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It’s all about the food!

Hi and welcome to my blog. Here is where I hope to inspire you with my ideas and love for food. Friday nights are a great night in our house because it is the official kickoff to the weekend. It also means that it is a time to experiment in the kitchen creating wonderful food experiences.

Tonight’s menu is all about easy appies and wonderful beverage parings with my girlfriend Wendy. Paul is playing hockey tonight with her husband (who also happens to be named Paul) and Miss Em is busy with her friends. So this is a great opportunity for Wendy and I to relax, enjoy some yummy food and sip on a beverage or two until the boys are home from their game. Given that I have a full-time job, all the more reason that the food I serve on Friday nights has to be easy to put together, delicious and doesn’t make me a slave to the kitchen. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind going all out when I’m entertaining but that is not what these Friday night get together’s with Wendy are about. So, here we go!

First up pasta chips!
These are a great snack and such a crowd pleaser. I first came across this recipe a few years ago, in the Food Network magazine for Super Bowl Sunday. So simple and a great alternative to potato chips. For me, this snack always pairs nicely with beer. I am partial to wheat beer or pale lagers but whatever your preference is, I am sure it will pair nicely.

 

Pasta chips

Here is what you will need:

  • a package of bow tie pasta
  • chili powder
  • salt

How to make the pasta chips:

  • Cook 1 cup of bow tie pasta in boiling water for half the cooking time listed on the package; drain and then pan fry the pasta in 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil in a large skillet over media high heat, turning until golden brown and crisp. Drain on a paper towels. Sprinkle with salt, chili powder and serve.

 

 

Veggie rolls
A bit more on the healthy side. I am sure everyone has made a version of these little guys at one time or another.

veggie rolls

Here is what you will need:

  • Variety of sweet bell peppers (red, yellow orange – whatever colours you like)
  • Carrots (cut julienne style)
  • Cucumber (cut julienne style)
  • Hummus
  • Tortilla wraps.

How to make the veggie rolls:

  • First make the hummus: In a food processor add chick peas, salt pepper, cumin and olive oil and puree until smooth. Spread hummus on a tortilla and add sliced veggies. Wrap up the tortilla and cut into pinwheels. Slice and serve.

 

 

Bruschetta pizzette
I love making pizzettes. They are so taste and you can do so many different varieties, the combinations are endless (strawberries and basil drizzled in balsamic glaze, caramelized onions and brie – you name it). I love pairing this version of bruschetta with a melbec like Kaiken. Very smooth, light and easy drinking.

brischetta pizzette

Here is what you will need:

  • Naan breads
  • Mini bocconcini cut,
  • Olive oil,
  • Tomatoes cored and chopped
  • Garlic minced
  • Fresh basil chopped
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Balsamic glaze.

How to make the bruschetta pizzette:

  • Preheat the oven to 425. In a bowl combine bocconcini, olive oil, tomatoes, garlic, basil, salt and pepper. Place Naan bread on a pizza pan or baking sheet. Spread bruschetta mixture over the Naan bread. Bake in the oven for 10 minutes. Take out of the oven and drizzle with balsamic glaze. Cut into quarters and serve.

 

 

Last but not least Mexican cups

I love these little cups, they are everything I like about Mexician dip recipes in an individual serving. I think the first time I came across a recipe like this was on Tasty. Everyone loves this and it pairs well with beer, wine, margaritas, even mojitos.

mexician bites

Here is what you will need:

  • Tortilla wraps
  • Refried beans
  • Grated cheddar cheese
  • Guacamole
  • Salsa
  • Sour cream
  • Chopped green onions (optional).

How to make Mexican cups:

  • Preheat the oven to 350. Layer a package of large tortillas on top of each other. Cut the outer edges so that the tortillas are large squares. Then cut the tortillas in half lengthwise and crosswise so that you have 4 piles of smaller square. Spray a muffin tin with cooking spray. Place a small tortilla square in each of the muffin cups. Place a layer of refried beans and sprinkling with cheddar cheese. Place another small tortilla square on top and bake for 15 minutes or until the tortilla starts to turn golden brown. Let cool until you can handle them with your fingers and take them out of the muffin cups. Add a layer of guacamole, salsa and a dollop sour cream. Garnish with chopped onions if using. Enjoy!

 

Hope these recipes inspire you to be creative in the kitchen – enjoy!

Summertime Sangria

When entertaining, I like to serve one main cocktail and then have some basic alcoholic and nonalcoholic beverages on hand for those who don’t wish to partake in the beverage I have chosen to serve.  A few weeks ago I had some of Paul’s family here for food and cocktails and given that it was the start of the warm weather in Toronto, I decided to make a huge pitcher of sangria.

Sangria is one of those beverages that is perfect for summertime entertaining. On a hot summer day, there’s nothing more refreshing than an ice-cold glass of sangria filled to the brim.

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Little is known about the origins of this flavourful Spanish drink but it has become a popular summertime beverage. It is generally believed that the word Sangria is taken from the Spanish word sangre meaning blood, in reference to the red color of this wonderful beverage.

You will find many versions of how to make sangria on the internet but the one I like the best is the one that I had when I was in Spain last year.

Here is what you will need:

  • One bottle of red wine (preferable Spanish)
  • 1/4 cup of brandy
  • 1/4 cup of Triple Sec or Quantro
  • 2 cups of orange juice (non pulp)
  • 2 cups of cranberry juice (like Tropicana)
  • Fresh cut fruit such as strawberries, blackberries, orange slices

Here is how to make it:

  • Add the sliced fruit to the bottom of a pitcher
  • Add the wine, brandy, Triple Sec, orange and cranberry juice to a pitcher
  • Let merry for a minimum of 30 minutes before serving

I hope this recipe inspires you to be creative in your kitchen – enjoy!

BBQ Pizza Sauce

There is nothing like the summertime and cooking outdoors. As soon as the warm weather hits, Paul and I are outside cooking up a storm with the smoker and BBQ. Using the BBQ like a stove or oven is great especially during the warm weeks of summer when it is so hot, the last thing you want to do is heat up your kitchen cooking.

One of my favorite things to do on the BBQ is roasting tomatoes to make pizza sauce. The hint of smoke flavour you naturally get from roasting the ingredients on the BBQ is out of this world and creates such a unique taste to your pizzas or pizzettes.

BBQ Pizza Saoce

brischetta pizzette

 

Here is what you will need:

  • Vine Tomatoes
  • Whole garlic cloves
  • Fresh Basil leaves
  • Whole onion cut into wedges
  • Fresh Oregano
  • Fresh Thyme
  • Salt and pepper
  • Olive Oil

 

Here is how to make it:

  • Heat your BBQ to 425 (one burner on and one burner off. (If you have 4 burners, put the two outer burners on and the center ones off) this will create an oven like effect when cooking.
  • On a baking sheet fitted with parchment paper add your tomatoes, garlic, basil, onion, thyme, oregano.
  • Drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper and toss.

 

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  • Once your BBQ is at the right temperature, place the baking sheet on the off burners and close the BBQ lid. Cook for 25 minutes until the ingredients get soft and easily mashed with a fork.
  • Take the ingredients off the BBQ and let cool slightly.
  • Place the ingredients in a bowl and mash with a fork for a more rustic sauce or place in a food processor and blend until desired consistency.

I hope this recipe inspires you to be creative in your kitchen – enjoy!

Biscuits with Sausage Gravy

Biscuits to me are one of the yummiest comfort foods you can eat. They taste so good warm out of the oven, smeared with butter, dipped in gravy or used as a breakfast sandwich. Whatever your preference, there is no mistaking that a good biscuit is both comforting and indulging.  For me, I love on a cold rainy day to make biscuits and sausage gravy. Nothing says warmth to me like fresh, light, fluffy mile high biscuits  smothered in a beautiful sausage gravy.
Traditionally I have made my biscuits with baking powder and baking soda but, I was watching Trisha Yearwood’s cooking show and she went to a biscuit cafe that made Angel biscuits with yeast. I had never seen biscuits made like this before, I worried that they would be dense like hockey pucks but they looked so good, I thought it was worth a try. WOW, they were delicious! Still very light and fluffy. I don’t know why I was worried about the yeast making them like hockey pucks, they definitely lived up to their name “Angel” biscuits.
So today’s post I am going to share with you a recipe for biscuits and sausage gravy that was inspired by Trisha Yearwood’s Angel biscuits.

The Biscuits

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Here is what you will need:

For the biscuits:

  • 5 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 5 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/4 cup warm (90 to 110 degrees F) water
  • 1/2 ounce (2 packages) active dry yeast
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) salted butter, cold, cut into small squares, plus 4 tablespoons, melted
  • 2 cups buttermilk

 

For the sausage gravy:

  • 1 pound of ground sausage (any flavour you prefer)
  • 3 tablespoons of butter
  • 1/4 cup of AP flour
  • 3 cups of milk (I used 2%)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Here is how to make it:

For the biscuits:

  • Preheat the oven to 425.
  • In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and 3 tablespoons of the sugar.
  • In a small bowl, combine the warm water with the yeast and the remaining 2 tablespoons sugar; stir until the yeast is dissolved. Let stand until bubbles appear, 2 to 3 minutes.
  • Using your hands, mix the 1 cup cold butter into the flour, breaking the butter into small pebbles, until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Make a well in the center and add the buttermilk and the yeast mixture. Gently fold the flour into the wet ingredients. Keep mixing until a ball starts to form, then gently knead, 12 to 15 times, to create a smooth dough.
    Note: Trisha’s recipe covers the dough and lets it rest in a warm place for 1 hour at this point but I didn’t. I transferred the dough directly to a work surface without letting it rest.
  •  Transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface and press out to 1- to 1 1/2-inches thick. Fold the dough in half, press again to 1- to 1 1/2-inches thick, and then fold again.
  • Cut the dough using a 2- to 3-inch round biscuit cutter, depending personal preference.
  • Place the biscuits on a baking sheet fitted with parchment; cover with plastic wrap and let rest for 30 minutes.IMG_E2547
  • Remove the plastic wrap and brush the tops with melted butter.
  • Bake until golden brown, 18 to 22 minutes, depending on size. Brush again with melted butter and serve immediately or let rest until sausage gravy is ready.

For Trisha Yearwood’s full recipe vist: https://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/trisha-yearwood/trisha-yearwoods-angel-biscuits-3236443

 

For the Sausage Gravy:

  • Place sausage in a large, deep skillet. Cook over medium heat until evenly brown. Remove sausage with a slotted spoon, leaving the drippings in the pan.
  • Stir in the butter until melted.
  • Add flour and stir until smooth.
  • Reduce heat to med-low, and cook until light brown. Gradually whisk in milk, and cook until thickened.
  • Stir in the cooked sausage.
  • Season with salt and pepper.
  • Reduce heat, and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • If gravy becomes too thick, stir in a little more milk.
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  • Cut biscuits in half crosswise, place on a serving dish. Pour gravy on top and serve.

I hope this recipe inspires you to be creative in your kitchen – enjoy!

 

Baked Doughnuts – Just as good as fried

Whether you grew up with the “doughnuts” or the more modern “donuts,  it’s hard to resist these fresh baked treats. A classic snack that is prepared in various ways with various toppings or fillings to chose from – glazed, jelly or cream filled, dusted with powdered sugar or sprinkles, doughnuts are a delicious treat many people like to indulge in.
My Emma loves doughnuts, when she was really young and we would go grocery shopping, her favorite and last stop was at the doughnut counter.  I don’t think we ever went grocery shopping without stopping for one. Her order was always the same, vanilla dipped with coloured sprinkles. Today, she is more willing to venture out to include cinnamon sugar and powdered to her list of favourites.

With National Doughnut day around the corner (June 1), I thought I would make doughnuts as a treat for Emma. Now, there are two types of doughnut batters you can make –  yeast or cake. Yeast doughnuts are more the traditional doughnut that uses yeast and tends to be soft, fluffy but relies on the doughnut toppings or fillings for its sweetness. Cake doughnuts are made with what would resemble more of a cake batter, it tends to be more crumbly and a bit sweeter just like cake. I prefer yeast doughnuts, the struggle I always have is with the frying part of making doughnuts. I know there are people who believe if you are going to indulge than indulge big. I understand the mindset but I still feel that if there is a bit of a healthier way to enjoy something, then you should try. Doesn’t make you feel so guilty when indulging and when was the last time you ate just one doughnut.
Most doughnut recipes I have come across that bake the doughnuts vs fry, tend to be the cake batter ones. The recipe I am going to share with you, is a yeast dough that is baked. It was really hard to tell that they were baked and just like regular doughnuts that are amazing the day you bake them but can be heated in the microwave the next day to get that soft chewy texture back.

Cinnamon Sugar Doughnuts

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Here is what you will need:

For the dough:

  • 3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/4 cup  sugar
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons active dried yeast
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 cup milk (I used 2%)
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1 Tbsp vanilla extract

For the cinnamon sugar

  • Melt 4 Tblsp  butter in a bowl
  • 1 cup of sugar
  • 4 tablespoons of cinnamon

How to make the cinnamon sugar doughnuts:

For the dough

  • Mix the flour, yeast, sugar and salt together in a standing mixer fitted with dough hook.
  • In a saucepan, melt butter. Add milk, water and vanilla extract until just warm.
  •  With the standing mixer on speed 2, add the milk mixture and mix until everything is combined and the dough is smooth (about 5 minutes).
  •  Grease a large bowl and place the dough in the bowl and turn to coat lightly. Cover  with plastic wrap  and let the dough rise until doubled, 1 -2 hours.
  • Heat the oven at 350
  • Turn out dough onto a lightly floured surface.
  • Roll out to ½ “ thick.
  • Using a doughnut cut of your donuts. If you do not have a doughnut cuter circles.
  • Cover your donuts and let them rise at room temp for 30 minutes.
  • Unwrap the donuts. Brush the very top with melted butter.
  • Bake for 13 minutes.

For the cinnamon sugar

  • Melt  butter.
  • Mix sugar and cinnamon in a bowl.
  • Take you donuts out the oven and while warm dip the doughnuts in melted butter and then toss into the cinnamon sugar.
  • Place on a wire rack to cool completely.

I hope this recipe inspires you to be creative in your kitchen – enjoy!

 

To view the original doughnut recipe go to Gemma Stafford’s website at http://www.biggerbolderbaking.com/homemade-donuts/

Jalapeno Corn Bread

I know, another jalapeno recipe – clearly my family love jalapenos. Bare with me, this recipe is a good one.
If you are like me, I find that I make more of certain things based on the season that I am in. So as the spring becomes more sunny and warm, I find myself back in the kitchen ready to bake my favourite things like the recipe that I am going to share with you today.
Corn bread has become very popular outside the southern states because of its wonderful aroma and amazing texture. What I like about corn bread is that it has a basic favour that you can easily change up or personalize with the ingredients that you add to it. Like adding cheese and jalapenos  to take it over the top on the delicious scale. This recipe is a basic corn bread recipe that you can easily have fun with and add your own ingredients but I promise you, adding jalapenos and cheese will not disappoint!

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Here is what you will need:

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups cornmeal
  • 2 Tbs. sugar
  • 1 Tbs. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1/3 cup corn oil
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 6 oz. sharp cheddar cheese, grated  (i have also subbed the cheddar cheese with parmesan cheese)
  • 1 or 2 jalapeños, seeded and finely chopped
  • 2 green onions chopped (optional)

 

Here is how to make it:

  • Preheat an oven to 375°F. spray a 9-inch spring-form cake pan.
  • Sift together the flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder and salt into a bowl.
  • In another bowl, whisk the milk, sour cream, corn oil and egg.
  • Fold milk mixture into the flour mixture. Be careful to not overmix.
  • Gently stir in half of the grated cheese, green onion (if using) and the jalapeno
  • Pour into the prepared pan.
  • Sprinkle with remaining cheese.
  • Bake for approximately 35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
  • Let cool for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a rack to cool.
  • Cut into squares and serve.

I hope this recipe inspires you to be creative in your kitchen – enjoy!

Topsy Turvy Cherry Tomato Pizza

I love pizza, it is as simple as that. Now that the weather is warming up and the BBQ is going, I can find a reason to include pizza with almost every meal. It makes a great side dish to many BBQ menus. I have so many different types of pizza’s I like to make in the summer, thin crust, think crust, margarita, veggies, potato and garlic – the possibilities are endless. As we move through the spring and summer, you will see pizza pop up in my posts more often. One of my favorites is Cherry tomato pizza. I like this recipe because you need to prepare the pizza in a slightly different way. Instead of the traditional, roll the dough and place all the ingredients on it, you actually prepare your ingredients on a baking sheet and place the dough on top so, essentially you are cooking the pizza upside down. It is a great pizza that I am sure you will enjoy!

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Here is what you will need:

For The Topping

  • 1-2 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 quart cherry or grape tomatoes
  • 2 garlic clove, pressed
  • 1/2 an onion diced
  • 1 package of diced pancetta
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
  • Diced bocconcini
  • Fresh thyme and oregano
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh basil leaves plus small leaves for garnish

For The Pizza Dough

  • 1 cup (250 ml) warm water
  • 1 teaspoon (5 ml) instant yeast
  • 1 teaspoon (5 ml) sugar
  • 2 cups (500 ml) all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon (5 ml) salt

How To Make The Pizza:

For The Topping

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  • In a frying pan over medium-low, heat the olive oil.
  • Add the onion and pancetta, cook for a couple of minutes before adding in the garlic.
  • Add the white wine, herbs and chili flakes and cook for a few minutes until the alcohol has cooked off and a nice sauce has formed.
  • Take off the heat and stir in the cherry tomatoes.

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  • Place tomato mixture on a non stick rimmed backing sheet and set aside. 

For The Dough
This pizza dough recipe is really simple and only takes a few minutes to prepare. I make mine in the food processor, but it is not essential. If you don’t have a food processor, you can use an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook or you can make the dough by hand by making a well in the flour and salt and pour the liquids to the center. Work with your fingers gradually adding dry ingredients to the liquids until it forms a soft dough.

  •  In a bowl, combine the water, yeast and sugar. Let stand until the mixture foams approx. 5 minutes.
  • In a food processor, fitted with the plastic blade, combine the flour and salt. With the machine turned on low add the yeast mixture until a soft ball forms.
  • Remove the dough from the bowl and knead for a few minutes on a floured surface to prevent sticking.
  • Place in a lightly oiled bowl and cover with a clean cloth or plastic wrap.
  • Let the dough rise in a warm place draft free place for at least 30 minutes.
  • Cut the dough in half and freeze one half for another day or you can use both.
  • Once the dough has risen, on a lightly floured surface roll the dough to the shape of the rimmed baking sheet.
  • Place dough over rimmed baking sheet and cover the tomato and pancetta toppings with the dough.

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  • Place dough in a preheated 425° oven and bake for 20 minutes.
  • Let cook for 5 minutes and turn pizza out on a cutting board.
  • Cut into squares and serve.

I hope this recipe inspires you to be creative in your kitchen – enjoy!

 

Mussels Marinara

Growing up in an Italian catholic household I was exposed to different foods and experiences. One of my favorite memories was Good Friday dinner. My grandmother spent all day in the kitchen making different fish and pastas, making sure she had something that everyone enjoyed. Often she would make so much it would be a feast fit for more than the 9 of us at the table, it would be a feast fit for a king. My favorite was her mussels. I remember being Emma’s age (11) sharing 4 pounds of mussels with my dad which, I am sure I ate 2 pounds just to myself lol but, I wouldn’t want or eat anything else, just her wonderfully steamed mussels. My love for mussels has never wavered, no matter how many I eat or how old I get. It is a special dinner that I enjoy making because it reminds me of my grandmother and fond memories of special occasions spent with my family but it also reminds me of special moments shared with my dad. Sitting together enjoying food and each others company.  Today, I love making mussels for Paul and no matter how long we have been together, I always tell him the story about Good Friday and how eating mussels always brings back fond childhood memories. So given this, here is my mussels marinara recipe. I hope you enjoy it as much as we have.

Mussels Marinara

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Here is what you will need:

  • 2 tbs extra virgin olive oil
  • 8 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1/8 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 small diced onion (optional)
  • 1 cup white wine, something that you would want to drink or serve to guests
  • 1 can of chopped tomatoes
  • 2 pounds mussels, scrubbed and debearded
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Fresh baguette sliced

Here is how to make it:

  • Heat to olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat.
  • Add the onion (if using) and saute for 5 minutes
  • Add the garlic and saute until golden brown, about 2 minutes, stirring often.
  • Add red pepper flakes and wine, and cook until reduced by half.
  • Add the tomatoes and bring it to a simmer.
  • Scoop the mussels into the pan and cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until they all open, about 8-10 minutes.
  • Season with salt and pepper.
  • Divide among 4 bowls and serve with bread for dipping.

I hope this inspires you to be creative in your kitchen – enjoy!

The Essentials – Pots And Pans Every Kitchen Should Have

The other day a friend of mine asked me my thoughts on what are the essential pots and pans every kitchen should have. I thought this was an interesting questions because with so many different sizes and styles, knowing which are the essentials can be difficult to figure out. Some things I think every cook needs to factor in before purchasing any cookware are; cookware material, maintenance, storage space and what if needed can work double duty in the kitchen.
Cookware material and maintenance are the big ones for me. There are certain materials that I do not want to work with like aluminum, because it is a reactive metal which means I need to avoid cooking high acid foods like tomato sauces. As for maintenance, I do not want to spend a lot of time caring for my cookware which, is different than abusing your cookware. Copper for example, is something that needs a bit of maintenance. Copper is an awesome heat conductor which is important and I enjoy cooking with my copper pot but, it is also a reactive metal that can colour food if not taken care of.  For this reason, I only have a couple of copper pots that I keep on hand when I am cooking.
Here is a snapshot of the essential pots and pans that you will find in my kitchen, It isn’t everything I have but these are my go to pots and pans that I couldn’t live without.

My Essentials

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The following is a list of different pots and pans that you may want to consider when looking at essentials for your kitchen. it isn’t an exhaustive list, but it will get you started. These are the pots and pans that you’ll probably find that you use the most.

  1. Large Saute Pan: Has straight sides and a large surface area. I recommend having one that is at least 12-inches in diameter and 2 inches deep, which is ideal for sautéing, braising, frying, and making quick sauces.
  2. Sauce Pan: A saucepan is something that you will want to own if possible, in a couple of different sizes. I have 2 sizes,  a 2 quart and 4 quart. They are great to use for anything that needs gentle even heat like warming milk. They are also great for cooking vegetables, soups, rices, and pastas.
  3. Non Stick Skillet: A skillet is essentially a frying pan. Non stick is great to have on hand for food that you know there is a high probability of sticking, like omelets or frittatas. The thing to keep in mind with non stick is that they have a short life span and it is important not to use any metal utensils. For this reason, you may want to also have a metal skillet. I have both non stick and metal skillets in my kitchen.
  4. Cast Iron Skillet: Very sturdy and durable. I have had mine for almost 20 years and I use it all the time. I would also recommend a 10 – 12-inch size. Cast iron skillet retains its heat for a very long time. These skillets need to be seasoned before using for the first time.
  5. Enamel Dutch Oven: I love dutch ovens. They are coated cast iron pots that can go directly from the stove top to the oven. They are great for cooking hearty dishes like stews, soups and chili. If you are tight on storage space or budget, this pot can work double duty so you don’t have to by a stock pot.
  6. Roasting Pan: They are great because they come with a rack that allows the bird to sit above the drippings and get nice and crispy. You could get away with using a cast iron skillet if you can’t afford one but the challenge is keep the bird off the bottom and the size of the bird will matter.
  7. Baking sheet: Baking sheets are a must have for being able to bake cookies and dough but they also come in handy for roasting veggies in the oven. I have 2 sets of baking sheets, one for strictly baking purposes and a set for roasting. Using baking sheets to roast things like vegetables can beat up your pans quickly so it is helpful if possible to have a set for roasting and a set for baking, if your budget can afford it. I prefer aluminum or metal baking sheets vs non stick because the life span of non stick is a lot less.

Nice To Have

  1. Stock Pot: Most of what a stock pot does a dutch oven can do. However, if you want to make a larger quantity of something like chili or stock, then a stock pot can be a great essential in any kitchen.
  2. Casserole Dish: Functional for both baking and cooking. Casserole dish is great because it can go from the oven to the table and look good. It can also due double duty and be used to bake cakes and squares. I would recommend a 9×13 as the size tends to work for most cooking and baking needs.

Cookware Material

There are different types of cookware materials to choose from. It is important to think about what will suit your needs and budget before purchasing. I am of the mindset that you get what you pay for and it is important to do your homework. I would rather have fewer good quality essentials and add on over time vs having more essentials and having to replace them because of a short lifespan. Below is some information on the different materials that hopefully you will find helpful.

  • Stainless Steel: Non reactive, durable  but can be expensive.
  • Copper: Awesome heat conductor, expensive need to take special care, reactive and can colour food.
  • Aluminum: Heats up quickly, reactive metal so avoid cooking acidic foods like pasta sauce.
  • Non Stick: Shorter life span vs stainless steel, coating will wear over time , avoid using metal utensils.
  • Cast Iron: Retains its heat for a very long time. Need to be seasoned before using for the first time, special care so they do not rust.

I hope the above helps you find the essentials you need for your kitchen – enjoy!

 

Crispy Chicken Taquitos

Entertaining and making food for kids can be a tricky business at the best of times, especially if any of them are picky eaters. I am always looking for fast and fun recipes for Emma particularly if she is entertaining friends. Luckily I have found plenty of simple and delicious recipes that work for even the pickiest eaters and don’t take a lot of time to prepare. Crispy chicken taquitos has become one of my go to recipes. It is easy, fun to eat and has become one of Emma’s favorites to share with her friends. 

Crispy Chicken Taquitos

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Here is what you will need:

  • 2 cups of shredded chicken (I like to use rotisserie chicken)
  • 1 cup shredded mild white Cheddar cheese 
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin (optional)
  • 1/2 cup of chunk salsa plus more for serving
  • Eight 6-inch flour tortillas
  • 1/2 cup of sour cream plus more for serving
  •  Vegetable oil, for frying
  • Toothpicks
  • guacamole (optional)

Here is how to make the Crispy Chicken Taquitos

  • Add enough oil to a heavy bottom pan to come 2 inches up the sides and heat over medium heat.
  • Mix together the chicken, Cheddar, salsa and the cumin in a medium bowl.
  • Spoon about a 1/4 cup of the mixture into the center of each tortilla, add the guacamole if using. Roll the tortillas tightly around the filling and secure with a toothpick.
  • Place the taquitos in the hot oil and fry, flipping as needed to brown evenly, until crispy and golden brown, about 3 minutes.Only fry 2 or 3 at a time making sure not to overcrowd the pan.
  • Remove the taquitos and transfer to a plate lined with a paper towel to drain.
  • Serve with salsa and/or sour cream for dipping.

I hope this recipe inspires you to be creative in your kitchen – enjoy!

Wild for Blueberries – Blueberry Muffins

Blueberries are a popular fruit treat. They have a sweet succulent flavour and are also nutritious. They can be  eaten fresh or incorporated into a variety of recipes. They have a fairly long shelf life and can last up to week in the fridge but do not wash them until you are ready to use. Blueberries are one of the many popular super foods believed to have powerful antioxidant effects and  many health benefits. Regardless of whether you are a believer in super foods  or not, they are used in a variety of goods, such as jellies, jams, muffins, pies, breakfast cereals, yogurts and even in wines and syrups. Before using them, make sure to wash them and ensure there are no small stems, leaves or over-ripened ones. My preference is to use them in muffins and coffee cakes. The recipes tend to allow the blueberry to be the star of the dish. Given this, I am going to share with you my favorite blueberry muffin recipe. I love making these for a quick on the go breakfast and they are also great as an after school snack for the kids.
Blueberry Muffins
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Here is what you will need:
  • For the topping
    • 1/4 cup of AP flour
    • 2 tbs granulated sugar
    • 2 tbs packed light brown sugar
    • 1/4 tsp of ground cinnamon
  • For the muffin
    • 7 tbs unsalted butter at room temperature
    • 3/4 cup of granulated sugar
    • 2 large eggs
    • 21/4 cups of AP flour
    • 4 tsp of baking powder
    • 1/2 tsp of salt
    • 1/4 cup sour cream
    • 1 cup of milk
    • 2 tsp of vanilla extract
    • 2 cups of fresh blueberries

How to make the blueberry muffins:

  • Preheat the oven to 375°
  • Grease 12 standard muffin tins
  • To make the topping
    • In a bowl stir together flour, sugar, brown sugar, and cinnamon.
    • Using a pastry cutter or your fingers cut or rub the butter into the dry ingredients until course crumbs form and set aside.
  • To make the muffin batter
    • In a bowl using a hand held mixer or electric standing mixer, cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
    • Add the eggs and vanilla one at a time beating well until blended into the butter mixture.
    • In another bowl stir together flour, baking powder and salt.
    • Add the dry ingredients into the butter mixture in 2 increments, alternating with the milk and sour cream.
    • Stir just until moistened.
    • Using a large rubber spatula, gently fold in the blueberries just until evenly distributed taking care not to break the fruit.
    • Spoon the batter into the muffin cups level to the rim of the cup and sprinkle each with some topping mixture.
    • Bake for 20 – 25 minutes until golden brown. A toothpick inserted into the center of the muffin should come out clean.
    • Transfer to a wire rack and let cool for 5 minutes.

I hope this recipe inspires you to be creative in your kitchen – enjoy!