Simply Refreshing: Watermelon Basil Salad

One of my most favorite salads that I love to make on a hot summer day is this watermelon basil salad. The ingredients of watermelon, basil, fresh figs, feta, pine nuts and balsamic vinegar, make it the perfect combination of sweet and tart. Bright, colourful, easy, refreshing and super light, what more could you ask for. Every time I make this salad, it take me back to my trip to Spain, where I first had this delicious combination and I have been making it ever since. If I can’t find fresh figs, I will just omit them from the recipe and it still taste wonderful. Try it and you will see why this has become one of my favorite go to salads in the summer.

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Here is what you will need:

  • 1/2 watermelon cut into chunks
  • 6 purple figs cut into quarters (optional)
  • 1 cup of cubed or crumbled feta
  • 1/4 cup nine nuts
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • Fresh basil leaves
  • Fresh cracked pepper

Here is how to make the salad:

  • Cut the watermelon into cubes and add it to a large bowl.
  • Cut the figs (if using) into quarters and add to the large bowl.
  • Cut the feta and add it and the pine nuts to the large bowl.
  • Add the basil leaves to the large bowl.
  • Drizzle with balsamic vinegar and fresh cracked pepper, toss the salad and serve.

I hope this recipe inspires you in your 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

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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!

 

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!

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!

German Red Cabbage

One of the great things about my job is that it requires me to travel to some really cool places that I probably wouldn’t normally get to see on my own. I like to take advantage of my time abroad and really explore the country or city I am visiting –  site see, shop, experience the culture and of course try as much of the local cuisine as possible. On a recent trip to Dusseldorf Germany, I was able to do just that. I didn’t know what to expect given that it was March, not the best time of year to be in Germany weather wise, but it turned out to be a pretty nice trip regardless of the time of year. I did get a chance to visit some pretty cool restaurants in the old part of the city, where there was a cool outdoor market, cobblestone roads and no cars allowed in the city center. One night I was fortunate enough to go on a brewery tour at Uerige Brewery and also have dinner there. It was a preset menu served buffet style, giving us a taste of the local beer and German cuisine.  For dinner we had a beautiful roast with dumplings and red cabbage on the side. I’m not a big fan of cabbage but given that it is a very popular side dish in Germany and given that I was in Germany, I thought I needed to give it a try and I am so glad I did. The taste surprised me, it has such a nice balance of sweet and sour and all I could think of is making this side dish at home for my family. I asked the chef if I could have his recipe and he gave it to me. I made it a few days after I came home and my family loved it! So, here it is.

German Red Cabbage

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Here is what you will need:

  • 3 tbs of butter
  • 1/2 of 1 red cabbage shredded
  • 1/2 cup of apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup of sugar
  • 1/2 cup of water
  • Pinch of clove
  • 1 cup of sliced green apple
  • 1 tsp of salt
  • 1 tsp of pepper

How to make the German Red Cabbage:

  • Place butter, cabbage, apples, and sugar into a large pot. Pour in the vinegar and water, and season with salt, pepper, and clove.
  • Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer until the cabbage is tender, 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

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