How to Make The Perfect Grilled Cheese Sandwich

The Perfect Grilled Cheese Sandwich

As many of you may know, I am completely obsessed with grilled cheese sandwiches! They are so simple and yet so irresistibly good! Over the years I have made countless grilled cheese sandwiches and more recently I have been experimenting with them and sharing my adventures with you. I recently realized that although I have posted a lot of grilled cheese sandwich recipes, I have not written about the basic grilled cheese sandwich or gone into much detail about how to make a grilled cheese sandwich. Since I have picked up a few tricks along the way, I thought that it was about time that I shared them with you.

Italian Style Baked Eggs

Italian Style Baked Eggs

After having enjoyed the Mexican baked eggs so much, I was wondering what other ways that I could do baked eggs. Almost naturally I came to the idea of Italian style baked where the eggs are baked in a tasty marinara sauce and topped with with mozzarella and parmesan cheese. The idea was pretty simple but as soon as I had it I knew that I would have to make it! It almost seemed like an egg parmesan take on eggplant parmesan which I am really into!

Creamy Mushroom and Roasted Cauliflower Soup

Creamy Mushroom and Roasted Cauliflower Soup

Ever since I made the roasted pumpkin, pancetta and sage soup a few days ago I have found myself thinking about soups more often. After avoiding soups during the hot summer days I am now free to make them whenever I want and that is good because I have a few ideas that I have been wanting to try! Up first was one for a cream mushroom and roasted cauliflower soup! Cauliflower works really well as a thickener in soups and I was thinking that I could use some to make one of my favourite soups, cream of mushroom soup, a bit heartier.

Pumpkin Mac n Cheese with Amaretti Crust

Pumpkin Mac n Cheese with Amaretti Crust

With Halloween quickly approaching I have had pumpkins on my mind a lot! Pumpkin has to be one of my favourite ingredients at this time of year and there are just so many amazing dishes that can be made with it that it is sometimes difficult to decided which ones to go with. Do you go with a tried and true recipe like this pumpkin ravioli in sage and browned butter sauce or do you try something new? Speaking of the pumpkin ravioli, I recently came across the idea of adding crumbled amaretti cookies to it and I was immediately entranced by it! The ravioli is normally a savoury dish and I really liked the sound of adding the sweet and almond-y amaretti cookies to it and I knew that I would have to try the flavour combo out! I had also just been itching to try a pumpkin macaroni and cheese and I decided to combine the two ideas into one.

Seven Layer Dip Cornmeal Pancakes

Seven Layer Dip Cornmeal Pancakes

Not too long ago I made and really enjoyed some fresh corn cornmeal pancakes and I was to find out that they worked with savoury toppings just as well as they did with sweet toppings! I had topped those pancakes with salsa and sour cream and served them with a side of avocado and of course that got me to thinking about texmex flavours and of course that led me to the idea of using the pancakes in a tostada like way. The basic idea behind a tostada is a lot like tacos except that the tortillas are served flat and they are toasted until crispy and they are can be topped with any of your favourite texmex ingredients. After thinking about it for a while I settled in on the idea of topping my cornmeal pancake tostadas with all of the ingredients of my favourite 7 layer dip.

Fish and Zucchini Puttanesca Stew

Fish and Zucchini Puttanesca Stew

It has been a while since I last had fish and since I was still in the soup and stew mode I thought that I would combine the two ideas and do a fish soup or stew. Luckily I had been mulling over the idea of using the flavours of a putanesca sauce in soup form and I figured that using fish in such a soup would be perfect! A putanesca sauce is an Italian sauce that normally contains things like onions, garlic, chili pepper flakes, anchovies, olives and capers making it tangy, spicy and salty and plain old just filled to the brim with flavour. I was really taken with the idea of using these flavours in a stew and I just knew that pairing it with a firm white fish wold work really well. I did however want to get some more vegetables into the stew to make it lean more towards the healthy side of things and I liked the sound of adding some zucchini which is still available. For the fish, I went with a nice piece of halibut which tends to hold together fairly well, though you could use any white fish in this recipe. I served the puttanesca stew along with some crusty bread to make sure that none of the tasty broth got away!

Gorgonzola Garlic Bread

Gorgonzola Garlic Bread

While I was mulling over the roasted pumpkin, pancetta and sage soup recipe I kept thinking about how well sweet roasted pumpkin goes with creamy and tangy blue cheese. The soup was already packed with flavour and certainly did not need any more but I still wanted to include some blue cheese in the meal. I often enjoy serving garlic bread with soups and you really cannot go wrong topping garlic bread with cheese so I was thinking that a blue cheese garlic bread would go perfectly with the pumpkin soup! For this garlic bread I went with a gorgonzola dolce which is a milder, young blue cheese that is soft and creamy. After leaving it out on the counter to come up to room temperature it was really easy to cream it into the garlic butter to spread all over some unsuspecting bread before popping it into the over to broil until nice and golden brown and bubbling and good! I have to say that this blue cheese garlic bread is pretty amazing stuff and it went so well with the roasted pumpkin, pancetta and sage soup! I can easily see serving this version of garlic bread with a lot of different dishes.

Roasted Pumpkin, Pancetta and Sage Soup

Roasted Pumpkin and Pancetta Soup

Pumpkins are in season right now and although a lot of varieties of winter squash are available all winter, pumpkins usually disappear quickly after Halloween so I have been wanting to do more with them while they are here. In fact I have several pie pumpkins sitting on my counter just waiting to be used and I figured that it was a perfect time to do so. With the cooling weather I was thinking that a pumpkin soup would hit the spot.

After contemplating about pumpkin soups for a while I settled in on the idea of a thick soup base using pumpkin puree flavoured with pancetta and sage. With that in mind I started to build the soup up with a base of onions, carrots, celery and garlic. From there I added some broth and pumpkin puree as the liquids followed by the pancetta and sage for the flavour. I particularly enjoy beans in soup and since I could not shake the idea of adding some white beans, I did so to make the soup even heartier. I also kept coming back to the thought of using a ham hock to add even more smokey flavour and then I remembered seeing smoked turkey legs at the store and the turkey and pumpkin combo sounded perfect so I went with that. Both a ham hock and a smoked turkey leg can be simmered in soups to impart their tremendous flavour to the soup and then if you like you can pull the meat off of the bones and add it to the soup after it is done simmering. With that decision made, I knew that my roast pumpkin soup would just be packed with flavour and I had my recipe!

Eggplant Tortino in a Kalamata Olive Marinara Sauce

Eggplant Tortino

With the weather cooling off a bit I do not mind having the oven on as much which opens the doors to a lot more recipes. This is good because there are a few of them that have been building up on my to try list and the first one on that list was this recipe for an eggplant tortino that I came across in a recent Food & Drink magazine. I am a big fan of eggplant but it had been a while since I last did something with it and the idea of using it in a savoury pie stacked in layers along with swiss chard and plenty of cheese sounded really good! One of the things that I like about this recipe is that the eggplant is roasted which helps to ensure that it is nice and tender in addition to bringing out its natural flavour. Another great thing about this recipe is that it uses no less than three kinds of cheese including provolone, which is melted into the creamy swiss chard layer, fresh mozzarella, which is stacked in the pie, and parmigiano reggiano (parmesan) which on sprinkled on top to melt while it bakes. I served this eggplant tortino topped with my favourite marinara sauce to which I added some chopped kalamata olives for an extra hit of flavour.

Chestnut Cheesecake

Chestnut Cheesecake

The final component of my Thanksgiving dinner was of course the dessert! Normally when I am thinking about a dessert for Thanksgiving I head toward pumpkin or sometimes even sweet potato but this year I wanted to try something new and I went with another great fall ingredient, the chestnut. I don't use chestnuts nearly enough and I was thinking that a chestnut cheesecake would be a perfect way to end my Thanksgiving feast! After looking around for a while I settled on this recipe for a chestnut cheesecake that is topped with a rum-y syrup.

Pancetta and Porcini Potato Gratin

Pancetta and Porcini Potato Gratin

The next dish in my Thanksgiving dinner was not the prettiest dish but it may just have been the tastiest one! This potato gratin was inspired by a recipe that appeared in Food & Drink last year that I had just been itching to try it. Potatoes in pretty much any form have to be one of my favourite comfort foods and when you bake them until tender in a creamy cheese sauce like this you really cannot go wrong. Even though a plain old potato gratin is irresistibly addictive this recipe takes things way beyond by adding tons of pure umami and flavour with pancetta and dried porcini mushrooms. Pancetta is an Italian form of bacon and it adds a nice saltiness and an amazing crispy texture that is hidden throughout the gratin. Dried porchini mushrooms are just packed with flavour which we extract by soaking them in hot water and then using both by sprinkling the mushrooms in the gratin and adding the water they were soaked in to the creamy sauce. Of course the final component of the grain is the cheese and for this one I used a gruyere that is sprinkled both in between layers of potatoes and on top. This tasty potato gratin certainly did disappear quickly!

Green Beans in a Creamy Mushroom Sauce

Green Beans in a Creamy Mushroom Sauce

I always like to include at least one green vegetable in my holiday dinners and very often it ends up being a dish with green beans. Green beans and mushrooms are a combo that I particularly enjoy and I am constantly coming up with new dishes that use them together. More often than not I tend to just saute them together along with some onions, garlic and herbs but for a holiday dinner I was thinking that I would do something a little more special. The basic idea behind this recipe was to start out with nice and innocently healthy steamed green beans and to smother them in a decadently creamy mushroom sauce. The mushroom sauce contains both dried porcini mushrooms, which are just packed with flavour, and fresh cremini mushrooms and if you wanted to be a little more extravagant you could use a combination of wild mushrooms.

Italian Sausage, Mushroom and Chestnut Stuffing

Italian Sausage, Mushroom and Chestnut Stuffing

One thing that I often miss when I make a roast turkey breast for Thanksgiving instead of a full bird is the stuffing (aka dressing). Luckily you can make a stuffing without actually stuffing it into a turkey as you can easily bake it in a baking dish. When I was planning this years Thanksgiving meal I could not stop thinking about a stuffing so I decided to do one.

The base of stuffing is normally cubed dried bread along with onions, celery and herbs and from there you can add pretty much anything that you want. I was going with a kind of Italian theme for my Thanksgiving dinner this year and so the first thing that I added to my stuffing was some Italian sausage. From there I added sauteed mushrooms and some roasted chestnuts for a touch of sweetness. For me the most distinctive thing about stuffing it the aroma and flavours of the herbs and in particular it is the sage that stands out so I was sure to add a lot of sage along with a bit of thyme. This stuffing is just packed with flavour and it sure did disappear from the table really quickly!

Cranberry Sauce

Cranberry Sauce

I hope that everyone that celebrated the Canadian Thanksgiving over the weekend had a great one filled with tons of tasty food! This year I made my favourite herb roasted turkey breast and of course no turkey holiday dinner would be complete without cranberry sauce! Cranberry sauce and turkey are meant to be together and I always enjoy a healthy spoonful of it served either right on top of the turkey or just on the side for easy dipping.

This is the basic recipe for a cranberry sauce and it is very easy to make. You simply simmer some water, sugar and the cranberries until they burst and the sauce starts to thicken. Once you have mastered the basic recipe you can start playing with it and simple additions like a touch of citrus make it even better. Over the years I have experimented with various things like replacing the sugar with maple syrup or adding ginger, or spicy jalapeno peppers or even pino noir.

Tip: You can make the cranberry sauce a day or two ahead of time to lighten the load on the day that you make your big holiday dinner.

Roasted Pumpkin Quiche with Caramelized Onions, Gorgonzola and Sage

Roasted Pumpkin Quiche with Caramelized Onions, Gorgonzola and Sage

We are right in the middle of pumpkin season and it was about time that I did something with them! Luckily with the weather cooling down, roasting is on the table again and roasting is my favourite way to cook pumpkin as it enhances and brings out it's flavour. Near the end of last winter I had an idea to do a butternut squash and gorgonzola quiche but since spring produce was already starting to show up I decided to just hold off on it and I have been waiting impatiently ever since. Now that the winter squash are once again here it was time to try making the quiche and now I was thinking that a pumpkin version would be even better!

Grilled Brie and Goat Cheese Sandwich with Bacon and Green Tomato

Grilled Brie and Goat Cheese Sandwich with Bacon and Green Tomato

I have been going sandwich crazy these last few weeks and my focus has been squarely pointed at both the perfectly ripe field tomatoes and the unripe green tomatoes that are available right now. While I was searching for ideas for yet another sandwich I stumbled across this grilled brie and goat cheese sandwich with bacon and green tomato recipe by Bobby Flay and as soon as I saw it, I knew that I would have to make it. I really liked the sound of combining two amazing cheeses, an ooey gooey brie and a tangy goat cheese in a grilled cheese sandwich along with some salty and crisp bacon and tart slices of green tomatoes! This grilled cheese sandwich is definitely worth making and I have already made it a few times! After the first time I tweaked the recipe a by slicing the green tomato a thinner and frying them in the bacon grease to soften them up a bit as the hard slices kept popping out of the sandwich. What a great way to enjoy some green tomatoes all covered in melted cheese and wrapped in toasty, buttery bread!

Italian Sausage and Roasted Red Pepper Omelette Topped with Marinara Sauce

Italian Sausage and Roasted Red Pepper Omelette Topped with Marinara Sauce

Late summer and early fall is the time for roasting red peppers and I have already roasted a ton of them! Before I threw all of them into the freezer to enjoy throughout the winter I could not resist using a few of them and I knew just what I wanted to do with them. I had a pair of spicy Italian sausages in my freezer that had just been calling my name and I was thinking that pairing them with the sweet roasted red peppers in an omelette for breakfast would be really nice. I kept things pretty simple starting with some onion, a bit of garlic and the sausage which I sauteed in a pan before topping with the eggs to form the omelet. Since I am hopelessly addicted to cheese there was no way that I was not going to cover and/or fill this omelet with melted mozzarella and parmesan! At this point the omelette would have been great but I had one more trick up my sleeve as I was going to top everything off with a tasty marinara sauce! I always have a hard time choosing between making omelettes so over the last few days I have been alternating between them. What a great way to start the morning on these cooling early fall days!

Okonomiyaki, Hiroshima Style

Okonomiyaki (Hiroshima Style)

One of my favourite Japanese dishes has to be Okonomiyaki a savoury Japanese style pancake and luckily it is really easy to make at home so I can indulge whenever I want. Recipes for okonomiyaki vary from region to region in Japan and there are two main styles of okonimiyaki the Osaka style where all of the ingredients are mixed up into a batter and cooked and the Hiroshima style where the ingredients are layered as the pancake cooks. I normally make the Osaka style of okonomiyaki as it is by far the easier recipe but the Hiroshima style okonomiyaki is also really good and definitely worth the effort to make it every once in a while.