Archive | November, 2012

Recipe: The (Spaghetti) Sauce

28 Nov

Once upon a time, there was a man who would only eat regular Prego brand tomato sauce. You know, that stuff that tastes like ketchup with a few flakes of oregano and basil? Yeah, I don’t get it either, but he loved the stuff. So much so that when I was making this beautiful from scratch meat sauce, he requested that I pick up a jar of Prego for his pasta. Well, there was none to be had at the grocery store so he deigned to try ‘The Sauce’ and his life was forever changed for the better.

That story is mostly true (hi Chad) and while this sauce might not change your life forever, it’s got depth of flavour that the canned stuff can’t touch and if you make a double or triple batch and freeze it in portions, it’s just as easy.

The Sauce

1 pound of ground beef
3 Italian sausages, casings removed
1 large sweet onion, diced
1 red pepper, diced
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 heaping tablespoon minced garlic
3 cans diced tomatoes
1 can tomato paste
3 teaspoons oregano
3 teaspoons basil
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon hot pepper flakes
1 bay leaf
1 tablespoon sugar

In a large pot, heat the oil and add the onions, red pepper, salt and pepper. Sweat the vegetables until the onions are translucent. Add the garlic and sweat it until it becomes fragrant. Add the ground beef and sausage and cook until brown. Add the remaining ingredients except for the sugar and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer for for an hour.

At this point those who prefer a smooth (vs. super chunky) sauce should break out their immersion blenders. Remove the bay leaf and whizz just enough to remove some of the large pieces. It should not be pureed.  Take this opportunity to taste the sauce and adjust the salt and add the sugar. You may need a bit more or less depending on how acidic the tomatoes are. Put the bay leaf back in.

Simmer at least another half hour but an additional hour and a half to two hours is ideal.

The sauce can be cooled and frozen for 6 months or more and reheated in the microwave. It also keeps in the fridge for 3-4 days.

Recipe: Shortcut Pumpkin Bread

26 Nov

One of the most pinned recipes on Pinterest has been the ‘two ingredient’ pumpkin muffins/cake/loaf. The recipe is basically a cake mix and a can of pumpkin. While it seems to be super popular, and I liked the concept (easy always wins in this house) I was skeptical that something without oil or eggs (read fat) could be tasty. Comments on several of the recipes seemed to agree with my hunch.

Yes, my version below takes slightly more effort than dumping a can into a cake mix but it’s sooooooo good. Super moist, spicy and when you throw on some cream cheese icing and a drizzle of caramel, pretty darned decadent.

Shortcut Pumpkin Bread


1 box spice cake mix
1 small (14-15 oz) can of pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling… just pumpkin)**
3 eggs
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Throw everything into a bowl and stir well until combined. You could get out the stand mixer and mix on medium for about 2 minutes, but that’s too much effort for something that’s ‘shortcut’. Spread the batter into a greased loaf pan and bake for 5o minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Cool the loaf on a wire rack before icing. I just used a tub of pre-made cream cheese icing, but it would be even better with homemade.

** If you only have a giant can of pumpkin, there’s a bunch of great pumpkin recipes online to use up the rest or you can put a few spoonfuls on top of your dog’s food for the week. They think it’s a great treat and it’s good for their digestion. Guinea pigs are also huge pumpkin fans!

Recipe: Oven ‘BBQ’-ed Ribs

19 Nov

It’s cold out. And we were out of propane. But that wasn’t going to stop me from turning two beautiful racks of ribs (scored on sale for an incredible 1.29/pound at Loblaws) into smoky, spicy sticky BBQ style ribs. No siree!

With an oven, a bit of ingenuity, a wicked from scratch sauce and a rub containing a liberal amount of chipotle chili powder I managed to make a championship worthy rack of ribs. Thanks to the chipotle they even had a bit of ‘smoke’ flavour.

Here’s the recipes you’ll need as well as a bit of ‘how-to’.

Oven ‘BBQ-ed’ Ribs

It all starts with the rub….

Smoky Chipotle Dry Rub

3 tablespoons chipotle chili powder
2 tablespoons garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon ginger powder
1 1/2 tablespoons coarse sea salt
1 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
1 teaspoon paprika
1/4 cup brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup white sugar

Mix all the ingredients thoroughly. Take your ribs and lay them meat side up. Slather the meat side (NOT the bone side) with a bit of oil and sprinkle the dry rub on top. Massage the rub into the meat. If you can, do this several hours before you’re ready to cook the ribs. If you can’t that’s OK too.

Set your oven to broil and while it comes to temperature, take a jelly roll pan (or a deep cookie sheet) and place a wire rack on top. Place the meat bone side UP on the rack and place it in the oven. Pour a half inch’s worth of HOT water into the bottom of the pan and let the ribs broil for approximately 5 minutes. Watch the ribs closely, they should be browning but not burning.

After five minutes, reduce the heat in the oven to 225 degrees and take the ribs out and flip them over. Cook the ribs meat side up for the next four hours or so. While the ribs are cooking, whip up BBQ sauce from the recipe below. Don’t be lazy and use stuff from a bottle!

You’ll know the ribs are done when the meat starts to break apart when you bend the rack. At this point, turn the oven back to broil,  take the ribs out and flip them bone side up again. Coat the ribs with sauce and pop them under the broiler for 5 minutes. Flip over to the meat side and repeat the saucing and broiling steps.

Let the ribs rest for about 10 minutes, cut and serve.

Secret BBQ Sauce (which now is not so secret…)

4 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
1 teaspoon salt
1 medium onion, diced finely
3 tablespoons chili powder
2 heaping teaspoons of diced garlic
2 cups ketchup
1/2 cup yellow ‘ballpark’ style mustard
1/2 cup cider vinegar
1/3 cup worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup HP sauce
1/4 cup fancy molasses
1/4 cup liquid honey
2 tablespoons Frank’s Red Hot
1 cup brown sugar, packed

In a large saucepan melt the butter and add the onion, salt and pepper and sweat it until soft. Add the chili powder and garlic and cook for another two minutes or until fragrant. Add the liquid ingredients and stir well. Let come to a boil and add the brown sugar. Reduce heat to slow and simmer until the sauce thickly coats the back of a spoon.

This sauce keeps for at least a month in the fridge and freezes well. It goes great on all kinds of pork as well as chicken. It’d also make a great topper for meatloaf.

Recipe: Warm Apple Topping & German Oven Pancake

18 Nov

One of my favourite things about fall is fresh apples. I usually buy a 10 pound bag of MacIntoshes from Costco – a great deal at $10 – and gorge myself on apple recipes so I can use them up before they go bad. I buy Macs because they’re a great all-purpose apple. They’re tasty to eat fresh but also fare well in baked and cooked recipes.

Today’s recipe is for a warm apple pie style topping. I had mine on a fluffy German oven pancake (or ‘Dutch Baby’) but but this topping would be equally at home on regular pancakes, waffles, oatmeal or even ice cream.

If you’re looking for a ‘quick’ pancake option, try Krusteaz brand pancake mix. Even though it’s a ‘just add water’ mix, they are literally the best pancakes I’ve ever had outside of a restaurant. In Canada, the mix is only available in a giant bag from Costco but it’s readily available in other formats in the US.

Warm Apple Topping

4 medium MacIntosh apples, peeled and diced into bite sized pieces
1/3 cup brown sugar, packed
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon maple syrup (optional)
1 tablespoon butter

In a small pot over medium heat, mix together the cornstarch and the brown sugar. Add all of the ingredients except for the butter and  stir to combine. Bring to a boil and let boil for at least a minute then reduce heat and simmer until apples are tender (about 8 minutes). Add the butter at the very end and stir to combine.

German Oven Pancake (with thanks to my friend Lauren & her wonderful mom!)

3 eggs (room temperature or placed in hot water for a few minutes)
3/4 cup milk
3/4 cup flour
pinch of salt
2 tablespoons butter

Preheat your oven to 450 degrees. Place the butter in the bottom of a glass pie plate and let it get sizzling hot. In the meantime, in a large bowl, beat together the eggs, milk, flour and salt until smooth. When the butter is sizzling, pour the mix into the pie plate and bake for 15 minutes. Reduce the heat to 350 and bake for an additional 10 minutes or until brown. Make sure to keep an eye out as it never seems to take the full 10 minutes.

Recipe: Easy Baked Cannelloni

17 Nov

Any food that requires three types of cheese is good stuff in my book, and cannelloni is no exception. Cannelloni is a tube shaped pasta that is filled and then baked. I like to fill mine with spinach, ricotta and parmesan so I can feel like the healthyness of the spinach counteracts the not-so-good for you parts of the dish.

Now this sounds like a lot of work, but there are a few secrets to make this a 10 minute prep dinner. First, buy ‘no boil’ cannelloni. Several different companies make it and it’ll say ‘no boil’ or ‘oven ready’ right on the package. That means you can stuff the shells while they’re hard, put sauce overtop and call it a day. Second, use a ziplock bag with the tip cut off to ‘pipe’ the filling in to the shells. Third, use your own pre-prepared frozen sauce or use some stuff from a jar.


Easy Baked Cannelloni

1 package ‘no boil’ cannelloni shells
1 package frozen chopped spinach, defrosted and drained
1 small tub ricotta cheese
3 cups tomato or meat pasta sauce
1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
parmesan cheese
dry parsley
salt & pepper

Set your oven to 375 degrees.

Defrost the frozen chopped spinach in a medium sized microwavable bowl. Squish it down a bit with a spatula and drain off the excess water. Add the tub of ricotta, approximately 4 tablespoons of parmesan cheese, a dash of salt and some pepper. Stir to combine and transfer the filling to a large ziplock bag.

Snip the tip of the bag off and begin squeezing the filling into the cannelloni shells. Arrange the filled shells into an ungreased 9×9 glass baking dish. You may have to break the tips off of a few shells before filling to fill in the corner of the dish.

Cover the cannelloni with the tomato sauce and top with the mozzarella. Sprinkle a bit of parmesan and a few dry parsley flakes on top.

Pop the dish in the oven and bake for 25-30 minutes or until the cheese is browning and bubbly. Let the dish rest for 10 minutes before serving. Leftovers reheat well in the microwave for lunch the next day.

Tools of the Trade: A Damn Good Frying Pan

16 Nov

A good frying pan, like a good man, can often times be hard to find.

I’m notoriously hard on my pans. They go in the dishwasher. I sometimes use metal utensils in them. They get packed up for camping excursions. They get A LOT of use. In the past, this heavy duty abuse meant buying replacement pans every year or so when the non-stick inevitably started peeling off and threatening to slowly poison me.

Then three years ago I spotted a hell of a deal at Canadian Tire – T-Fal Air Grip pans on for 70% off. Not only did they have a non-stick coating designed to put up with abuse from metal utensils but they were dishwasher safe and had a silicone coated metal handle that meant they were oven safe too. I bought two 12″ pans for $20 each and they’re still going strong today!

T-Fal Air Grips are sale for the next week at that same amazing $20 price ($17 for the 10″ size) so if you (or someone on your holiday gift list) is in need of a few fry pan, I’d recommend picking one up.

Foodie News: Looks Like They Won’t Survive the Apocalypse After All…

15 Nov

Hostess, the maker of beloved treats like the Twinkie, may be forced to close up shop and liquidate its assets. They’re already under bankruptcy protection but with workers striking at several plants over wage and benefit cuts, the company says they just can’t make a go of it.

Long story short, enjoy your Twinkies, Cupcakes and SnoBalls while you can.