Christmas Baking: Mint Chocolate Chip Cookies

img_20161127_133824Hello everyone,

Christmas comes earlier and earlier every year. There are even Christmas decorations in stores before Halloween these days! As November comes to a close, it seems that everyone has already started getting ready for Christmas. Something about Christmas planning in November seems wrong to me but I confess, I’m totally guilty of this early Christmas trend. I have already completed about 90% of my Christmas shopping, and today just finished my annual Christmas baking.

This is the 11th year my cousin Lori and I have done Christmas baking together. She brought to my attention that we have been doing this for over 1/3 of our lives. Freaky or impressive? As time goes by this fraction will only get larger and larger.

This year we made 5 different varieties of cookies for a total 418 cookies. We accomplished this feat in 4.5 hours, a time period that included clean up, putting our cookies into tins, and a lunch break. We credit this unusually quick pace to the fact that this was the first time in as long as we could remember that neither one of us was either sick or hungover.

We have baked today’s recipe, chocolate mint cookies, for 10 out of the 11 years, so it has become a classic for us. The mint flavour and the colourful M&Ms make it a great Christmas cookie. Additionally, it is an easy and forgiving recipe, one you can whip up pretty quickly with no stress.

Hopefully this recipe reaches you before you start your Christmas baking this year! Definitely a good cookie for Christmas!

Om nom nom nom,

Julie

Click here for the printable Word version of recipe:
mint-chocolate-chip-cookies

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Mint Chocolate Chip Cookies
Makes about 40 cookies

2 and 2 / 3 cups flour
1 / 2 tsp baking soda
1 / 4 tsp salt
1 / 2 cup cocoa powder
3 / 4 cup brown sugar
2 / 3 cup white sugar
1 cup butter
3 large eggs
1 tsp mint extract
1 and 3 / 4 cup mint chocolate chips – try splitting with mint M&Ms

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Preheat oven 350 degrees
  2. In a medium mixing bowl, combine flour, baking soda , salt and cocoa powder. Set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, cream butter with sugars. Add eggs and mint. Beat at medium speed until light and fluffy.
  4. Add flour mixture and chocolate chips. Mix on low speed until just combined, alternatively with a spoon by hand.
  5. Drop onto ungreased cookie sheet 1 and 1 / 2 inches apart. Bake for 18 – 20 minutes at 350.

 

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Cheesy Squash and Barley Bake

fullsizerender

Hello everyone,

I decided one day that barley goes really nicely with melted cheese. Given that it’s fall and squash is in season, I thought it would be a nice idea to create a dish with squash and barley and cheese all together as one happy family!

This recipe is basically mac n’ cheese where the macaroni is replaced with high-fibre healthy goodness ie. squash, barley and red kidney beans. So at least you can feel a little less guilty when chowing down on the cheesy goodness.

TIPS:

  1. Freeze dish before baking if you want to eat it at a later date
  2. Try dividing into two smaller portions, one for the night of and one for later.
  3. Makes a great meal on its own, or a side dish.

Give this comfort dish a shot next time you want something warm and wholesome. You’d be surprised how satisfying all these healthy ingredients can be when you mix them with cheese!

Mmmm….cheese.

Bon appetit,

Julie

Click here for printable Word version of recipe:
cheesy-squash-and-barley-bake

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Cheesy Squash and Kidney Bean Bake

Serves 6

INGREDIENTS:

1 medium buttercup or butternut squash, cubed
1 can red kidney beans
2 cups cooked barley

SAUCE INGREDIENTS:

2 tbsp butter
1 onion, sliced
1 clove garlic, crushed
2 cups milk
2 tbsp flour
½ cup ricotta – substitute for more grated cheese
1 tsp thyme
1 tsp salt
Pepper to taste
2 cups cheddar cheese, grated (1 cup for sauce, 1 cup for topping)
¼ cup grated parmesan cheese
¼ cup breadcrumbs

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Cook barley in advance
  2. Prepare squash. Peel, remove guts and seeds, and cut into bite sized pieces. Preheat oven to 375 F. Toss squash with olive oil and salt and pepper. Bake for about 20 minutes.
  3. Melt the butter in a pot over medium heat. Add onions, cook until onions soften. Add garlic and thyme. Add the flour, mix well and then stir in milk. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  4. Simmer sauce until it thickens. Add 1 cup grated cheese and ricotta.
  5. Combine the squash, kidney beans, barley, and cheese sauce. Mix well and transfer to a casserole dish or baking pan. Sprinkle the top with remaining grated cheese, parmesan cheese and breadcrumbs.
  6. At 350 F, bake covered for 30 minutes, then uncovered for another 15 minutes.

Alternatively, you can make the dish and freeze before baking. I split the recipe in two, eating one and baking one portion the same day, and freezing the second for dinner at a later date.

 

Halloween, Jack-o-Lanterns and Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

roasted-pumpkin-seedsHello everyone,

Like many Canadian families, we often carve a pumpkin or two for Halloween. Growing up, my dad always made sure that none of the pumpkin seeds made their way into the garbage. My brother and I would carefully pick each and every seed out of the pumpkin, sometimes grabbing handfuls, and other times painstakingly removing seeds trapped in the cobweb of pumpkin guts.

Our efforts would always pay off, as we would be rewarded with delicious roasted pumpkin seeds! My dad would marinade them overnight and then roast them in the oven the next day, a memorable Halloween treat.

I decided to keep this tradition going. When John and I carved up our pumpkins, we made sure that each and every precious seed was removed.

I always find that every pumpkin is different when it comes to seed production. Sometimes you will get a pumpkin that is practically barren, and other times you will strike gold with a pumpkin exploding with seeds! Last year we had one of each … it’s always a good idea to hedge your bet with a second pumpkin.

Roasting the seeds is really easy. Soak overnight in salty water, drain and dry, toss in olive oil and then roast in the oven at 300 degrees F for about 40 minutes.

If you’re carving pumpkins anyways this Halloween, try roasting some seeds. Who knows, maybe it will become a tradition for you too!

Bon appetit,

Julie

Click here for printable Word version of recipe:
roasted-pumpkin-seeds

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Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

INGREDIENTS:

Fresh Pumpkin Seeds, right out of the pumpkin
1 cup water
1 tsp salt
Olive Oil

Seasoning:

  • Seasoning salt
  • Cajun seasoning
  • Additional Salt

DIRCTIONS:

  1. Remove pumpkin seeds from pumpkin. Rinse and clean pumpkin seeds.
  2. Soak pumpkin seeds overnight in a solution consisting of 1 cup of water to 1 tsp salt
  3. Drain and let seeds dry for a few hours.
  4. Toss seeds with olive oil and seasoning of choice – careful not to over salt.
  5. On a baking sheet, bake seeds at 300 for 25 minutes

Please note: I usually soak my seeds overnight but this isn’t necessary. You can roast them the day of, just rinse, season and toss in some olive oil.

Chana Masala (Chickpea Curry)

img_0583Hi everyone,

Here in Edmonton, Alberta, we are currently experiencing some unfortunate weather. Yes, we get long winters here, but it is unusual for us to have snow this early in October. With freezing temperatures and several centimeters of snow on the ground, the future looks bleak for all.

The good news is that there is nothing that can lift you out of an early winter funk like a nice spicy warm dish! When the weather is snowy and chili, a nice curry is a good way to make life seem just a little brighter.

In comes the chana masala, or chickpea curry. This is my favourite chana masala recipe, and although I have been making it for years, it originally took me some time to get it just the way I wanted it. I found a combination of ingredients that in my opinion give the dish the right consistency and the perfect amount of spice. It is a recipe I hold quite dear to my heart.

In my opinion, the secret ingredient in this dish is the amchoor powder, or mango powder. It adds the nice tart flavour to the dish. It’s worth grabbing some if you can find it.

Chana Masala is a vegetarian favourite in our house. Some days, I will make it as a side with other Indian mains (such as butter chicken, or korma) but the dish can stand alone as a main course nicely. Healthy, hearty, and spicy, this is an easy recipe that will satisfy your hunger despite the lack of meat.

img_0582As fall turns to winter, make the cold weather a little warmer with a spicy bowl of chana masala!

Bon appetit,

Julie

Click here for the printable Word version of recipe:
chana-masala

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Chana Masala
Serves 4

SPICES:
2 tsp corriander
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp cumin seeds
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp turmeric
2 tsp mango/amchoor powder
1 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp garem masala

INGREDIENTS:
1 chopped onion
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp fresh ginger, minced
1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 chopped green pepper
1 tsp salt
1 14 oz can tomato sauce
1 cup water
2 tsp brown sugar

DIRECTIONS

  1. Combine all spices in a bowl in advance.
  2. Preheat oil in a medium pot. Saute onion until it starts to cook.Add garlic, and ginger. Add green pepper and cook for another minute or two. Add chickpeas.
  3. Add spices and mix will. After about a minute, add tomato sauce and water.
  4. Bring to a boil. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes. Add brown sugar and simmer uncovered for 5 more minutes.

Serve as a side or as a meal.

 

 

 

Chicken and Mushroom Stroganoff

stroganoff-iiHello everyone,

One day I decided I wanted chicken stroganoff. So I made some and it was awesome.

I just love this recipe. Honestly, I can’t think of too much to stay about it, just that it is delicious.

The spices and seasonings are so simple and understated in this dish, but to me it’s a kind of dish that warms your soul.

It’s pretty quick so makes a nice dish to try on a weeknight after work or school.

I do love stroganoff!

Bon appetit,

Julie

Click here for the printable Word version of recipe:

chicken-and-mushroom-stroganoff

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Chicken and Mushroom Stroganoff

INGREDIENTS

Boneless skinless chicken thighs, cut into bite sized pieces
Salt and pepper
Cooking oil
1 onion, chopped
3 cups mushrooms, sliced
1 tsp sweet paprika
½ cup white wine
1 tbsp tomato paste
1 cup chicken stock
3 tbsp butter
2 tbsp sour cream
2 tsp Dijon mustard
2 tbsp chopped fresh dill, or 2 tsp dried
1 tbsp finely chopped parsley

 

DIRECTIONS

  1. Season chicken with salt and pepper. Heat oil a dutch oven or large pan with a lid, sauté chicken until it is cooked through. Remove from pan.
  2. Add more oil to pan. Sauté onions for about three minutes. Add mushroom and continue to sauté until mushrooms are cooked.
  3. Add paprika, wine, tomato paste, butter and chicken stock. Add salt and pepper to taste. Bring to boil. Reduce heat and cook for 10 minutes.
  4. Add the chicken back to the pan. Add sour cream, mustard, dill and parsley. Simmer for about 5 minutes.

Serve with noodles or rice

Europe Part 5: Croatia, The Dalmatian Coast and Pašticada

Hello everyone,
served-2
Croatia would be the third and final country on our Europe trip. Our plan was to start in Split and visit a few of the islands along the beautiful Dalmatian coast.

John is part Croatian and his dad is from Split, so we were very excited to visit the city. The thing to see in Split is Diocletian’s palace. The palace was built by the Roman Emperor in the fourth century AD as a retirement home. The palace is very large and made from brac stone, a type of marble only found on the island of Brac in Croatia (you can find brac stone souvenirs all around the country.)

Apart from the sheer size and splendor of the palace, there are two things that to me, make it so amazing. The first is that the palace remains very intact, especially compared to many of the runes of ancient Rome from around the same era we had seen earlier in our trip. The second is the fact that the palace is being used and lived in by the locals. The walls are lined with restaurants and shops for tourists, and there are people living inside the walls. The room we rented was in the section of the palace that was once reserved for the soldiers.

From Split we took a boat to Hvar. On the way to the island, we stopped at Blue Cave. What made blue cave this colour is an underwater tunnel that connects the dark cave to the bright outdoors, dispersing light through the water in the cave that lit up blue. The dim blue light in the dark cave was stunning.

Hvar is known as being quite the party town. It’s interesting that every town we visited in Croatia seemed to have some sort of city wall and/or castle. Hvar was no different. As we learned, everyone and their mom tried to take over the Dalmatian coast over the last couple thousand years so this may be why.

 

adriatic-seaFrom Hvar, our next stop was the town of Korcula, located on the island of the same name.. The town of Korcula is small and easy to walk around, surrounded by the sea on three of the four sides. In Korcula, we rented a small boat and traveled to some of the nearby small islands, while swimming in the beautiful water of the Adriatic Sea.

One of our favourite meals of the trip was at a restaurant on the island of Korcula, the family run restaurant Konoba Ranch Maha. To get there, we took a taxi into the island. Surrounded by acres of open land up in the hills, we were greeted with the most beautiful sight – an outdoor restaurant surrounded by lush greenery and large fiery cooking pits. Here we enjoyed one of our favourite dishes of the trip, Dalmatian peka. Peka is a stew consisting of your choice of meat or octopus (we had veal and lamb) and potatoes. What makes is so special is that it is cooked under a cast-iron bell on hot coals for several hours. John and I simply loved it!

The Recipe

Apart from peka, our favourite dish in Croatia had to be pašticada. Unfortunately, I am not equipped to make peka at home, so I thought I would give pašticada a go instead. Pašticada is a beef roast cooked in a sauce consisting of red wine, prosek (a Croatian dessert wine similar to port) and prunes. You can serve it with mashed potatoes, but traditionally it is served on gnocchi. We learned quickly that even throughout the Dalmatian coast, the recipes for pašticada varied, differing in sweetness and acidity. We got the distinct impression that a good pašticada was a source of pride for these restaurants.

At first, I found this recipe quite daunting but it was much easier then I thought it would be. The trick is to give yourself plenty of time as it takes three hours to cook in the oven. But it was worth the time. The beef was tender and the sauce was both sweet and acidic. To make matters better, we opted to fry our gnocchi instead of boiling it!

Pašticada is a wonderful way to bring some authentic Croatian cooking into your kitchen!

Bon appetit,

Julie

Other posts in this series:
Part 1: Barcelona, Spain and Chicken and Sausage Paella
Part 2: Montserrat, Spain and Patatas Bravas
Part 3: Rome, Italy and Pasta Carbonara
Part 4: Florence, Italy and Bistecca Fiorentina

Click here to view the printable Word version of recipe:
pasticada-croatian-beef-pot-roast

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Pašticada

INGREDIENTS:

2 kg beef roast (I used flank, traditionally bottom rump roast is used)
6 garlic cloves, cut in half lengthwise
3-4 cloves
2 cups red wine vinegar
Flour
Oil
4 slices bacon, cut into pieces
2 onions, sliced
2 sticks celery, sliced
2 carrots, sliced
10 prunes, chopped into smaller pieces
1 cup beef broth
2 cups red wine
1 cup Prosek, or other sweet dessert wine
1/2 can tomato paste
1 bay leaf
2 tsp salt
Pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Using a thin knife, cut holes into the beef. Insert garlic and cloves throughout.
  2. In a large ziplock bag, marinade beef in red wine vinegar overnight, moving and flipping periodically.
  3. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees F.
  4. Heat oil in an oven-safe dutch oven. If you don’t have one, use a stove top pot and transfer to a roasting pan for oven.
  5. Remove beef from bag and drain vinegar. Season with salt and pepper. Dust with flower. Fry quickly on all sides to brown. Remove beef from dutch oven.
  6. Add bacon pieces, cook for a few minutes. Then add onion and garlic and cook.
  7. Add carrots and celery. Mix well and cook for a few minutes. Add 2 tsp salt and pepper to taste.
  8. Add prunes, red wine and beef broth. Put beef on top of vegetables and bring to a boil.
  9. Meanwhile, mix tomato paste with prosek. Add to pot. Add bay leaves.
  10. Once liquid is boiling, cover and bake at 350 for 2 hours, basting occasionally.
  11. When beef is done, remove from dutch oven and blend sauce with a hand blender.
  12. Serve sliced beef on a bed of gnocchi or mashed potatoes, with sauce.

 

 

Europe Part 4: Florence, Italy and Bistecca Fiorentina (Florentine Steak)

Hello everyone,
ServedOur next stop in Italy was Florence, or as the Italians call it Firenze. After some art history classes and a few Dan Brown books, I was eager to visit the city where Renaissance was born, once home to great minds and artists such as Da Vinci, Michelangelo and Botticelli.

As a result, Florence is peppered with art museums, all worth a visit. However, the highlight for John and I would have to be seeing Michelangelo’s masterpiece David. So grand and impressive, John and I could see why the statue is so famous, boasting such detail and anatomical correctness (and to respond to your assumption I’m not only referring to the obvious part! The detail of the whole statue was incredible.) We tried to imagine the pressure that the master experience carving details such as the eyes, where a small slip could ruin the entire piece, in our minds telling himself “don’t screw up, don’t screw up!”

One of our highlights in Florence was walking to the highest point in the city, Piazza de Michelangelo, which boasts a magical view of Florence.

Piazza

Oh and if you like leather, the city is packed with leather markets. Seriously, you will never see so much leather in one place! It’s outrageous. I fell victim to the temptation and bought myself a lovely leather jacket!

As Florence is in Tuscany, John and I decided to plan a day trip to visit the Chianti wine country. We rented a Fiat 500 (which would be the smallest car on the road in North America thus an average sized car in Italy) and made our way down the highway, enjoying the view of the lush, rolling hills of the wine country. We visited Montalcino, a region renowned for Brunello. There are specific rules for a wine to be classified as “Brunello.” It must be made from the Sangiovese grape, and it must be aged in an oak barrel for 5 years. As a result, a bottle of Brunello is a wee bit out of my price range, however I felt spoiled sampling the various varietals of this wine.

On our last day, we decided to take another day trip. From Florence, we took the train to Cinque Terre. A coastline on the Italian Riviera, Cinque Terre is host to five beautiful and colorful (both metaphorical and literal) towns, all located on cliffs along the coastline. There is a train that takes you between the towns, however much of the charm of the visit is the ability to hike between the five towns. We only had the chance to hike between the last two towns, Manarola and Riomaggiore, however hiking along the rugged coastline overlooking the bright blue Mediterranean Sea was simply stunning .

The Recipe

In a region full of pasta, I find it odd that the local dish of Florence is a gigantic steak. It was like being back in Alberta, but with a Euro flair of course. When we went to order our Bistecca Fiorentina at a market in Florence, we pondered how your average Italian who seems to lack the North American’s ability to pound back thousands of calories in a sitting could finish one of these beasts.

The Bistecca Fiorentina is basically a porterhouse steak (the largest cut of the t-bone) seasoned with salt and pepper, and grilled with olive oil.

When we tried it at home, John grilled ours on his charcoal grill (not sure how authentic that is but oh well!) To serve, we sprinkled the steak with coarse salt (fleur du sel) and drizzled with olive oil. We added a side of bread with Chianti butter (butter with red wine mixed in) to accompany the steak and help sop up the olive oil and juices. Yum!

Two of us could not finish this steak as it was so big. But boy was it good! The simplicity of the steak and the coarse salt and olive oil it was served with sure is a nice touch!

What is a T-bone steak?
A T-bone steak consists of a rib-eye and filet mignon.

What is a porterhouse steak?
A porterhouse steak is a t-bone steak that is carved from the largest part of the tenderloin.

So next time you’re feeling iron deficient, have yourself a Bistecca Florentina! Or perhaps share it with a friend or five.

Bon appetit,

Julie

John and Julie

Other posts in this series:
Part 1: Barcelona, Spain and Chicken and Sausage Paella
Part 2: Montserrat, Spain and Patatas Bravas
Part 3: Rome, Italy and Pasta Carbonara
Part 5: Croatia, The Dalmatian Coast and Pasticada

Click here for the printable Word version of recipe:
Bistecca Fiorentina with Chiante Butter

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Bistecca Fiorentina with Chianti Butter (Florentine Steak)

INGREDIENTS:

T-bone/porterhouse steak
Salt and pepper
Olive oil
Coarse sea salt, or fleur du sel for garnish

Bread for serving

Chiante Butter

½ cup butter, room temperature
3 tsp red wine, or Chiante red wine
Salt to taste

DIRECTIONS (for steak)

  1. Take the steak out of the fridge half an hour or so before cooking.
  2. Slather steak with olive oil, and then season with salt and pepper (doing the oil first will help the salt and pepper stick.) Don’t over salt as you will be sprinkling your cooked steak with more salt.
  3. Grill steak to your liking.
  4. When serving, garnish steak with extra olive oil, and coarse salt. Serve with bread and chianti butter.
  5. If you are sharing the steak, cut the steaks away from the bone and divide for you and your guests, be sure to slice with the grain.

DIRECTIONS (for butter)

  1. Using a fork, mash the liquid into the butter. It will be tricky, but you’ll get it if you work at it!

Europe Part 3: Rome, Italy and Pasta Carbonara

Carbonera 2Hello everyone,

When in Rome, do as the Romans do.

What do the Romans do? Well they get spoiled by stunning architecture, beautiful art, a helluva lot of history and delicious food every day.

John and I loved Rome. During the day, there is so much history, art and architecture to explore. At night, the city possesses a wonderful electric energy.

What I love about Rome is it was host to two incredible eras in history. The first was the heart of the Roman empire. The second was an important center of the Renaissance period.

We started by exploring the runes of ancient Rome.

ColeseumAs we exited the train station, we were absolutely stunned by the appearance of the Colosseum, the site of many bloody battles between Gladiators, slaves and all types of beasts, all for the entertainment of the Romans. Although the Colosseum is a shadow of its former glorious self (the marble was pillaged hundreds of years ago) it is still an imposing and impressive sight. It’s fun to imagine how it looked in its prime.

Right down the street from the Colosseum was the Forum, or the monument park of ancient Rome. Few of the runes are fully intact, but we enjoyed walking around the site and learning of the different Emperors and Roman gods that the monuments were built to honour.


Perhaps the most impressive structure left of ancient Rome is the Pantheon, the only fully intact building remaining from that era. Between the mighty marble pillars and the gigantic concrete dome, the construction of this monument is amazing.

The next morning, we headed towards the Vatican. We looked for a tour guide service and although we paid a little more, it was well worth the extra money. Our guide ushered us through all of the long line-ups and security to get us in, and guided us through what would have been a very confusing experience had we attempted the Vatican on our own.

We started by going into the main museum where we saw many statues from different eras. After the very busy museum, we were fortunate to see Michelangelo’s fresco masterpiece, the Sistine Chapel. Michelangelo spent 4 years looking up to paint the ceiling (trying doing that for 2 minutes and see how your neck feels!) Although we weren’t allowed to take pictures, the ceiling was stunning: Michelangelo’s incorporation of the day light coming through the windows into his painting and his ability to make the images look three dimensional on the curved ceiling was simply masterful.

Vatican Museum Statues

After the museum, we headed over to St. Peter’s Basilica. The Basilica was gigantic, and full of detailed gold accents. However, the thing to see in the Basilica is Michelangelo’s La Pieta, a stunning statue of Mary holding her crucified son that the master carved at the young age of 23.

We decided to take the hundreds of stairs to the viewpoint on top of St. Peter’s Basilica (there was an elevator option but we dumbly didn’t want to pay the extra 2 Euros each.) However, the view at the top was stunning and well worth the uphill battle!

What makes Rome really special is the sheer amount of things to see in the city. The monuments and art that you come across as you walk through the streets is simply tremendous!

Carbonera 1The Recipe

The streets of Rome are bustling with locals and tourists, and lined with shops and restaurants. We were fortunate to enjoy some excellent pastas during our visit. One of my favourites was a Roman special, pasta carbonara. The rich, creamy egg-based sauce was delectable, so I decided to give it a shot in my own kitchen.

I was surprised at how quick this recipe took to make. The technique is surprisingly easy: fry the pancetta with garlic, add the pasta, remove the pan from heat and add the egg parmesan sauce and mix until it is cooked. Garnish with parsley and voila! You have a fancy pasta dinner!

TIPS:

  • Make sure the pasta is fresh and hot when you add it to the pan ,as the heat from the pasta will help to cook the eggs.
  • It is key to remove the pan from the heat before cooking the sauce as you don’t want your eggs to scramble!
  • If you don’t have pancetta, you can substitute bacon

So experience a small taste of Rome with pasta carbonara!

Bon appetit,

Julie

Other posts in this series:
Part 1: Barcelona, Spain and Chicken and Sausage Paella
Part 2: Montserrat, Spain and Patatas Bravas
Part 4: Florence, Italy and Bistecca Fiorentina (Florentine Steak)
Part 5: Croatia, The Dalmatian Coast and Pasticada

Click here for printable Word version of recipe:
Pasta Carbonara

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Pasta Carbonara

Serves 4

INGREDIENTS:

1 lb dry spaghetti or linguine, enough to serve 4
4-5 oz pancetta or 5 slices bacon, cut into small pieces
4 cloves of garlic, minced
2 eggs
1 cup grated parmesan cheese
Splash of white wine (optional)
Black pepper
Parsley to garnish
Parmesan cheese to garnish

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Heat a large frying pan. Add pancetta/bacon and fry until it starts to crisp. Add garlic and cook for a minute.
  2. While the pancetta is cooking, cook pasta to el dente.
  3. Combine eggs and 1 cup grated parmesan cheese in a bowl. Mix well.
  4. When pasta is done, add to pan with pancetta and garlic, cook until pasta is coated in the fat. Add a splash of wine if desired. You want to add the hot pasta right to the hot pan once it is cooked and drained, as the heat of the noodles will help cook the eggs in the sauce.
  5. Remove pan from heat. Add egg and parmesan mixture, and mix well into pasta. This is important as you don’t want the eggs to scramble! The remaining heat of the pan and pasta should cook your sauce, keeping it creamy.
  6. Garnish with parsley, fresh cracked pepper and parmesan cheese to serve.

Europe Part 2: Montserrat, Spain and Patatas Bravas

Patatas Sauced Vert
Hello everyone!

During our stay in Barcelona, John and I decided we wanted to spend some time rock climbing in the Catalonia. For our climbing destination, we chose Montserrat.

John packed up our climbing gear in the morning and we caught the train to Montserrat. It’s easy to get there, as Montserrat is about a 45 minute train ride outside of Barcelona, which makes it a perfect day trip. Since we only checked one bag for gear, John looked ridiculous carrying all the gear in a huge bag on his back. I looked pathetic carrying only my tiny orange backpack.

John and Julie

Monserrat is a great place to visit for rock climbers and tourists alike. Montserrat itself is a multi-peaked mountain. Montserrat means “saw mountain” in the Catalan language, which describes the peculiar rock formations and spires that shoot up out of the mountain. The rock itself is very unique. Classified as conglomerate, the rock is composed of many different types of rock, with everything from sandstone to limstone, all jammed into the mountainside in little chunks. John and I thought the holds were kind of like rocks sticking out of the wall of the climbing gym. A little scary climbing at times as some of the chunks really looked like they were going to break off it you grabbed it!

A very interested thing about Montserrat is that it is host to the Benedictine Abbey, a monastery located halfway up the mountain. From the main train station, you can take either a rack train or cable car up to the monastery to see it and learn about its history. (TIP: The view from the cable car is awesome!)

From the monastery, you can take a funicular further up the mountain. For those of you who don’t know what a funicular is, it is a cable car that site on a track that is dragged up really steep sloped. At the top of the funicular, there are stunning hikes that take you around the valley and allow you to visit many of the natural features of the mountain, as well as access to many climbs. Whether you are a climber or a hiker, you will be dazzled by the views of the spires, unique rock formations and stunning view of the monastery in the valley. It is almost surreal to hear the bell of the monastery ring and echo through the mountains.

John and I had a splendid couple of days climbing a few of the literally thousands upon thousands of climbs around Montserrat. Unfortunately, we never had the chance to visit the monastery as we decided not to go for our third and final day as the rack train and funicular drivers were on strike, creating massive line ups to get up to Montserrat via tram. Yes, you heard it here, the funicular was on strike!


Patatas HorzThe Recipe

In Barcelona, they love their tapas, and one of our favourites was patatas bravas. Crispy potatoes served with aioli and a spicy tomato sauce, this was one of our go-to tapas at any restaurant that offered them (which was most restaurants!)

I quite like this recipe, and it will definitely be a hit as an appy for your next party, or a fun side for your next dinner!

Julie’s note: Aioli and mayonnaise is the same darn thing. I used Hellman’s mayo in a squeeze bottle to make the beautiful squiggly pattern, but when you serve it, just call it aioli instead of mayonnaise as it will make you seem way trendier to your hipster guests!  

Ok, I lied. My friend Alie deserves full credit for the beautiful Hellman’s aioli squiggle  in the photos!

Bon appetit!

Julie

Other posts in this series:
Part 1: Barcelona, Spain and Stove=Top Chicken and Sausage Paella
Part 3: Rome, Italy and Pasta Carbonara
Part 4: Florence, Italy and Bistecca Fiorentina (Florentine Steak)
Part 5: Croatia, The Dalmatian Coast and Pasticada

Click here for the printable Word version of recipe:
Patatas Bravas

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Patatas Bravas

Patatas

Large red potatoes, cut into bite sized pieces.
Salt and pepper

  1. Parboil potatoes in salted boiling water for 5-10 minutes.
  2. Before serving, shallow fry potatoes in oil with salt and pepper until they are both crispy and tender. Be careful when you fry as the pan likes to spit!

Bravas Sauce

1 onion diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1-2 chilies, minced
½  tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
1-14 oz can stewed whole tomatoes, drained
Mayonnaise for serving

  1. Heat oil in pan. Add onion, cook until tender. Add garlic and chilies, cook for a few minutes. Add paprika and salt.
  2. Add tomatoes, vinegar and contents of pan into a blender, and blend until smooth.
  3. Put sauce in pot to heat before serving.

To serve patatas bravas, drizzle potatoes with tomato bravas sauce and mayonnaise. Alternatively, you can serve with either sauce on the side as a dipping sauce.
Tip: if you have a squeeze bottle for your mayo it looks much nicer when served

Europe Part 1: Barcelona, Spain and Stove-Top Chicken and Sausage Paella


Paella in PanHello everyone!

John and I have recently returned from the most fantastic of vacations! We were lucky enough to travel to Europe where we split our time between Spain, Italy and Croatia. Over the next several blogs, I will share some of these adventures – both food related and non-food related – with you!

Our first stop on our trip was Barcelona, Spain. Bustling on Mediterranean sea, Barcelona is chalked full of culture, beaches, churches, shops and restaurants. There seems to be at least one café/bakery and one restaurant on every block, so it wasn’t difficult to find places to eat.

For us, the sight-seeing highlight of Barcelona had to be the Sagrada Familia. Established as a basilica by the Pope in 2010, this massive and very impressive church is well into its second century of construction, scheduled to be completed in 2026. However, the church is quite near completion and John and I were absolutely stunned by the grandeur, beauty and creativity of the Sagrada Familia. The primary architaect of the church was Antoni Gaudi, the famous Catalan artist whose architecture can be found all around Barcelona. Although Gaudi devoted much of his time as well as his distinct modern style to the project, he passed away with only a quarter of the project complete. Subsequent architects and artists are helping to complete his vision.

While the completed church will have 18 spires, (for the 12 disciples, the 4 Evangelists , Jesus and Mary) currently, only 4 have been erected. However, it was an impressive sight to see these four spires reaching high into the sky. The impressive façade and entrances of the building are covered in statues, while portions of the exterior seem to be melting.

The inside of the Segrada Familia was enticing and unusual as far as what you expect to see in a typical church. Upon entering the building, you are struck by the massive pillars extending high to the ceiling of the church, with branches reaching out as if the pillars are trees. However, my favourite part of the whole structure was the stunning stained glass, with the blues and greens to capture the morning sunrise and the fiery reds and yellows positioned to catch the light of the setting sun. We were fortunate enough to catch the sunset, and the stained glass kept me mesmerized for some time.

Ok enough about the non-food attractions. I’m hungry!

RestaurantAs mentioned before, the food scene in Barcelona is bumping. You can find whatever you want there – Mexican, Mediterranean, Indian, Sushi, etc. – or you can stick to Spanish. Almost every restaurant in Barcelona was packed, with the peak hours late compared to Canada, around 9:00. But good things are worth waiting for.

From what I could tell, Spanish food seems to fall into two categories – seafood and tapas, with, of course, paella all over the place. The seafood is fresh and plentiful, with restaurants dedicated to fish, shellfish and seafood paella. However, my preference was the tapas – appetizer sized platters featuring cured meats, delicious cheeses, breads, vegetables, miniature sandwiches, patatas bravas and much much more. John and I would sit down and order several of these dishes – and of course enjoy them with some red wine sangria!

The Recipe: Paella

Paella PlatedSo to honour our visit to Barcelona, I would like to share my stove-top paella recipe with you. Yes, paella is traditionally finished in the oven, but if you don’t have the proper pan, this stove top version is an excellent option. It is a surprisingly easy recipe. I make mine with chicken and chorizo sausage, but you can really add whatever you like to the base recipe. Perhaps next time I will make a vegetable or seafood paella, such as the ones John and I sampled in Barcelona!

TIPS:

  • Be sure to adequately season your chicken with salt and pepper before cooking!
  • Try substituting the chicken with extra veggies such as asparagus, zucchini and carrots to make it more vegetable heavy.
  • Try sautéing some shrimp in butter and adding to the paella as you serve
  • The roasted garlic is a must – squeezing it out onto your paella is to die for!

My mom gave me this recipe a long time ago and we have been making it for ages, and I am glad to finally share it with you! Great for a regular supper or a dinner party, it will certainly bring a taste of Spain into your home!

Bon appetit,

Julie

Other posts in this series:
Part 2: Montserrat, Spain and Patatas Bravas
Part 3: Rome, Italy and Pasta Carbonara
Part 4: Florence, Italy and Bistecca Fiorentina (Florentine Steak)
Part 5: Croatia, The Dalmatian Cost and Pasticada

Click here to view printable Word version of recipe:
Paella Chicken and Sausage

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Stovetop Chicken and Sausage Paella

Serves 4-6 

INGREDIENTS:

1-2 whole garlic bulbs

Olive oil

 

2 + 1/2 cups Chicken stock

½ cup white wine

6 boneless skinless chicken thighs, cut into bite sized pieces

2 chorizo sausages, cut into rings

1 onion, minced

1 red pepper, sliced

1 large tomato,chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 ½ cups Aborio rice

1 teaspoon smoked paprika

Salt to taste

Fresh parsley to garnish

 

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Slice off top of garlic bulb, drizzle with oil and wrap in foil. Roast at 350 degree in oven for 30 minutes. You might want to do a second one if you are having a dinner party.
  2. Season chicken generously on both sides with salt and pepper.
  3. In large 13-14 inch pan, heat oil. Add chicken, sauté and then add chorizo. Cook until chicken has browned, then remove meats.
  4. Lower heat and sauté onion for a few minutes. Add pepper and cook a few more minutes, then add tomato and garlic for another 5 minutes
  5. Add rice to pan and stir to coat. Stir in smoked paprika, and salt ( less or none if using salted chicken stock)
  6. Add meat back to pan, spreading meat and vegetables evenly throughout the rice. Pat mixture to evenly cover bottom. Do your best to cover all the chicken with rice.
  7. Increase heat and add wine, and chicken stock ( keep ½ cup for later) Unwrap roasted garlic and place in middle of pan. DO NOT STIR! Let liquid come to boil, place lid on, lower heat and cook for 20 – 25 minutes, or until no liquid remains. If rice is not done but no liquid remains then additional reserved ½ cup stock and cook for 5-10 more minutes.
  8. Garnish with parsley