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Stuffed butternut squash


A couple of weeks ago, I mentioned a delicious stuffed butternut squash dish. I also promised to share the recipe.  This meal is very easy and filling, but the prep is a little long, so I recommend making this when you are in the mood for a slow evening.  It is perfect for a dinner party and is also meatless – so an excellent vegetarian dinner idea! Tip: To shorten the prep, make the quinoa ahead of time!

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Stuffed butternut squash

Ingredients

  • 1 medium butternut squash
  • olive oil
  • pinch dried oregano
  • 1 cup quinoa (cooked) (this will take about 20 mins to cook – make sure to budget this into your time!)
  • 1 small carrot , grated
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 box of cherry or grape tomatoes, chopped in half
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 red pepper, sliced
  • Parmesan cheese for sprinkling at the end (optional)

Instructions

Butternut squash and stuffing

1. Preheat the oven to 200C.  Cut the butternut squash in half (you may need to microwave it for a minute or two in order to be able to do this) and scoop out the seeds.

2. Place both halves on the baking tray, drizzle with a little olive oil and season with salt, pepper and dried oregano.  Cook for 40 minutes.  Take out of the oven, add the chopped peppers and tomatoes to the tray and cook for another 10 minutes.

3. Meanwhile, mix the quinoa with the carrots, onions and dressing  (see instructions below).

4. Take the tray out of the oven and transfer the peppers and tomatoes to the stuffing mix.

5. Stir together and spoon the filling into the butternut squash. You can also scoop out some of the squash and mix it in with the stuffing before adding the stuffing to the squahs.  Return to the oven for 10 minutes.

6. Sprinkle some parmesan cheese on top (optional) and serve.

Dressing

1. Pour the juice of one lemon into a cup.

2. Add enough olive oil that it is about equal to the amount of lemon juice.

3. Crush 2 garlic cloves and mix into the lemon/olive oil mix.

4. Add some salt to taste.

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“Picture[s] of the [last few] week[s]” and B&B book club


I haven’t been terribly good at keeping up with my “picture of the week”, so I thought that for this week I would share a whole bunch of pictures with you to make up for it. Here are a few shots of the last few weeks…visiting Peggy’s Cove before it got too cold, baked oatmeal dish, my birthday salad made by my wonderful husband, baking cookies with mom and dad over Christmas in Toronto as well as a couple of others.

Also, since it is January and lots of us are making new year’s resolutions (many of which may have to do with finances), I thought I would tell you about a book I recently read that you might like.  Its called the “Smart Cookies Guide to Making More Dough and Getting out of Debt”.  The idea of the book is premised around these five women called the “Smart Cookies” who got together and formed a “money group” to help keep themselves accountable financially.  The authors suggest that you form your own money group and read the book as you would in a book club.  It discusses all sorts of different money related topics and is written especially for women.  I personally read it on my own and learned a lot and found it really helpful. I imagine you would get even more out of it if you formed a group, but I definitely wouldn’t forego reading it just because you don’t have one.  One more tip: they have a Canadian and an American version of the book, so if you are going to order it, make sure you get the right version.

The best brunch dish ever


So, I am not one to use superlatives very often.  In fact, they’ve always kind of scared me.  When I was in grade school and my teachers used to ask us to pull out our “best” handwriting, I would always get a bit anxious and worried that I would have used up my limited supply of “best hand writing” by the age of 9.  I would get a similar feeling when people would ask me what my “favorite” song, or “favorite” colour was.  I always felt that if I gave a song name or a colour out, than that song or colour would have to be my favorite for the rest of my life.  At 29, I still sometimes experience anxiety over these sorts of things.

Having admitted this publicly on my blog, I must also say that once in a while (but very rarely), I can use a superlative sans anxiety.   For example, there is this red curry chicken soup at this Thai restaurant in Ottawa which my friend and I have qualified as “the best soup in the world”.  A few years later, I still sleep well and have no regrets about having used this title.  So today friends, let me introduce you to “the best brunch dish ever”.  I hope you will find it as delicious as I have.  This dish is great for serving to guests, and is also extra awesome because you can prepare it the night before.

Here is the recipe:

Overnight Proscuitto & Feta Egg Bake

*Note: The original recipe calls for goat cheese, but I have substituted feta cheese instead.

Ingredients:

-14 to 18 slices English muffin bread

-6 oz. prosciutto, thinly sliced and torn into bite size pieces

-8 oz. crumbled feta cheese (or goat cheese if you prefer)

-8 oz. shredded provolone cheese

-1/4 c. chopped green onions

-6 T. thinly sliced fresh basil

-5 large eggs

-2 c. whole milk

-1 T. Dijon mustard (optional)

-1/2 tsp. salt (you may want to use less, depending on the saltiness of your prosciutto/ham and goat cheese)

-1/2 tsp. ground black pepper

3 T. unsalted butter, melted

Preparation:

Spray a 9″ x 13″ baking dish with cooking spray. Then line the bottom of the dish with 1 layer of bread, cutting some of the slices to fit if necessary. Arrange half the prosciutto evenly over the bread, and then half the goat cheese and half the provolone. Sprinkle with half of the green onions and basil. Top with a second layer of bread slices. Layer on the remaining prosciutto, goat cheese, provolone, green onions, and basil.

Whisk eggs, milk, mustard, salt, and pepper in a medium bowl. Pour egg mixture evenly over the egg bake, letting it soak in. Drizzle melted butter evenly over the top. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

The next morning, preheat oven to 350°. Uncover the egg bake and let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes. Bake until the center is set, about 55 to 60 minutes. If you want to crisp up the top even more, set it under the broiler for a minute or two, until golden. Cut into large squares and serve.

Yield: 6 to 12 servings

Source: adapted from the recipe box of Meghan Cornell, adapted from Bon Appetit ”Entertaining Made Easy”, December 2003, also seen at http://www.afarmgirlsdabbles.com/)

Lemon, Sumac & Turmeric Roasted Cauliflower


I really like cauliflower but until a few days ago I couldn’t really say that I had a ‘go-to’ cauliflower recipe.  I sometimes throw it into salads and last year I made a really good Thai red curry chicken soup with it, but other than that, nothing special sticks out in my mind.

I recently came across this recipe and wanted to try it right away.  Having run out of cumin a few days earlier, I decided to experiment with turmeric.  I was pleasantly surprised with how well the lemon, turmeric and sumac flavours blended together. The result a deliciously tart yet warm roasted cauliflower dish.  I think you will enjoy.  Here is the recipe, which is a slightly modified version of the one I mentioned above, replacing only the cumin with turmeric.  Enjoy!

Lemon, sumac & turmeric roasted cauliflower
I large head of cauliflower, broken into florets
1/3 c olive oil
1 large lemon, zested & juiced
1 T ground cumin
1 T ground sumac
1 t garlic powder
1 large pinch kosher salt
good grind fresh black pepper
additional lemon, quartered (optional)

Preheat oven to 425F.

In a large bowl, combine the cauliflower, olive oil, lemon juice and zest, cumin, sumac and garlic powder. Toss with your hands or a wooden spoon so that everything gets evenly combined. Dump onto a cookie sheet prepped with a silpat mat or parchment paper and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake for 30 minutes, flipping cauliflower over at the 15 minute mark. When everything is golden brown and crispy, remove from oven. Serve with additional lemon quarters for that added lemony bite.

The Apple Doesn’t Fall Far From the Tree


So we have been here for about a week – and I have already found a place to buy candied chickpeas!

Lucky for us, there is a Middle Eastern grocer about 5 minutes away from our home and, though it’s relatively small, it carries everything I would have wanted to find. Besides the candied chickpeas, I was hoping to find some Pomegranate molasses (and I did!). The Lebanese use this a lot in their cooking and I’ve been meaning to try it out because the few times that I have tried it, it was just so good. My mother in law makes particularly good use of this stuff and I’m hoping to follow in her footsteps. Once I’ve had a chance to try a few recipes with this little secret weapon, I will report back.  Expect greatness.

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J and I found ourselves feeling particularly at home in this shop and as a result we bought a lot of items simply because they were comfort foods, and not because we had any particular craving for them (though they will not be going to waste, I can tell you that). Its amazing how just having certain items in your fridge can make your little abode feel like that much more of a home. Here is a list of what we came back with:

  • Labneh: a soft Lebanese cheese made by straining yogurt
  • Pickled turnips (or in Arabic “lift”): you might have had these in a shawarma sandwich
  • Macedonian feta cheese: this is what my dad always has in the fridge at home.  J and I are hoping that the kind we bought will be just as good
  • Za’atar: a mixture made up of thyme, sesame seeds and sumac.  It can be used as a seasoning or can also be eaten with lebneh.
  • Mango juice: reminds me so much of my visits to Egypt
  • Halawa: a sweet crumbly spread usually eaten with bread at breakfast time but it can be eaten in a variety of ways any time of the day
  • Candied chickpeas: these were not freshly made in-store as they are in the roastery in Ottawa and as a result they are quite expensive here!

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The funniest part about this list is that the majority of these items are not ones we are accustomed to buying.  They are tastes and flavours which we are usually fed when visiting family, or which our parents will just pick up for us when they go to the Middle Eastern grocery store. In fact, save for the chick peas, this is probably the first time I have ever purchased any of these items for myself.

The outing was special to us though.  Though the Middle Eastern grocery store is not a regular stop for us in Ottawa, we naturally gravitated towards it here.  I think it might be because we both have an unspoken desire and need to preserve our cultures and  to integrate them into our new home.  When we live close to family, we really don’t need to put any effort into this.  Now that we are further away, it seems to have happened organically.

Fattoush!


So, in keeping with my ongoing fetish for Lebanese food and culture, I have recently developed a more specific fetish – for fattoush. Yes, that’s right, a fetish for fattoush.

What is fattoush you ask? It is a delicious salad made from greens and toasted or fried pita bread.  The special ingredient, which makes it taste different than other salads you may have had, is sumac – a spice used in the Middle East which adds a bit of a lemony taste. You will love it!

Since my little fetish has started to become an expensive one because I am constantly going to Lebanese restaurants for a quick fix, I recently decided that the time had come for me to make some homemade fattoush.   It is actually quite easy to make and the  only tip I have is to not overdo it with the sumac. Be  somewhat generous, just not overly generous. Contrary to what I had previously thought, it is possible to have too much sumac. 🙂

This recipe is adapted from one taken from one of my favorite Lebanese food blogs – Taste of Beirut.  Enjoy!

Fattoush:

  • a head of romaine lettuce chopped up
  • cucumbers
  • diced tomatoes
  • diced radishes
  • green onions, sliced
  • a handful of chopped Italian parsley and a handful of fresh mint
  • green pepper
  • 1 large pita

Dressing:

1. 2 small lemons, juiced

2. 1/2 cup of extra virgin olive oil

3. 2  tablespoons of sumac

4.  2 or more cloves of garlic mashed in a dash of salt in a mortar

Method:

1.  Brush the pita bread with oil and sprinkle plenty of sumac on top

2.  Toast in a 325 F oven until the bread is crispy and golden – break into small pieces and set aside *Note – if you forget to brush with olive oil and sumac – you can just mix the bread in with the salad later and it will absorb the dressing and sumac*.

3.  Prepare all the salad ingredients; mix the dressing; when ready to serve, toss the salad with the dressing and mix in the pieces of pita bread.

Picture of the Week – Amato Pizza & Good Food in the T-dot


So I haven’t been that great with my blogging in the past couple of weeks – mostly due to a previously mentioned insane busy period at work. I am glad to report that that period is over! I am happy to be back to blogging and will have a few fun posts up this week – stay tuned for my first attempt at making fattoush!

I recently returned from a business + pleasure trip to Toronto and when I looked back at my pictures, I realised that a lot of them were of food.  Let’s face it, there’s some good food in Toronto.  This particular shot was taken at Amato Pizza, possibly one of the best pizza spots in the city.  Nothing fancy, just good pizza.

While we’re on the topic of food – another great spot that I visited during my trip was Fressen – definitely the best vegan restaurant that I have been to so far.  My cousin and I ordered this fabulous zucchini appetizer and I had the seitan and veggies for my main.  No regrets whatsoever.  For desert, we shared a chocolate avocado tartine.  Besides the food being delicious, we were both extremely impressed with the presentation of the food.

Two other blog-worthy restaurant visits in Toronto this week were Grazie and Tabule, both mid-town around Yonge and Eglinton.  Grazie has got to be my favorite Italian restaurant in TO.  I highly recommend the Penza (penne à la vodka).   Tabule is great if you are in the mood for really good Lebanese food.  I am glad this place opened up because Toronto doesn’t have a ton of Middle Eastern restaurants.  This one is definitely a good spot.

All in all, such an amazing and refreshing week in Toronto.  I am ready to be back home to J and to return to daily life in the O-town. Thanks for reading!