Saturday, November 30, 2013

Spicy cheese triangles with Cajun seasoning

These are Canadian Living's spicy cheese triangles. These little Cajun bites were the perfect accompaniment to our chili supper!

The recipe is very simple: lightly spread four pieces of whole wheat bread with mayonnaise, sprinkle over some Cajun seasoning and then some cheddar cheese. Bake in a 375°F oven for 10 minutes.

I made my own Cajun seasoning with the following ingredients:

2 Tbsp paprika (I used a mix of 1 Tbsp normal paprika, 1/2 smoked and 1/2 sweet)
3 Tbsp herbes de Provence
1 Tbsp salt
1 Tbsp black pepper
2 tsp cayenne
2 tsp white pepper

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Gourmet macaroni and cheese

This is my favourite way to cook mac-and-cheese. I love to top it with buttered breadcrumbs for a crispy golden crust. It's rather gourmet because of the addition of zucchini and sundried tomatoes, great ideas courtesy of Dana McCauley's mac-and-cheese recipe in Pantry Raid.

Gourmet macaroni and cheese
(serves six)

4 cups macaroni
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 zucchini, halved and sliced
3 Tbsp sundried tomatoes, minced
2 sprigs fresh thyme, minced
1 1/2 cups cheese sauce
2/3 cups breadcrumbs (I use Panko)
1 Tbsp butter
1/4 cup fresh parsley, minced
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 375.

Put a large stock pot of salted water on the boil for the macaroni. Cook it according to package directions, about 10 minutes. Reserve half a cup of pasta water before you drain the macaroni. Drain the macaroni and put it back into the now-empty stock pot. Take off the heat and set aside. 

Warm the cheese sauce in a saucepan or make it from scratch

In a large frying pan, heat up a glug of olive oil. Add the onions and saute five minutes until glassy and soft. Add the garlic and saute two minutes. Add the zucchini and thyme, and saute five minutes or until the zucchini is soft. Add the sundried tomatoes and stir for a couple of minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Take off the heat and set aside. 

Heat the butter in a separate saucepan until melted. Add the breadcrumbs and parsley and stir until moistened. Take off the heat and set aside. 

Add the zucchini mixture to the stock pot full of macaroni. Stir in the cheese sauce. Scrape the macaroni mixture into a large casserole dish. Top with the buttered breadcrumbs. 

Cook for 30 minutes or until golden. 

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Cheesy chicken pasta stars

This is a typical supper that I often batch-cook for the babies. They get about four dinners each out of it. It's an example of my baby food system of combining cheese sauce with a couple of boiled vegetables and a cooked meat.

Cheesy chicken pasta stars

1 cup stelline pasta
1 cup cooked broccoli florets
1 cup cooked carrot pieces
1/2 cup cheese sauce
1/2 cup cooked cubed chicken breast

Put a pot of salted water on the boil for the pasta. Cook the pasta according to package directions, about 10 minutes. Reserve half a cup of pasta water before you drain the pasta and set it aside.

In a frying pan, gently heat the broccoli and carrot for a couple of minutes. Add the cubed chicken and stir for a minute or two. Add the drained pasta and a couple of tablespoons of the reserved pasta water. Add the cheese sauce and stir to combine and heat up. Serve at the appropriate temperature for babies.

You can see in the photo below that there are many pots on the boil in preparation for this dish. It's a sort of assembly line, but well worth the effort considering the amount of baby dinners I can get out of it.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Broccoli, potato and cheddar soup

Unfortunately I over-steamed our broccoli yesterday. When I checked it, it was way past the desired state of bright green and tender-crisp. In these situations, why not turn your lemons into lemonade or in this case, broccoli soup!

Broccoli, potato and cheddar soup

2 overcooked broccoli heads and stems
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 russet potatoes, peeled and diced
1 carton chicken stock (about 900 mL)
2 bay leaves
1 parmesan rind
1 Tbsp herbes de Provence
a pinch of nutmeg
1 cup cheddar cheese
salt and pepper

Pour a glug of olive oil into a stock pot on medium heat. When the oil is hot, add the onions and saute for three minutes. Add the garlic and saute for another few minutes. Add the herbes de Provence and stir to combine.

Add the diced potatoes, chicken stock, bay leaves and parmesan rind. Bring to a boil, then turn down the heat and simmer, covered, for about 20 minutes or until the potatoes are cooked.

Remove the bay leaves and the parmesan rind. Add the broccoli pieces and top up with water if needed. Add the nutmeg, and salt and pepper. Bring to a boil again just to heat up the broccoli. Then take off the heat. Blend the soup with an immersion blender until smooth (make sure the bay leaves are removed!).

Stir in the cheddar cheese until it melts. Serve.

Canadian Living has a nice suggestion for an accompaniment: spicy cheddar triangles. (It's below their broccoli soup recipe). I must try that sometime.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Missing summer already

Here's a throwback to the bounty of summer. We bought these multi-coloured carrots at the farmer's market and I roasted them in olive oil, fresh thyme, and salt and pepper. This photo was taken before cooking and I don't have an after shot so we must have been hungry! Those are roasted broccoli florets beside them. They're just done with olive oil, garlic slivers, and salt and pepper. Already missing warm summer mornings at the market ... sigh.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Salade Niçoise

I'm obsessed! I made the same recipe as before, except that I used white wine vinegar in the dressing instead of red just for kicks. The dressing tasted a bit milder, that's all. Same tasty salade!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

A smoked salmon bagel brunch

My brother visited this month and we did a smoked salmon bagel brunch with all the trimmings. (Thanks for the inspiration, K and O!). This brunch was so fun to shop for because I got to visit all my favourite local independent grocers. I bought Montreal-style sesame bagels from Kettleman's and smoked salmon from LaPointe Fish. We had them with cream cheese and capers. I also bought some colourful olives and marinated mushrooms from La Bottega. Rounding out the table was a bowl of fresh raspberries and Strub's pickles, and also two big wedges of cheese — a medium gouda and Cambozola. We lingered for a couple of hours catching up and discovered that the babies also like smoked salmon. Fourteen months old and they're already foodies!

Monday, November 11, 2013

Butternut squash and sage pasta for babies

I've made this recipe twice for the babies. The first time they loved it. The second time one did but the other only ate the pasta. One out of two isn't bad! I'll keep offering it because it's tasty and nutritious and makes a great lunch with some fruit or chicken on the side.

Butternut squash and sage pasta for babies
(inspired by a similar recipe in Annabel Karmel's First Meals)

900 g cubed butternut squash (I use a ready-to-steam President's Choice package similar to the one pictured below)
1 Tbsp fresh sage, finely sliced
2 Tbsp butter
1 cup ditalini rigati pasta
a handful of grated cheese (optional)

Put a pot of salted water on the boil for the pasta. Cook the pasta according to package directions, about 12 minutes. Reserve half a cup of pasta water before you drain the pasta and set it aside.

Steam the butternut squash in the microwave according to package directions. Mash the squash with four or five tablespoons of the pasta water.

In a medium-hot frying pan, melt the butter and cook the sliced sage together for two or three minutes. Add the butternut squash and mix together until combined. Add the cooked pasta and if needed, up to a quarter cup of the pasta water to loosen up the squashy sauce. Serve with a sprinkling of grated cheese if you want.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Good pasta shapes for babies

I have a tip for all the moms out there feeding older babies past the mushy stage of life.

I've tried offering mine big pastas, such as shells or rotini cut in half, but they'll have none of it. Little people like little pastas, and mine like these two kinds in particular — stelline (little stars, pictured left) and ditalini rigati (grooved beads, on the right). I buy them at La Bottega, an Italian grocer in Ottawa.

I add them to diced boiled veggies, diced meat and cheese sauce to make a complete meal.

They love them. The only drawback is you tend to find little stars all over the place for a few days afterwards. These of course are the pieces that have been tossed overboard during the meal. I'm sure you moms know what that's all about!

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