Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Last Thanksgiving

I can't believe it's been over a year since we moved to Canada.  We arrived in Toronto in mid-November, and celebrated Thanksgiving after just moving into our house.  Wyatt was still so little!


Man was it cold!  The frigid winter of last year basically started when we arrived, not a warm welcome.  There was snow on the ground and it stuck until April.  But Jay braved the below freezing conditions to fry up our turkey.  Once you go fried, you can never go back.



Since I was on a blogging break, I didn't take the plethora of food photos that usually accompanies big @ss dinners.  But I did manage to take one picture of the best Thanksgiving dessert ever, Pecan Pie Cheesecake.  It's already on my to-do list for today's feast prep.



My sister was able to celebrate with us too.  One of the good things about being in Canada for American Thanksgiving is that it doesn't cost an arm and a leg for a flight.



They even have Black Friday up here (apparently to entice Canadians to stay here instead of crossing the border to shop).  I was ready to go with my fancy new money.  It was almost as crazy as shopping in the states.  Don't think I'll be braving those crowds again this year.



Happy Thanksgiving!!!!  Can't wait to share this year's Turkey Day with you.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Double Cheese Cauliflower Breadsticks

I had a cauliflower in the fridge that was taunting me... what to do? I wanted to try something new, and hopefully something Wyatt would like.  So I dusted off my Pinterest account and got to browsing.


I saw some cheesy looking delights on and found a great recipe from Delicliously Yum.  I altered it a little bit based on what ingredients I had, and it came out great!  But alas, only the adults in the household ended up devouring this recipe.



I couldn't stop myself from picking up piece by piece and shoving them into my mouth.  But I did end up saving a couple of pieces to dunk in my yummy Lentil Soup, and boy was it worth it!  These little gems make great dunkers.



Double Cheese Cauliflower "Breadsticks" 

  • 1 large head cauliflower 
  • 1 large egg 
  • 3/4 cup cheddar cheese, shredded 
  • 3/4 cup provolone cheese , shredded 
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano 
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder 
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper 
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt 
  • Marinara sauce for dipping (optional)
 1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

 2. Wash and clean cauliflower and cut into florets. With the help of a food processor, shred cauliflower until it forms a rice like texture. Be careful not to over process the cauliflower or it turns to mush. It's fine if a couple of bigger chunks remain.

 3. Put cauliflower into a baking dish (like a casserole dish) and bake uncovered for 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and let stand for 10 minutes or until safe to handle.

 4. Place roasted cauliflower in the middle of a tea towel, fold it by the ends and form a ball. Now squeeze out as much of the liquid as you can. Approximately 1-1 1/2 cups or until it becomes too hard to squeeze out more.

 5. Increase oven temperature to 450 degrees F. Place cauliflower along with egg whites, 1/2 cup shredded cheese, and all seasonings in a medium bowl. Stir until well combined.

 6. Transfer mixture to the prepared baking sheet and shape into a rectangle or circle, about 1/4-inch thick. Place in the oven and bake for 20 minutes. Remove from the oven, sprinkle with remaining cheese and bake an additional 5 minutes or until cheese is melted and sides start to turn golden and crispy. Cut into breadsticks and serve with marinara sauce, or even better yet, some Lentil Soup.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

You Need This Soup!

Now that most of us are sufficiently cold, we need a good warm up!  This is the perfect soup for cozying up your winter nights.  It's a recipe I've tweaked from one of our favorite cookbooks, Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking. I've made this soup at least a dozen times this year.


It's not your typical lentil soup... it's rich and creamy...almost more like a risotto consistency than soup.  You can serve it as part of a meal, but I love enjoying it as the main course.  It's just that good.

I've tried making different tweaks to the original and finally have my go to recipe down pat.  You can substitute bacon for pancetta, or veggie broth for the beef broth.  But I do think the pancetta and beef broth make the ideal combo with this.  One of my fave substitutions is using pearl parley for arborio rice, it's healthier and gives a chewy bite to this yummy soup.



The Best Lentil Soup
6-ish servings

4 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/2 onion, chopped very fine
1/3 cup chopped pancetta or bacon
1 carrot, chopped fine
1 stalk celery, chopped fine
1 1/2 cups canned Italian plum tomatoes, cut up, with their juice
1/2 pound dried lentils (I like red)
1/2 cup arborio rice or pearl barley
4 cups beef broth
1 1/2 cups water
1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan Cheese
Salt Pepper


1.  Put 2 tablespoons of the butter and all of the oil in a soup pot, add the chopped onion and pancetta and turn on the heat to medium high.  Do not cover the pot.  Cook the onion, stirring it, until it becomes a deep gold.

2.  Add the chopped carrot and celery.  Cook on medium for 2 to 4 minutes, stirring occasionally. 

3.  Add the tomatoes with their juice, and adjust the heat so that they bubble gently, but steadily.  Cook for about 25 minutes, stirring occasionally.

4.  In the meantime, wash the lentils in cold water and drain them.  Add the lentils to the pot, stirring throughly to coat them well, then add the rice, broth, water a pinch of salt and pepper.  Cover the pot, adjust the heat so that the soup cooks at a steady, gently simmer, and stir from time to time.  Generally, it will take about 45 minutes for the lentils to become tender, but each lot of lentils varies, so it is necessary to monitor their progress by tasting them.  Some lentils will absorb more liquid than others.  If necessary, add more broth or water while cooking.

5.  When the lentils are done, turn off the heat and stir in the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter and grated Parmesan.  Taste and correct for salt and pepper.



I can't wait for you guys to make this soup!  What is your go-to soup for a cold day?

Friday, November 14, 2014

Friday Favorites!

TGIF!  I'm already thinking about my big Friday night... a couple glasses of wine and delivery pizza, woohoo!  My how things have changed now that we have a kid.  Another good thing about Friday, Friday Favorites, courtesy of Housewife Glamour.  Here are some of the things that have made my week.

1.  Ketchup Flavored Chips
I will REALLY miss these when we move back to the U.S.  Up here in Canada, there are many brands of ketchup flavored fried (or baked!) potato goodies.  The ones pictured below are a new discovery.  Almost as good as eating a french fry.


2.  80's music
I forgot how many goodies I had on my iPhone.  When Wyatt doesn't make me listen to "Wheels on the Bus" for the millionth time in one day, I get to sneak some of my music in.  I hope one day soon he has an appreciation for non-kiddie music.  Careless Whisper is definitely one of my all time faves. If I did karaoke, this would be my jam.



3.  Fitness Blender
I have been doing these amazing YouTube workouts about 3 days a week.  There are videos for every amount of time you may have, whether it be 10 minutes or 90.  They are also very good about explaining proper form, which is a big plus in my book!




Those are some of the things I've been loving this week, how about you?!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

The Perfect Pizza Dough



The hubby makes some of the best sauce around, something he learned from his awesome Italian mother.  We always eat this yummy goodness with all the meats it's cooked with... sausage, ribs, and his incredible homemade meatballs. This also usually includes chicken cutlets or eggplant, and of course pasta.



When we have the last bit of sauce and meat leftover we use it for homemade pizza.  Every time Jay makes a batch of sauce, I eagerly anticipate this meal.  After trying out countless dough recipes, this is the one we stuck to.  It's the slightly tweaked version of "Basic Pizza Dough" from  The Essentials of Italian Cooking by Marcella Hazan.




Perfect Pizza Dough
makes 2 - 12" pizzas

  • 1 1/2 tsp active dry yeast 
  • 1 cup lukewarm water 
  • 3 1/4 cups flour 
  • Extra virgin olive oil (1 Tbsp for dough, 1 tsp for the bowl) 
  • 1 Tbsp salt 
  • A baking stone 
  • A baking peel (paddle) 

1. Dissolve the yeast completely in a large bowl by stirring it into 1/4 cup lukewarm water. When dissolved, in 10 mins or less, add 1 cup flour and mix thoroughly with a wooden spoon .  Then, as you continue to stir, gradually add 1 Tbsp olive oil, 1 Tbsp salt, 1/4 cup lukewarm water and 1 cup more flour. When putting in flour and water for the last time, hold back some of both and add only as much of either as you need to make the dough manageable, soft, but not too sticky. **NOTE - you can also use the paddle attachment of a stand mixer on low instead of the spoon.

2. Take the dough out of the bowl, and slap it down very hard against the work counter several times, until it is stretched out to a length of about 10 inches. Reach for the far end of the dough, fold it a short distance toward you, push it away with the heel of your palm, flexing your wrist, fold it and push it away again, gradually rolling it up and bringing it close to you. Rotate the dough a one-quarter turn, pick it up and slap it down hard, repeating the entire previous operation. Give it another one-quarter turn in the same direction and repeat the procedure for about 10 minutes. Pat the kneaded dough into a round shape. **NOTE - you can also use the dough hook attachment of a stand mixer on stir for 10 minutes instead of kneading.

3. Film the inside of a clean bowl with 1 tsp olive oil, put in the dough, cover with plastic wrap and put the bowl in a protected, warm corner. Let the dough rise until it has doubled in volume, about 3 hours. It can also sit a while longer.

4. At least 30 minutes before you are ready to bake, put the baking stone in the over and preheat oven to 550 degrees.

5. Sprinkle the baker's peel generously with flour. Take the risen dough out of the bowl and divide it in half. Put one of the two halves back into the bowl and cover it while you roll out the other half. Put that half on the peel and flatten it as thin as you can, opening it out into a circular shape, using a rolling pin, but finishing the job with your fingers. Leave the rim somewhat higher than the rest.

6. Put the topping of your choice on the dough, and slide it, jerking the peel sharply away, onto the preheated baking stone. Bake for 12 minutes or slightly more, until the dough becomes colored a light golden brown. Keep a close eye on it! (While the first pizza is baking, follow the same procedure for thinning the remaining dough and topping it, slipping it into the oven when the first pizza is done).



It really is the perfect dough!  Maybe one day my hubby will let me divulge his recipe for the perfect meatballs & sauce.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Bring on the Beer & Burgers

Jay and I don't get out much for a date night.  We haven't been able to find a sitter here, and our nights out usually occur when my mom is visiting from Florida.  Last time she visited we even got to have an extra "date lunch", woohoo!

We decided to go Hungry Brew Hops, a place in Newmarket that was highly recommended to me. You walk in and the decor is great, not your typical restaurant in this neck of the woods. It's way more trendy/hipster than you would usually find.


We were seated quickly on a Sunday afternoon and had a wonderful server! She guided me through choosing my beer flight (I think they have about 30 draft beers). Can't go wrong with 4 different beers! They were all delicious and different. It's definitely worth trying the spicy stout. It was so hard choosing from their amazing menu. 



My husband and I split the Pork Belly Banh Mi and the burger with Philly cheese steak and onions. The Banh Mi seemed a little skimpy on the pork belly, but it had great flavor.



The Burger also was perfectly seasoned, but overcooked. The sides we ordered with them were both perfect.


The fries were fresh, hot and perfectly crisp. The beet salad was well dressed and I loved the goat cheese and walnuts on it. We will be back to try more great food and beer.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

To tell you the truth... I am not a fan of pumpkin (insert sighs of disdain here).  Pumpkin Spice Latte, gross.  Pumpkin pie, bleh!  But pumpkin does have some great uses... as a "sneaky" ingredient in cakes and the seeds.  Roasted pumpkin seeds are worth the effort.  They are crunchy, salty, goodness.



I stopped by Oh She Glows and looked over Angela's recipe for roasting these bad boys.  It sounded a little more time consuming than I was anticipating for a first timer, but I was in!  After a little tweaking (and patience), the hubby and I developed a little recipe of our own.



Roasted Pumpkin Seeds
adapted from Oh She Glows

Ingredients

  • 2 cups pumpkin seeds (from about 2 medium/large pumpkins)
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • fresh ground pepper (optional)

1. Clean the Seeds

  • A pain, but you have to do it!  Pick the strings off as much as you can.  Then strain them in a colander, which gets more off.  You can pinch the strings off pretty easily but those are alot of seeds!

2. Boil the Seeds

  • Boil them for 10 minutes, this makes the outer shell a little more digestible.
3. Dry the Seeds

  • Drain them in a colander then pat dry with paper towel (ours will still slightly damp but thats ok)
4. Season the Seeds

  • Spread them as thinly as you can on a cookie sheet. Drizzle with olive oil, shake on the salt & pepper, then toss to coat.
5. Bake & Eat!

  • Bake in a 325 preheated oven for 30 minutes.  Then check their crispiness.  Ours took 40 minutes total to achieve crispy perfection.  Then enjoy!

I have to say, these seeds are my favorite things about pumpkin!  Are you a pumpkin eater?  

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Guess Who's Back?!

I’ve missed everyone over here in blog land. It has been a while since I last blogged, and it has been a busy few months... but I know that is no excuse!  But I wanted to share with you guys some of the things our little family has been up to over the past few months.

First, I wanted to start with my sad news.  My amazing aunt lost her battle with brain cancer in July.  She was my second mother, always there to cheer me on and to get on my case if she needed to.  She was the life of the party, an amazing friend, and a die-hard republican (she would have been very happy today)… just to name a few.  I miss her every day.



A month after her passing, my mom came to visit me in Canada and we completed my mom’s first 5k, in honor of my aunt.  The race was benefiting pediatric cancer patients, a cause my aunt contributed to every year.



My mom and I also ventured out to Gravenhurst, a small town in the heart of Ontario’s cottage country.  It was a little cool for a mid-summer’s day, but I guess that’s Canada, eh?



At the end of August, Jay and I took a much deserved (and first post-Wyatt) vacation to Mexico!  We spoiled ourselves at Secrets Maroma Beach.  We basically ate, drank, and swam our way through 6 glorious days.  It was loads of much needed relaxation.



We spent LOTS of time outside!  Wyatt loved running around the backyard and making me chase him with the car.





In September, Wyatt finally got to meet his cousin!  He lives across the pond, so it’s not very easy for these two rambunctious toddlers to get together.  They had lots of fun roaming around Toronto and stealing each other’s food.  Hopefully we will be off to visit them next year!




Now that almost all the leaves have disappeared from the trees, it really makes me miss summer!  It went by SOOO quickly.    Now that I’ve experienced every single season (Florida and Cali never seemed to have more than 2 seasons), I have determined that Spring is my favorite.  It is truly beautiful seeing everything come back to life.  Fall is beautiful too, but it’s depressing how quickly fall dissipates.



We spent one of our fall weekends at the Brooks Farm pumpkin patch.  We spent some time getting lost in the corn maze, then let Wyatt see all the animals and of course the pumpkins.  He loves being outside, no matter how cold it is.


We can’t forget Halloween!  He was dressed up as his favorite animal, a doggy.  The weather here was cold and rainy so we made a late afternoon trek to the mall.  Wyatt did a pretty good job trick or treating!  He didn’t rip his costume off or run away from the people giving away candy, woohoo!



I will be back with more posts!  I have recipes, restaurants and other goodies awaiting.  Thank you all for being so patient with me while I try to figure this whole blogging mommy-hood thing out.  What have you guys been up to lately?!