Friday, September 30, 2011

Cooking Light's Spinach & Chickpea Soup

All the credit for this recipe has to go to my husband, who whipped this up the other day while I was running late from work (workshop on IEP writing, if you must know). It's a really beautiful, easy dinner that I think will go into rotation as my comfort food on dreary, rainy days.

The lemon juice and zest keep the soup light and fresh, while the spinach adds colour and the pasta brings substance.

Plus, you've got to love anything that's ready in about 20 minutes!

Cooking Light's Spinach & Chickpea Soup

(source) serves 4


2 tsp canola oil
2 green onions, sliced
1 tsp dried oregano
4 cups vegetable or chicken stock
2 cups water
1 tbsp lemon zest
1 15oz can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
3/4 cup pasta of your choice
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
5 oz baby spinach
½ tsp ground black pepper
shaved Parmesan


1. Heat canola oil in a large saucepan. Sauté onions and oregano for two minutes. Add in stock and water and bring to a boil. Add in zest, chickpeas and pasta, cover and continue boiling for 10 minutes. Test pasta for doneness. Stir in lemon juice, spinach and black pepper. Serve with Parmesan shaved on top.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Note to Self

It's a waste of energy and emotion to let toxic people and their pettiness get to you.

Save your energy for the people who matter.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Sausage Minestrone Bake

Autumn rain showers leave me feeling slightly melancholic - but in the best possible way, if that makes any sense. There's something so lovely about watching the rain hit the windowpanes, while you're wrapped up in a cozy cardigan.

A cup of tea close at hand is mandatory on afternoons like this.

Of course, more often than not, autumn rain showers tend to hit while I'm walking home wearing super absorbent fabric shoes. This has happened to me twice in the past week.

Adding insult to injury, the rain stopped within minutes of my arriving home... so there was no need for cardigan. Or tea. Or to stare out the window.

And I had very wet feet.

In the end, it was the wet feet that made me long for comfort food. Inspired by two recipes from Martha Stewart Magazine, I put together a Sausage Minestrone Pot Pie.

Sausage Minestrone Pot Pie


2 tbsp olive oil, divided
½ lb turkey sausage, casings removed and meat broken up
1 medium onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
½ tsp dried oregano
½ tsp dried basil
½ tsp dried rosemary
1 sweet potato, peeled and chopped into ½" cubes
3 carrots, peeled and sliced
1 28 oz can whole tomatoes, undrained
1 15 oz can navy beans, rinsed and drained
2 cups chicken stock
1 bunch swiss chard, rinsed, chopped
2 potatoes, scrubbed
salt and pepper to taste


1. Preheat oven to 375º.

2. In a dutch oven, heat 1 tbsp olive oil over medium heat. Add sausage meat and onion to pan and sauté until meat is browned and cooked through. Stir in garlic and herbs and cook for a further minute. Stir in potatoes, carrots, tomatoes with their juices, beans and stock. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for about 10 minutes, or until thick.

3. Meanwhile, slice potatoes into 1/8" slices, using a mandoline. Set aside.

4. Add swiss chard to pot and cook until just tender, an additional 3-5 minutes. Pour mixture into a 9" x 13" baking pan. Layer potatoes on top of minestrone mixture, brushing with remaining olive oil as you layer. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

5. Bake for 45-55 minutes, or until potatoes are golden and crisp and mixture is bubbly and thick.

Monday, September 26, 2011

White Pizza topped with Spinach Salad and Prosciutto

Things that keep me up at night:

1. Lesson planning for math class
2. University students who are living in apartments - on their own for the first time - drunkenly singing songs from the Lion King
3. The realization that we eat pizza in some form multiple times a week.

Okay, maybe the last one doesn't keep me awake at night, but I was struck by that realization of just how much pizza we eat each week. It's not usually a cheese and meat laden extravaganza - in fact, I think variations of the vegan Thrive Diet pizza are probably the kinds that we eat most frequently.

But, there is something about having pizza that makes the weekend feel like the weekend. And, if you make an extra large batch of dough one day and store the remainder of the dough in the freezer, it feels like you've barely put any work into a homemade pizza dinner.

And personally, I like that feeling.

I tried something I haven't done before with pizza the other night - forgo the sauce and the cooked toppings.

Instead, the base was baked with a brush of truffle oil and a mixture of mozzarella and blue cheeses. Once pulled from the oven, I topped it with a dressed spinach salad with prosciutto.

So, it's more salad than pizza... right?

White Pizza with Spinach and Prosciutto

(serves 4)


pizza dough (I used the half I'd set aside from this recipe)
1 tbsp truffle oil (you could use any flavoured oil in its place - garlic oil would be particularly delicious)
1 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
½ cup crumbled blue cheese
4 cups baby spinach greens
2 oz thick cut prosciutto, chopped
1 tbsp sherry vinegar
1 tbsp olive oil
½ tsp dijon mustard
salt and pepper to taste


1. Place pizza stone in a cold oven. Turn oven on to its highest setting (500º-550º) and preheat stone for an hour. Half an hour into the preheating process, turn pizza dough out onto a floured surface (a pizza peel would be perfect here. Otherwise, use a piece of parchment paper. This will allow you to transfer the dough to the hot stone with minimal fuss. Please note that using the paper will prevent the same kind of crisp browning you would usually get) and shape into the size you want it to be. Cover with a tea towel and let rest for 20-30 minutes.

2. Brush dough with truffle oil and sprinkle cheese over surface. Bake in oven for 12 - 17 minutes, or until cheese is bubbly and golden. Remove from oven.

3. While crust is baking, whisk together olive oil, vinegar, mustard and salt and pepper. I like to throw dressing ingredients into a small mason jar and shake them up. I find it emulsifies much better that way. Place spinach and prosciutto into a bowl and toss with dressing. Place spinach salad on top of pizza and serve immediately.

The spinach closest to the crust will start to wilt slightly in the heat. Can you say yum?

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Ricotta Peach Dutch Baby Pancakes

Once school gets back in session, Saturday morning becomes our morning for slowing down and enjoying the day. We put away the industrial strength jolt-you-awake coffee that we both desperately need throughout the week, and bring out the good coffee.

It's the equivalent of bringing out the good china on a Sunday night, if you ask me.

Just significantly less breakable.

Right now, weekend coffee consists of something from our Hawaiian stash, but once that goes, we tend towards beans from Balzac.

I've expressed my deep and abiding love for the hands-off features of the dutch baby pancake, and threw together this today in order to use up two overly ripe peaches from the farmer's market.

The most frustrating part of the pancake is flipping it out - I had a little bit that didn't feel like leaving the warm comfort of the pan, but thems the breaks, huh? Perfection is for people who have too much time on their hands and aren't hungry.

If you have some lemons handy, I suspect some lemon zest would not go amiss here.

Ricotta Peach Dutch Baby Pancakes


2 tbsp butter
2 peaches, pitted and sliced
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
3/4 cup milk
3 large eggs
3/4 cup flour (I used spelt this time with great results, but usually use all purpose)
½ cup ricotta cheese
1 tsp vanilla
pinch salt


1. Preheat oven to 400º. Heat a large cast iron frying pan over medium heat. Once warm, add butter, swirling to coat the bottom of the pan as it melts. Throw in peach slices and cook for about 2 minutes, or until peaches release their juices. Add in brown sugar and stir until it dissolves. Remove from heat and set aside.

2. While pan is heating, whisk together remaining ingredients in a medium bowl. Pour over peaches and put the pan in the oven for 20-25 minutes, or until pancake is puffed and golden.

3. Remove from oven, run a knife around the edge of the pancake and invert onto a serving plate. Dust with icing sugar if particularly ugly looking. (Ha! We've all been there!)

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Cheesecake-in-a-Jar with Blueberry Curd

In celebration of my brother's birthday the other week, we opted to make cheesecakes in jam jars and topped them with a really gorgeous blueberry curd.

I won't even pretend that this was even vaguley a creation of mine - I simply halved the recipe and replaced the blackberries with blueberries... so head on over to Use Real Butter for the real deal.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Spiced Sweet Potato & Carrot Soup

Okay, I might have been exaggerating slightly when I said that chocolate cures all illness. There's definitely a place in my cold-fighting repertoire for vitamin C rich food.

And soup. And the combination of vitamin C therewith.

Can you tell that I haven't quite been healed yet? Can you hear my sniffling through the computer screen?

This makes a ton, so you'll have lots on hand in the freezer for emergency cold-fighting power (you know, should you be out of your first line of defence). If you want to keep things vegan, omit the yogurt and use olive or canola oil in place of the butter.

Spiced Sweet Potato & Carrot Soup


2 tbsp butter, divided
1 medium onion, chopped
¼ tsp ground cinnamon
¼ tsp ground nutmeg
2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped
3 cups chopped, peeled carrots
3½ cups vegetable or chicken broth
3 cups water
1/3 cup plain yogurt, plus more for serving (optional)
salt and pepper to taste
2 tbsp parsley, minced

For added flavour, add one of the following: 1 tbsp orange zest and ½ cup orange juice (remove ½ cup water), ½ tsp curry powder, 1 tbsp freshly grated ginger


1. Heat 1 tbsp butter in a large dutch oven. Add onions and sauté until translucent and soft, about 4 minutes. Push onions to side of pan. Add remaining 1 tbsp butter to the center of the pan and let milk solids brown. Once browned, stir in cinnamon and nutmeg and stir just until fragrant.

2. Stir in potatoes and carrots, tossing to get butter over all the vegetables. Then pour in broth and water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until vegetables are tender, about 35 minutes. Purée in batches in a blender or with an immersion blender. Check seasoning and add salt and pepper to taste. Stir in yogurt, if using, and serve in deep bowls with an additional dollop and a sprinkling of parsley.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Spelt and Oat Chocolate Chunk Cookies

Most people combat the onset of a cold with vitamin C, chicken noodle soup or a rigorous routine of Cold FX. But, I'm heading into week 3 of the school year (only 185 days left to go), and that means that I'm looking for some real comfort food.

And that means chocolate chip cookies. Or, because I like going big, chocolate chunk cookies.

As someone who worked in a Belgian chocolate shop for 4 years, I firmly believe that chocolate has the ability to heal all illness.

Or at least make you forget that you're sick for the 30 seconds it takes to eat one of these cookies.


See? You're feeling better just by looking at these cookies.

Spelt and Oat Chocolate Chunk Cookies

(adapted from So Good and Tasty)

makes 2 dozen


½ cup granulated sugar
½ cup packed brown sugar
1/3 cup butter, softened
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
½ tsp baking soda
1¼ cups spelt flour
½ tsp kosher salt
½ cup (heaping) coarsely chopped good quality chocolate (about 80 grams or 3 oz)
½ cup oats (not instant)

optional ad-ins: 1 tbsp grated orange zest, 2 tbsp minced crystallized ginger, ¼ cup chopped nuts


1. Preheat oven to 300º. Line a large baking sheet with parchment or a silpat mat.

2. Cream together butter with sugars. Beat in egg and vanilla extract. In a separate bowl, mix together baking soda, spelt flour and salt. Mix dry ingredients into wet. Stir in chocolate chunks, oats and any optional ingredients.

3. Drop by tablespoons onto baking sheet, at least 1" apart. Bake for 12-15 minutes or until edges are lightly browned. Remove baking sheet from oven and let cookies cool on sheet for 2-3 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack.

Thin, chewy and oh-so-delicious. Plus, the spelt flour adds a nice nutty undertone.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Roasted Cauliflower, Chickpea & Wheat Berry Toss

There are never enough hours in the day to get everything done. It feels like the instant my head hits the pillow, I'm already asleep. And when I wake up in the morning, I'm bleary eyedly stumbling towards my coffee.

So I'm all about getting as much shut-eye as possible. And that's where easy lunches come into play.
I refuse to give up sleep to prepare food, so I always put my lunch together the night before. Leftovers play a big part in what I eat for lunch, so I'm always looking for meals that are brown bag approved. To me, that means if I have to use cutlery to eat it, I'm only required to use a spoon OR a fork. And, preferably, it can be eaten at room temperature without causing too much of a mess.

If you've been reading the blog for a while, you know that I have a deep and abiding love affair with legumes - and the mixture of legumes and grains always strike me as a perfect combination of ingredients for a packed lunch.

This recipe was adapted from the fabulous blog No Recipes. I tarted mine up with more ingredients and reduced the oil but, I must say the dressing is just killer! I hesitate to say it, but it was even better day two.

Roasted Cauliflower, Chickpea and Wheat Berry Toss

(lightly adapted from No Recipes)


2 cups uncooked wheat berries
1 head of cauliflower, stalks discarded and florets cut into bite sized pieces
1 tbsp olive oil
2 red peppers, roasted, peeled, seeded and diced
1 15 oz can chickpeas
1 tbsp capers, drained and rinsed
3 tbsp parsley, chopped


3 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp truffle oil (if you have it, if not, use some more olive oil)
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
1 tablespoon honey
2 tsp sesame oil
1 teaspoon dijon mustard
salt and pepper to taste


1. Cook wheat berries according to manufacturer's directions. When finished cooking, place in a large bowl.

2. Preheat oven to 400º. Toss cauliflower florets with olive oil and place on a large baking tray. Bake for 20-30 minutes, or until lightly browned, stirring once or twice. Add to wheat berries. Stir in peppers, chickpeas, capers and parsley.

3. In a separate bowl, whisk together all ingredients. Pour over wheat berry mixture and toss to coat.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Clean Eating's Eggplant & Sausage Pasta - Less Clean for Your Porky Goodness

Big, gloriously coloured eggplant have arrived in our local market. I'm always a bit leery of Italian eggplant (as opposed to the Japanese eggplant I usually buy). Too often, I seem to end up with a vegetable that has a thick, bitter skin. I'm not usually a huge fan.

But, when the vegetable is fresh from the farm, I can't pass up the opportunity to try out a new recipe. I got this one from Clean Eating magazine.

I cannot rave about this dish enough. It has all sorts of delicious balances - sweet (raisins), salty (sausage), savoury (tomatoes and eggplant) and sour (vinegar).

Eggplant and Sausage Pasta

(adapted slightly from Clean Eating Magazine)


1½ tbsp olive oil, divided
1 large eggplant, cut into ½" cubes
freshly ground black pepper
8 oz pasta (I used Kamut & Spelt pasta)
1 medium onion, chopped
1 large, fresh sausage (I used a herb and garlic pork sausage), casing removed and meat crumbled
½ tsp dried oregano
¼ tsp red pepper flakes
2 cloves garlic, minced
1½ cups chopped tomatoes
¼ cup raisins
1 tbsp capers, rinsed and drained
2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
¼ cup chopped parsley
kosher salt, to taste
½ cup low fat ricotta cheese


1. Preheat oven to 400º. Spread ½ tbsp olive oil on a large baking sheet. Toss eggplant with ½ tbsp olive oil and spread over baking sheet in a single layer. Sprinkle with pepper. Bake in oven for 25-30 minutes, stirring once or twice, until golden brown and tender. Remove from heat and set aside.

2. Bring a large pot of water to a boil, and cook pasta according to manufacturer's directions. Drain and set aside.

3. Heat remaining ½ tbsp oil in a dutch oven. Sauté onion and sausage until onion is browned and sausage in cooked through. Stir in oregano, red pepper flakes and garlic. Sauté for an additional minute. Add in tomatoes, bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer. Stir in eggplant, raisins, capers and simmer until sauce is thickened, about 5-7 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in vinegar and 3 tbsp parsley. Add pasta into pot, tossing to coat.

4. Serve with a dollop of ricotta cheese and a sprinkle of parsley.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Grilled Peach Tiramisu with White Chocolate

I feel like I'm peaking my head out from under the large rock I've been hiding behind for the past two weeks. In retrospect, I should have known that the first week back at school would be a total gong show. All the sun, sea and surf must have fried my brain, because I remained blissfully in a fog about how little sleep I would get and how much stress I would be under.

Have I mentioned that I have to teach grade seven math this year?

I haven't been in a math classroom since my OAC finite class back in 97/98.


Those poor children.

So, I'm still dreaming of the summer, the cottage and kayaking. With the temperatures still hovering at a blissfully warm 23º during the day, a day out on the water would be just what this stressed out teacher could use right now.

Or, perhaps, one of these:

I'm not usually a huge tiramisu fan. I find the flavours and texture a little too soft for my liking sometimes. But this one has the smokiness from the grill combined with the sweetness of the peaches and the softness of the mascarpone. The whole thing is lightened up with yogurt in place of whipped cream and made adult by a generous inclusion of amaretto.

Grilled Peach Tiramisu

(serves 6)


4 large, peeled peaches, cut in half (it's best to use slightly under ripe ones here)
½ tbsp canola oil
1 cup mascarpone cheese
2 cups full fat yogurt, drained in a cheesecloth lined strainer for at least 1 hour
1½ tsp vanilla extract
5 tbsp granulated sugar, divided
12 lady finger cookies, cut in half horizontally
1/3 cup amaretto liqueur
3 oz white chocolate, shaved


1. Heat a grill over medium high heat. Grease bars well. Brush peaches with canola oil and place on grill. Grill for approximately 2 minutes per side, or until peaches are tender and have grill marks in places. Remove from heat and thinly slice. Set aside.

2. Beat together mascarpone, yogurt, vanilla and 3 tbsp sugar. Set aside.

3. Whisk together amaretto and remaining 2 tbsp sugar until sugar is dissolved.

4. To assemble each tiramisu: Place a little of the mascarpone mixture in the bottom of a 1 cup mason jars. Top with a few peaches slices. Sprinkle with a bit of white chocolate. Dunk 2 lady finger halves in amaretto and place on top of white chocolate. Repeat layers once more. Top the whole thing with a final layer of mascarpone and white chocolate shavings. Repeat with remaining 5 mason jars. Let sit in the fridge, covered, for at least 2 hours, and up to 6.
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