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!

Baked Mozzarella Ball

Paul and I love ordering baked mozzarella when we go out to our favorite local Italian restaurant Scaddabush. Without fail, it is always the first thing we ask them to bring to the table even before we have has a chance to order our drinks. We like it so much I decided to make it at home for us and our friends to enjoy. It is so easy and full of flavour, you will impress anyone you make it for.

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Here is what you will need:

  • 1 oven proof skillet (I used a 3 inch cast iron skillet)
  • 1 mozzarella ball
  • Olive Oil
  • Hot peppers
  • Sun dried tomatoes diced
  • Cherry or grape tomatoes
  • Pepper
  • Panchetta diced
  • Hot sauce (optional)

Here is how to make it:

  • Heat the over to 350°
  • In a mini skillet drizzle a little bit of olive oil
  • Place the mozzarella ball in the pan
  • Add, hot peppers, sun dried tomatoes, cherry or grape tomatoes and the pancetta if using to the skillet
  • Drizzle with hot sauce and pepper

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  • Bake in the oven for 15 – 20 minutes
  • Sever with Garlic toast

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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!

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!