend it, especially if you’re a recovering noodle addict like me.

Anyway, you name a pad thai recipe, and I’ve probably tried it. I’ve even experimented with the sauces and packages from the grocery store. I made a good one last year for Jumbo’s birthday dinner, but decided to try a different one in an effort to finally get it just right. 

(Hilariously enough, this version was also made for Jumbo’s birthday – one year later!)

Classic Pad Thai

Thai food is my absolute favourite. If I could only eat one genre of food for the rest of my life, it would be Thai. I wrote all about how I fell in love with the cuisine back in 2011, actually.

Enough chit-chat – let’s get down to business – the recipe. The perfect pad thai, at long last!

Classic Pad Thai
Adapted from Canadian Living
Serves 6

oz rice noodles
1/3 cup regular chili sauce
1/4 cup fish sauce
1/4 cup lime juice
1 tsp sambal oelek (Asian chili sauce)
1/4 cup peanut butter
2 tbsp oil
6 tsp minced garlic
1 small onion, sliced
1 egg, beaten
4 oz medium tofu, cubed
2 cups fresh bean sprouts
4 green onions, sliced
Cilantro, for garnish
Chopped peanuts, for garnish
Lime wedges, for spritzing

Put a kettle on to boil. Place rice noodles in a large bowl and pour boiling water over them. Let sit until soft, then drain and set aside. In a small bowl, mix chili sauce, fish sauce, lime juice, 1/2 cup water and samba oelek. In a large frying pan, heat half the oil and fry garlic and onion until soft. Add sauce mixture and bring to a boil. Stir in egg and cook until sauce is slightly thickened. Add noodles, tofu, bean sprouts (it will seem like a lot but it’s really not) and green onions. Toss and fry for a few minutes. Transfer to a large serving bowl and top with cilantro, peanuts, more bean sprouts, and lime wedges.

Classic Pad Thai

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