Featured

Zucchini Boats

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Zucchini boats make an excellent vegetable side dish and can  be cooked on the BBQ or in the oven. Super easy to make and a great use of the endless supply of this summer Squash.😀🤪😋

PREP TIME: 10 min

BBQ TIME: 20 min

🍐 INGREDIENTS:

  • 3 small Zucchini, cut in half lengthwise
  • 1 cup Feta Cheese, crumbled
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan Cheese, grated
  • 1 Tbsp Garlic, minced
  • 1 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1 Tsp Balsamic Reduction
  • 1 Tsp Basil Pesto
  • Black Pepper, Basil, Oregano, to taste

🍐 DIRECTIONS:

  1. Cut Zucchini in half.  Scoop out some of the membrane, carving out space for the filling.
  2. In a separate bowl, mix together Cheese, Spices, Pesto, Garlic, Balsamic Reduction and Oil.
  3. Add mixture to carved out Zucchini shells.
  4. Barbeque stuffed Zucchini for approximately 20 min to soften outer shell.
  5. Just before serving, drizzle Balsamic Reduction on top for garnish (optional).

🍐 MANGIA! (serves 3-4)

A Hundred Thank-yous ☺️ Shepherd’s Pie

 

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It has been a year since I started my blog and have surprisingly reached 100 followers. I started this journey with no expectations except to share my thoughts, experiences and joy of cooking with all of you. I have learned that there is an amazing community of bloggers out there who are kind, interesting and very skilled. To each and every one of you who took the time to read my blog, I thank you for letting me into your homes. It is, however, time for me to move on and try something different. I leave you with a final recipe that I hope you enjoy.

🍐 PREP: 45 minutes

🍐 COOK: 1 hour, approx.

🍐 INGREDIENTS: 

  • 2 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 kg extra lean ground beef
  • 1 small can (156 ml) tomato paste
  • 2 cups frozen peas, carrots, corn
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • hot sauce, dash or two (optional)
  • all purpose flour, as needed
  • 8-10 potatoes, peeled & cut into quarters
  • 1/4 cup margarine
  •  milk, for desired consistency
  • 4 cups brown gravy

🍐 DIRECTIONS:

1. In a deep pan drizzle in olive oil and heat up before adding chopped onions. Sauté for a few minutes.

2.  Add your beef to the pan and brown. Mix in your paste, veggies, stock, hot sauce and adjust measurements to your taste. I do not add many other spices due to the gravy topping.

3.  Cook the beef mixture for several minutes and then drain off excessive oils. This is an important step as you want your meat base to be moist but not too runny. If you find the mixture too thin, add 1 Tbsp of flour to thicken.

4.  Place meat mixture in a large casserole dish and gently flatten mixture down. Put aside.

5. In a large pot of water boil potatoes until soft. Drain when done and then in a bowl begin to mash potatoes. Add butter and milk slowly, obtaining preferred consistency while you mash. I tend to like a more rustic potato texture versus a whipped consistency, but the choice is yours.

6   Drop in mashed potatoes to top of meat base, covering evenly with a one inch topping. Do NOT press in potatoes.

7. In a 350 degree preheated oven, bake the shepherd’s pie for approximately 1 hour. I usually take the lid off the casserole dish 15 minutes prior and let the potato peaks brown a bit.

8. Serve with gravy……..of course. I cheat and just use the gravy packages where you just add water to the mixture and boil until thick.

🍐 MANGIA!

🍐 INSPIRATION: BELIEVE IN YOURSELF💕👋 

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🎄 Christmas Baking, Italian style

 

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PITA PIATA

As a Christmas baby I have always enjoyed two celebrations this time of year.  I  looked forward to my mother’s holiday baking and her homemade Pita Piata. This pastry is a traditional, Italian cake which is popular in Calabria and may have originated from that area. Calabria is a region in southern Italy and was home to both my parents prior to immigration. The Pita Piata has a cinnamon, raisin and nut filling topped with a drizzle of honey. The preparation of this dessert is truly a labour of love as it can take up to 3 hours to make. Each step reminds me of my cultural roots and family traditions. Mostly, it reminds me of my mother who always found time to make my birthday special in her own loving way.  To all of you reading this may your holiday celebrations, whatever they may be, bring you joy and remind you of what really matters in life— 💕💕💕

Rosemary & Cheese Scone 🧀

 

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You know something tastes good when your teenage son says “mom, next time you make these just triple the recipe”. Fresh rosemary is key and these scones are perfect for breakfast or for lunch. For a recent lunch event, I made homemade broccoli and potato soup to go with these scones and it was a hit.

🍐 PREP: 15 min

🍐 BAKE: 425 degrees for 10 min

🍐 INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 4 Tsp baking powder
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1/4 cup butter, cold & cut into cubes
  • 1 1/2 cups cheddar cheese, grated
  • 1 1/4 cups milk
  • 1 Tbsp Fresh Rosemary, chopped finely

🍐 DIRECTIONS:

  1. In a medium bowl mix together flour, baking powder, salt and Rosemary.
  2. With fingers, blend butter into flour mixture until butter is broken down into small pieces. You can also use a pastry blender if you prefer.
  3. Add grated cheese to flour and mix.
  4. Gradually add milk to flour as well. Mix just until flour is mostly absorbed. Dough should have a sticky consistency.
  5. Drop a generous 1/2 cup of dough mixture onto a slightly greased cookie sheet to make approximately 8 scones.
  6. Bake in oven until golden in colour.

🍐 MANGIA!

Stuffed Green Peppers

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I love the fact that you can combine rice, meat, cheese and vegetables into one little, edible package. Sometimes I’ve used a combination of red, yellow and green peppers for colour. I’ve also stuffed sweet long peppers with sausage meat for a more elegant presentation. Either way you will have a reliable and tasty hit on your hands every time 🏆

🍐 PREP: 30 min

🍐 COOKING: Approximately 1 hour at 350 degrees (or until peppers are soft)

🍐 INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 Tbsp garlic, finely chopped
  • Olive oil (for pan & and top of peppers)
  • 1 lb lean ground beef
  • 1 can (398 ml) plum tomatoes, crushed
  • 1 Tbsp onion powder
  • 1 Tbsp garlic powder
  • Cayenne pepper flakes, to taste
  • Salt, to taste
  • 1 Tbsp oregano
  • Black pepper, to taste
  • 1/4 cup parmesan cheese, grated
  • 2 cup mozzarella cheese, grated
  • 1 1/2 cups cooked rice
  • 6 green peppers, medium size

🍐 DIRECTIONS:

  1. Chop your onions and garlic and then place in oiled frying pan. Sauté for a couple minutes.
  2. Add ground meat and brown for a few minutes. While the meat is cooking add tomatoes, spices and cheese. Reserve 1 cup of mozzarella for later use.
  3. Prepare your green peppers by cutting off the tops (1/2 inch thick) and carving out the seeds and white membrane. Place upright in large casserole dish.
  4. Chop up the green part of the pepper tops and add to ground beef, along with cooked rice. Continue to cook the meat & rice mixture for a few more minutes.
  5. Then stuff the green peppers with  this mixture and sprinkle on a bit more mozzarella and oregano on the top.
  6. Drizzle a little olive oil over the top of the stuffed peppers. Cook until soft and bubbly. Keep covered until last 15 min or so.

🍐 TIP: If you like make-ahead meals, stuffed peppers can be stored in fridge for use the next day. Just make sure the ground beef is well cooked on the stove top.

🍐 MANGIA! 

 

 

 

Fresh Spring Rolls

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These spring rolls are very easy to make and a refreshing change from the usual meal routine. The effort is mostly in the chopping of the vegetables. Don’t be alarmed if your wrapping technique needs work as this will improve over time. Place only a small handful of ingredients into each rice wrap as this will help. Whenever I make this dish I tend to only use half a package of rice noodles and paper, but these ingredients really store well for next time— and believe me you will want to make these again and again.

🍐 PREP TIME: 20 min

🍐 INGREDIENTS:

  • Pkg of Rice noodles (I use Thai rice vermicelli)
  • Pkg of Rice paper, circular
  • Iceberg lettuce, chopped
  • Long English cucumber, chopped
  • Carrots, chopped (or make ribbons with a peeler)
  • Fresh Cilantro, chopped
  • Fresh Basil, chopped
  • Cooked prawns, 2 per roll
  • Dipping sauce (hoisin sauce is my favorite)

🍐 DIRECTIONS:

  1. Chop your vegetables lengthways into matchsticks and set aside.
  2. Chop your fresh herbs and set aside.
  3. Peel your cooked prawns and set aside. (If you decide to buy uncooked prawns, boil prawns in hot water for a couple minutes until exterior is pink in colour, drain and peel).
  4. Place your rice noodles in deep bowl and pour boiled water over top so that the noodles are entirely covered. Let sit for 2 minutes so noodles can soften.
  5. Place single sheet of rice paper in a deep plate (I like to use a pie dish), cover with warm water and  soak for 30 seconds. You will know the paper is ready when it becomes soft and pliable.
  6. Then place rice paper on flat surface and add small portions of vegetables, noodles, herbs and prawns to the bottom edge of the circle. Roll wrap from bottom up and fold in sides as you go.
  7. Serve with your favorite dipping sauce.

TIP: Bean sprouts are another vegetable that works well in spring rolls but sometimes they can be hard to find in the supermarket.

🍐 MANGIA!

Eggplant Parmesan 🍆

1725008D-CEF4-49D2-B8B7-DDE1E98251F9The reason I love this eggplant dish so much is because it tastes like you are indulging when in fact it’s a healthy, vegetarian dish. That’s right no meat,  but yet full of flavour and texture!  This is another great make-ahead dish that is simple and affordable.

PREP TIME: 20 min

COOKING TIME: 1hr @ 350 degrees F

🍐 INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 large *eggplants, peeled and sliced.
  • 5 eggs, beaten
  • 1 x 300g container of plain bread crumbs
  • 2 x 650 ml jars of your favorite tomato sauce
  • 1 Tbsp of basil
  • 1 Tbsp of oregano
  • black pepper, to taste
  • 2 cups mozzarella cheese, shredded
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated

🍐 DIRECTIONS:

  1. Peel eggplants and cut into slices, 1/2 cm in thickness.
  2. Prepare 9 x 13 inch baking dish by adding couple of tablespoons of sauce to bottom of dish to lightly cover.
  3. Break eggs into a bowl, whisk together and set aside.
  4. Place breadcrumbs in shallow dish.
  5. Dip eggplant slices into egg mixture and then into breadcrumbs, coating both sides one slice at a time.
  6. Layer prepared eggplant slices into baking dish, approximately 12 slices. Lightly cover eggplant with cheeses, spices and sauce and repeat this step until three layers are formed. Try to end with a topping of sauce and mozzarella.
  7. Bake in preheated oven until sides are bubbly and cheese is gooey,  approx one hour.

🍐 *TIP: There are many eggplant varieties but for this recipe I suggest the Italian eggplant which is pear shape and dark purple in colour. 

🍐 MANGIA!

 

 

Biscotti☕️

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This recipe is dedicated to all those things in life that just seem to go together. Like ice cream on a warm summer night or chocolate and caramel. Of course biscotti and coffee is certainly one of my favourites, having that perfect blend of sweetness and crunch. There are many biscotti variations but the classic biscotti with almonds is timeless.

PREP TIME: 15 min

BAKING TIME:  40 min @ 350 degrees F

🍐 INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 Tbsp baking powder
  • 1 cup of almonds,  unblanched and chopped
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 egg white, whisked
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 4 Tbsp butter, melted & cooled
  • 1 Tbsp vanilla
  • 1 Tsp almond extract
  • rind of one large orange, grated

🍐 DIRECTIONS

  1. In a mixing bowl, combine flour and baking powder and stir together.
  2. Add almonds to food processor and use pulsating feature to coarsely chop up nuts.
  3. Add nuts to flour mixture, coat with flour and set aside.
  4. In a separate bowl, add 2 eggs, sugar, melted butter, vanilla, almond extract, orange rind and mix together.
  5. Slowly add liquid mixture to flour and incorporate until a dough forms.
  6. Lightly flour your working area. Divide dough  into two even pieces. Then form each portion into two long logs, ensuring that it is consistently a good 2 inches in width. Flatten out the top of the log a little with your fingers.
  7. Place both logs onto a parchment-lined baking sheet and make sure the logs don’t touch each other.
  8. Brush top of logs with egg white and then bake in oven for approx. 20 min, rotating baking sheet.
  9. After first bake, remove baking sheets from oven and let sit on countertop for a few minutes so they will be easier to cut. Then use a serrated knife to cut  biscotti pieces on a diagonal. You can vary your cuts depending on the thickness and length of biscotti you want.
  10. Return cut biscotti pieces to cookie sheet, but make sure the biscotti pieces are upright and apart from one another.
  11. Bake again* for another 20 minutes, or until golden brown.

 

*Did  you know that biscotti means ‘twice cooked’ ?

Store in an airtight container and they should keep for a couple of weeks or so.

 

🍐 Mangia!

Basic Homemade Pasta Dough

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Years ago, my mother bought me my very first pasta maker which I still have today. Back then, and in my early 30’s, the idea of making homemade pasta seemed daunting and so the machine sat idle in my pantry for the longest time.  A couple of years ago I pulled out the box, dusted it off and tried my hand at it. I have so many fond memories of watching my mom make homemade linguini completely from scratch—kneading, rolling, cutting and then hanging the pasta strips on poles between kitchen chairs for drying purposes. It’s funny how when you are young you take special moments in time for granted. Then when you are older and wiser these memories become priceless.

The other day I found the original, hand written gift card from when my mom first bought me the pasta maker. It was tucked inside the bottom of the cardboard box where it had successfully hidden for years.  Her words were wishes of love and happiness for me, for my family and my future; written words I thought I would never see again after she passed away…..

🍐 PREP TIME: 1–1.5 hrs.

🍐 INGREDIENTS:

  • 3 cups of unbleached, all purpose flour
  • 2 medium eggs, lightly beaten
  • 3 medium egg yolks, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 cup warm water, give or take

🍐 DIRECTIONS:

  1. Measure out flour and reserve 1/2 cup for use later (primarily for handling of dough so it does not stick to surfaces). Place remaining flour in mixing bowl.
  2. Make well in middle of flour and add all the eggs. Gradually mix the eggs into the flour using your hands.
  3. Place scraggly looking dough onto lightly floured counter top and slowly add water, turning dough with your hands until it starts to come together. Knead for several minutes.
  4. You know the dough has come together when it forms into a soft ball. If you press the top of the dough ball with your finger, it should indent but slowly bounce back.
  5. Cover the dough with a towel and place aside for 15 minutes.
  6. With a knife cut the dough into 1/2 inch sections, one piece at a time. Keep rest of dough covered.
  7. Lightly dust the dough piece and then place it through pasta machine at its largest setting. On mine it’s setting #1. Roll out dough, then fold piece in half, roll out again and then do this couple of times. Next, roll dough through setting #3 and then a couple times through setting #5. By then your dough should be like a sheet of pasta, but not too thin that it breaks.
  8. Repeat this process with all the dough pieces and make sure to place the dough sheets on a floured surface when the are done so they can dry out flat and not stick.
  9. Once dry, you can use your pasta sheets for whatever you want….. lasagna, spaghetti, ravioli or linguini. You can buy all sorts of attachments for a pasta maker or try making your favorite pasta by hand like my mom did💕

🍐 MANGIA! 

 

 

 

Summer Lasagna ☀️

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This is a twist on the classic meat lasagna recipe. Summer lasagna is perfect for the warm weather when you may want to keep meals light. I’ve included a fool proof recipe for white sauce which always ensures the lasagna will turn out creamy and flavourful. You can double the bechemel sauce recipe if you please. One of the reasons I love making lasagna for dinner events is because you can make it well in advance.  You can refrigerate your assembled, uncooked lasagna  for a good day or two— just make sure to keep it covered.

🍐 PREP TIME: 45 min- 1 hour

🍐 COOK TIME: 45 min @ 375 degrees F

🍐 INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 box lasagna noodles, use 9-12 sheets
  • Cooking oil/butter, to prepare pan
  • 2 Tbsp extra Virgin Olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 Tbsp garlic, minced
  • 1 bunch fresh spinach or 1 pkg frozen (drained)
  • 1 green pepper, chopped
  • 1 small bunch asparagus spears, chopped
  • 1 small jar basil pesto
  • 1 container of ricotta cheese, 500 g
  • Fresh or dried basil, oregano, parsley, salt to taste
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1 large pkg or 1 large block Mozzarella cheese, grated (for cheese mixture & topping)

Bechamel (white) sauce

  • 1 cup milk
  • 3 Tbsp butter, melted
  • 3 Tbsp flour, all purpose

🍐 DIRECTIONS:

  1. In a large frying pan, lightly saute chopped garlic and onion in oil. Add fresh spinach leaves and stir for a few minutes. Add chopped vegetables and cook until softened. Pour into bowl and set aside.
  2. In same pan, add milk with melted butter and mix together. Slowly incorporate flour while vigorously mixing. The mixture will begin to thicken gradually and when it boils take off heat, pour into a bowl and set aside.
  3. In a bowl, combine and mix together ricotta cheese, parmesan, mozzarella cheese, pepper, salt and other spices. Make sure to set aside some mozzarella cheese for topping.
  4. When building your lasagna, start by very lightly buttering the bottom of the pan, or use cooking oil spray. Prepare noodles by following box directions which normally involves boiling pasta in salted water for approximately 8-10 minutes.
  5. Lay  3-4 cooked noodles across to cover bottom of a 9 x 13 inch casserole dish. Spread a thin layer of pesto onto pasta, followed by a layer of spinach mixture. Then drizzle on third of white sauce, followed by cheese mixture. Repeat this process 3 or 4 times and end with a generous sprinkling of mozzarella cheese.
  6. Bake in preheated oven for 45 minutes or until top is lightly browned and contents is bubbly from sides.

🍐 MANGIA! 

Tip: If you want to create a ‘melt in your mouth’ lasagna, try making your own pasta dough. The extra effort is really worth it, especially for a special event. 🌟 💫 

 

 

Strawberry Jam

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Strawberries are nothing but mouthwatering delicious. As the first summer fruit to tantalize our taste buds, strawberries remind us why we long for the warm weather all year round. Whether you freeze them or use strawberries for a special dessert, this summer fruit will rarely disappoint. Try making jam as it is a very easy process with rewarding results in an hour (not to mention how pretty jam jars will look in your pantry or as gifts).

🍐 INGREDIENTS:

  • 8 cups of fresh strawberries 🍓 prior to preparing fruit
  • 1 box of pectin
  • sugar— follow pectin box instructions
  • 8 jam jars with lids

🍐 DIRECTIONS:

  1. Wash and hull strawberries, then put aside.
  2. Wash jam jars and place them upside down in oven preheated to 250 degrees F. Heat jars for 10 min. Then turn heat off and leave jars in oven until ready to use.
  3. In a clean sink, submerge lids in hot water and leave them there until needed.
  4. Place strawberries in a food processor and use pulsating feature to create desired texture (I like leaving a few larger pieces in my jam). A potato masher also works in a pinch with a bit more elbow grease.
  5. In saucepan, combine crushed fruit with your favorite pectin and carefully follow directions on pectin package for cooked jam. Pay attention to the sugar and  boiling directions as this is key to the science of jam making.
  6. Always check that the jam has thickened before canning by placing a drop of jam onto a plate. After 5 minutes, check to see that the jam has set (it should not be runny if you tilt the plate).
  7. Pull jars out of oven (careful they will be hot!) and  pour in jam. You can add half of a strawberry on top for a nice presentation. Immediately after, screw lids on tightly and set aside. Wait for a ‘popping’ sound to come from the jars once they start to cool down and this will tell you that the lids have sealed properly.

🍐 TIP: If you like your jam to be have more of a tart flavour, reduce the 8 cups of strawberries to half the amount and add 4 cups of rhubarb.

🍐 MANGIA! Makes 8 jam jars that will store nicely for a year or so.

 

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