Sweet Potato Casserole

Sweet Potato Casserole

Sweet potato casserole is another classic Thanksgiving side dish that I find difficult to resist. When I first encountered the sweet potato casserole a few years ago it sounded a lot more like a dessert to me but now I am perfectly happy serving it as a side dish. In addition to tasting great, the sweet potato casserole is nice and easy to make, however it does require a bit of time as you need to make the mashed sweet potatoes followed by baking the casserole itself. If you have the time you can roast the sweet potatoes and mash them a day ahead but if you are making them on the big day, it might be easier to boil them to save in oven space which is always at a premium. Once the mashed sweet potatoes are ready, you simply need to mix in a few things, top with the pecan crumble topping and bake it until golden brown on top. I always like to use a bit of maple syrup in my sweet potato casserole but you can add other things like a shot of bourbon to keep things interesting. The crumble topping is another place that I like to experiment with and changing up the nuts or adding things like rolled oats is always fun. You really just can't go wrong serving this side dish with your Thanksgiving dinner.

Green Bean Casserole

Green Bean Casserole

Green bean casserole is a classic Thanksgiving side dish that never seems to get old. Although the condensed soup version of the green bean casserole recipe seems to be pretty popular, the homemade, from scratch, version is pretty easy to make and well worth the extra effort! Really it is as easy as sauteing some onions and mushrooms and then making a quick creamy broth before continuing to mix in the green beans and bake until golden brown. When you take the time to make it yourself, you can take a few extra steps to build up the flavour. Once the onions and mushrooms are just cooked you could move on to the next step but cooking them a bit longer until they caramelize a bit will pack in a wallop of flavour! For the sauce you can go with all cream or you can add some more flavour by using some broth and of course some white wine will help you deglaze the pan. Cheese is always a welcome addition to the creamy sauce and you can change things up by using different a cheese every once in a while. The french fried onion topping is one of my favourite parts of the green bean casserole and they are also the one part that I am willing to go with pre-made for as they can be a bit of work to make yourself. You really cannot go wrong with green beans and creamy mushrooms!

Roasted Habanero Salsa

Roasted Habanero Salsa

Habanero chilies can be a little on the hot side which makes them perfect for salsas but I tend to use them sparingly with only one or two going into a salsa that is filled out with a lot of other ingredients like tomatoes. Not too long ago I came across Rick Bayless recipe for a habanero salsa where the main component in the salsa was the habanero chilies with some garlic, lime juice and salt adding a bit of flavour. Just from the sound of the recipe you know that this is going to be one hot salsa, and I knew that I would have to try it!

Cochinita Pibil Tacos

Cochinita Pibil Tacos

Given my obsession with tacos, they were the first thing on my list to try out my fresh batch of cochinita pibil. I decided to keep things nice and simple and I went with some freshly homemade Mexican pickled red onions a super hot roasted habanero salsa, some queso fresco and some cilantro. Just like the cochinita pibil was marinated in sour orange juice so to were the Mexican pickled red onions which added an amazing freshness to the tacos with the help of the cilantro. Since the marinade for the cochinita pibil did not have any chili heat in it I needed a spicy salsa to bring in some heat and I figured that habanero salsa would do the job perfectly well. If you want some help taming the heat of the habanero salsa, some creamy refried beans would fit the bill and make an excellent addition to these tacos.

Cochinita Pibil (Puerco Pibil)

Cochinita Pibil (Puerco Pibil)

I recently had the pleasure of attending a Mexican Gastronomy event put on by the Minister of tourism of Mexico at the Royal Ontario Museum where we got a sneak peak at the Maya: Secrets of their Ancient World exhibit. While there I enjoyed some really tasty Mexican cuisine including pollo pibil, chicken marinated in a red paste made with annatto seeds. Having the pollo pibil that night reminded me that I had been wanting to try making cochinita pibil, or puerco pibil, for a while now and it was the perfect inspiration to get to it. Cochinita pibil is a dish where pork is marinated in a mixture of annatto seeds and sour orange juice and it is then slowly baked, wrapped in banana leaves, until it is nice and tender. Traditionally cochinita pibil uses a whole pig and it is baked underground but with some quick modifications to the recipe you can easily make it at home in your oven.

Roast Beef Sandwich with Caramelized Onions and Grainy Mustard, Horseradish Mayo

Roast Beef Sandwich with Caramelized Onions and Grainy Mustard, Horseradish Mayo

As amazing as the roast beef dinner is, I think that my favourite part has to be using the leftovers to make roast beef sandwiches! The basic roast beef sandwich is so easy to make and yet so good! I like to start my roast beef sandwiches off with some sweet caramelized onions, which take a bit of time to make but for what they add to the sandwich, they are so worth it! Next up I like to add a bit of bite and I am always torn between using some horseradish or some grainy mustard so I very often just decide to combine the two along with some creamy mayonnaise. Cheese is always a welcome addition to any roast beef sandwich and you can go with some sharp and tangy cheddar or some smooth and creamy swiss or provolone and since melted cheese is always better, you can throw your sandwich under the broiler for a minute or two. No roast beef sandwich would be complete without a hit of tasty gravy, also leftover from the roast beef dinner, and I often like to add something green in the form of peppery arugula. No matter how you do it, you really cannot go wrong with a roast beef sandwich!

Roast Beef with Caramelized Onions on Gorgonzola Toast

Roast Beef with Caramelized Onions on Gorgonzola Toast

Speaking of leftovers, last week I had plenty of roast beef left over which was nice because last week was pretty busy and the leftovers made for some quick meals. If I know that the next week is going to be particularly busy, if I am on the ball when meal planning, I like to try to fit in a big meal on the weekend with the express purpose of providing leftovers for meals for the rest of the week. The first thing that came to mind when I got down to thinking about how I wanted to use some of the roast beef leftovers was an open faced roast beef sandwich with caramelized onions served on gorgonzola toast that I had literally bookmarked in a recent edition of Food & Drink magazine. With blue cheese, roast beef and caramelized onions this sandwich was right up my alley and there was no way that I could resist making it!

Yorkshire Pudding

Yorkshire Pudding

With all of the hustle and bustle over the last few days I almost forgot to share with you one of my favourite parts of the roast beef dinner, the Yorkshire pudding. Yorkshire pudding is a souffle like pudding that is made with a simple batter that is baked in the drippings from the roast and those drippings are what make the puddings so addictively good! The roast beef drippings are both mixed into the batter and placed into the baking pan to form a thin layer that the pudding is cooked on. It is actually pretty easy to make Yorkshire pudding but since it is a lot like a souffle, it can fall over after it rises but with this recipe you will get it right every time.

Cheesecake Stuffed Apple Muffins with Streusel Topping and Caramel Sauce

Apple Cheesecake Muffins with Streusel Topping and Caramel Sauce

These days the farmers market is just packed with apples and every time I see them I think that it is past time for me to get down to using them in a recipe rather than just snacking on them. It has been far too long since I last made muffins and I was thinking that some apple muffins would be an excellent way to start the day! When I think about apple muffins I am imagining the harvest and the muffins have large chunks of tender apple and they are nice moist and and light brown in colour from the whole wheat flour and rolled oats along with a hint of cinnamon and nutmeg. To keep the muffins on the lighter side I use oil rather than butter and I replace a lot of the oil with vanilla yogurt and apple sauce which help keep the muffins moist and tender. It is a good thing that the muffins themselves are fairly healthy because what I do to them next is not at all diet friendly.

Roasted Red Pepper and Feta Mashed Potatoes

Roasted Red Pepper and Feta Mashed Potatoes

When I was thinking of side dishes for the big meal I couldn't help but think of mashed potatoes which are nice and easy and always a hit. One of the things that I like about mashed potatoes is that there are just so many different things that you can do with them and I am always experimenting with them. I have been wanting to try using roasted red peppers and now was the perfect time to try them out along with some feta and oregano. The sweet roasted red pepper and salty feta flavour combo is a particularly nice one that I enjoy using in many dishes and it works out really well in these mashed potatoes that are made nice and creamy with some thick Greek yogurt. Another great thing about mashed potatoes is that they can be done on the stove top and on a day when you are roasting your meat it is good to be able to keep your oven free of one more dish.

Brussels Sprouts with Smoked Bacon in a Mustard Cream Topped with a Parmesan Crust

Brussels Sprouts with Smoked Bacon, Mustard Cream and a Parmesan Crust

When I am looking for side dishes for special meals this time of the year, brussels sprouts always come to mind as they are one of my favourite winter green vegetables. There are so many great ways to serve brussels sprouts and I have to say that a creamy gratin is top on my list, especially when you have the oven on already for something like the roast beef that I made on the weekend. As far as gratins go, this brussels sprouts gratin is pretty simple. You start out by blanching the brussels sprouts to make sure that when they come out of the oven they are nice and tender and fully cooked. Salty and smoky bacon pairs particularly well with brussels sprouts and I always enjoy adding them to a brussels sprouts gratin! Next up is the creamy sauce which I like to start out with sauteing some diced onions and garlic before moving on to making the bechamel sauce with the butter, flour and milk. For this gratin a tried something a little different and I added some grainy mustard to the mix to add a bit of a kick and a nice contrasting texture along with a bit of colour. Now you could throw the gratin into the oven like this but a crunchy crust is always nice and super easy to make with some panko bread crumbs mixed up with some finely grated cheese.

The Perfect Roast Beef

The Perfect Roast Beef

For me, roast beef dinners bring back memories of family meals on special occasions from when I was was growing up. Despite the fact that roast beef is one of my favourite meals I find that I rarely make it since moving into my own place. A few weeks ago Canada Beef hosted an informational session about roast beef that I had the opportunity to attend and it reminded me of my passion for roast beef and got me craving it once again! During the session Canadian Beef shared with us all of the tricks and techniques that they have picked up about how to make the perfect roast beef at home every time and I used them to make this roast beef dinner.

Coffee Rubbed Roasted Pork Belly Tacos

Coffee Rubbed Roasted Pork Belly Tacos

The other weekend I had the pleasure of attending an Old Montreal getaway along with Karen of Tiny Bites, Mijune Follow Me Foodie, Jody of Mommy Moment, Jeannette Everyone Likes Sandwiches and of Tanis Redneck Mommy that was put on by Van Houtte. The weekend was filled with LOTS of good coffee and tasty food including a 14 course meal with a coffee theme at Saint-Urbain. All of the coffee inspire food got me to thinking that I do not use coffee as an ingredient when cooking nearly often enough. The timing could not have been better as I was just itching to make some coffee rubbed pork belly tacos that were inspired by a sandwich that made an appearance at the first Toronto Underground Market.

Grilled Pineapple Salsa

Grilled Pineapple Salsa

Whenever I make tacos, I try to include at least one salsa in the condiments and I often like to experiment with different kinds of salsas. For the last few weeks I have had this idea for some pork tacos in my head and I was thinking that a sweet and tangy pineapple salsa would be a great choice as it would help cut through the fatty pork. Despite the fact that grilling season is over I was dead set on grilling the pineapple for the salsa to as grilling it would caramelize it and bring out even more of its natural sweetness. Luckily, my trusty grill pan came to the rescue and I was able to defy the dark and gloomy weather that we have been having lately. After the grilled pineapple I kept the salsa fairly simple going with the pretty standard jalapeno peppers for heat, onions for bite, and cilantro and lime juice for extra freshness.

Mexican Pickled Red Onions

Mexican Pickled Red Onions

Pickled red onions have to be one of my favourite condiments at the moment and they are amazing when added to a lot of different things like sandwiches or even tacos. What's more is that they are really easy to make a home so I almost always have some in the fridge. A common base for pickles consists of water, vinegar, salt and sugar and from there you can add various other things like spices, garlic, etc. I recently came across the idea of a Mexican pickled red onion where the vinegar was replaced by bitter orange, such as the seville orange, and I just had to try it out. Unfortunately the bitter oranges do not seem to be in season right now so I was forced to substitute a combination of regular orange juice and lime juice and luckily it worked out well! The Mexican style pickled red onions had a particularly nice freshness to them and the overtones of citrus were really nice! I will definitely be making these pickled red onions again!

I guess the question that you are asking now is: What did I use these pickled red onions in? Stay tuned!

Caramelized Cheese Covered Grilled Cheese Sandwich

Cheese Covered Grilled Cheese Sandwich

Please forgive me as I indulge in my grilled cheese sandwich obsession again so soon. I was planning on giving you a break but then I had another idea; an idea that would forever revolutionize the world of grilled cheese sandwiches! As I mentioned in my post about how to make the perfect grilled cheese sandwich, I like to shred or grate the cheese and sprinkle it on the bread in the pan which invariably leads to spilling some of the cheese into the pan where it gets stuck to the bottom of the sandwich and caramelizes. That cheese that caramelizes on the grilled cheese sandwich is easily one of the best parts of an already amazing thing and I am always looking forward to it. Last week while I was perfecting my grilled cheese sandwich techniques, some cheese spilled over into the pan I had a thought: What if I just happened to "accidentally" spilled a lot more cheese into the pan, say enough to coat the entire sandwich?

Buffalo Chicken Chowder

Buffalo Chicken Chowder
With the weather cooling down, soup season is here and I have certainly been taking advantage of it! During the warmer summer days, making a hot soup is one of the last things that I want to do but that does not mean that I stopped dreaming up new ideas for soups to try and I now have quite the list. On the top of that list of soup ideas was a buffalo chicken chowder! The basic idea was to make a soup with all of the flavours of buffalo chicken wings, which I just cannot seem to get enough of. I started the recipe out with some chicken and then I built up the base with onions, celery, carrots and garlic where I used more celery and carrots that I usually do in a soup like this as they are often served with buffalo chicken wings. Of course we cannot forget the star of the show and that is the hot sauce that the buffalo chicken wings are covered in so I added a healthy hit of that hot sauce directly to the soup. Although I could have gone with a nice light soup I was craving something a little on the heartier side so I decided to make it in the style of a chowder where I used some flour along with some cream to thicken it and some potatoes to bulk it up. Buffalo chicken wings are often served with a creamy blue cheese dipping sauce so I finished the soup off by melting some blue cheese into it and serving it with some more crumbled on top.

Pickled Green Tomato BLT

Pickled Green Tomato BLT

During the fall when green tomatoes are around I always like to pickle some of them so that I can continue to enjoy them into the early months of winter. This fall was no different and I made several jars of them including a few jars where I sliced the green tomatoes thinly on a mandoline for use in sandwiches. Having recently enjoyed so many BLT sandwiches including more than a few fried green tomato BLTs, I was just itching to crack open one of those jars and use the pickled green tomatoes in a BLT sandwich along with some fresh, ripe red tomatoes. The pickled green tomatoes are a lot like your regular cucumber pickles but they are a bit crispier and more naturally on the tangy side. Many sandwiches would benefit from these tasty pickles especially a nice BLT where they complement the fresh juicy ripe tomatoes perfectly!


Grilled Cheese Croutons

Grilled Cheese Croutons

Not too long ago I came across the wonderfully novel idea of grilled cheese croutons on Panini Happy and I just had to try it! Grilled cheese sandwiches and soup go hand in hand and dipping is a favourite past time so I just knew that grilled cheese croutons would be fabulous! Recently I made a bowl of roasted tomato soup to go along with some grilled cheese sandwiches and I took the opportunity to make the croutons. This 'recipe' is as easy as making a grilled cheese sandwich and cutting it up. You may want to use day old bread for the grilled cheese along with toasting it lightly before buttering it and then cook it a bit longer so that it is more resilient to getting soggy while sitting in the soup for that minute or two that it takes you to devour it all. :)

Roasted Tomato Soup

Roasted Tomato Soup

In fall when the weather starts cooling down, soups are once again on the menu and as far as soups go it is hard to beat the simplicity of a good old fashioned tomato soup. Luckily tomato soup is very easy to make at home from scratch so you can enjoy it whenever you want. As with many vegetables, roasting tomatoes concentrates their flavour and those tasty roasted tomatoes make some of the best tomato soup around. This soup is as easy to make as roasting all of the veggies, throwing them into a pot with some broth to simmer before pureeing. It is best to use fully ripe field tomatoes for maximum flavour but if they are not in season, do not worry as roasting those green house tomatoes will bring out their flavour nicely.

Top 10 Grilled Cheese Sandwiches

Caramelized Apple Grilled Cheese Sandwich

Once you have mastered the basics and you can make a perfect grilled cheese sandwich every time, there is no need to fear getting bored as there are near endless things that you can do with grilled cheese sandwiches. You can start by changing up the basics by trying different breads and cheeses and then you can move on to adding condiments like mustard and meats like ham. From there you can start experimenting and you might be surprised to find that sweet things like jams work very well when combined with melted cheese in a light, buttery and toasty sandwich! Sweet and spicy chutneys are just packed with flavour and they are also really amazing in a grilled cheese sandwich! One of my favourite things to add to grilled cheese sandwiches is pestos and when combined with other ingredients they can become a real treat indeed! Another great way to go is with salads like a chicken salad, an egg salad or a tuna salad which when made in the form of a grilled cheese sandwich is sometimes called a melt.