Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Brie stuffed mushroom caps

Sometimes a bad day slips in so sneakily that it takes a while to realize you are having one.
It starts off innocently enough. Like waking up late for class and in the process of franticly getting ready, pokes a blob of moisturizer into eye. Nothing new. Scrambles to class to find that no. one. is. there.


That’s okay, opportunity to go to the library and get some work done. Opens up laptop to have it disrupt everyone actually studying with music from Stereomood that was left open from the night before. Spends rest of time in library trying to convince self that did not actually happen.

By the time it's time to start heading to flamenco practice, realizes that the season has changed from fall to winter and am not appropriately dressed anymore. That’s okay, will take the bus. Misses the bus by a second and decides to walk. Arrives 45 minutes later beaten by the wind, just in time to dance to choreography that involves slapping own thighs over and over for an hour.

Stops by the pharmacy on the way home to pick up some toothpaste. Buys 3 to get the 3 for $10 deal. Upon leaving, realizes it wasn’t actually on sale and that it was really expensive toothpaste. Has just spent $20 on toothpaste.

Okay stop. So we have all had bad days. Solution? A really long shower. And these:

Around 24 button mushrooms (2 packages: I used a package each of white and brown)
2 cloves of garlic, minced
Handful of flat-leaf parsley (around 1/4 cup, chopped)
Small wheel of brie (or a large slice/wedge)
Pinch of paprika, salt and pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 tablespoons of panko/or breadcrumbs

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Remove stems of mushrooms by gently wiggling back and forth.
2. Add olive oil, chopped parsley and minced garlic to a large saucepan on medium heat. Cook mixture for a minute. Add mushroom caps to mixture and lightly sprinkle with paprika, salt and pepper. Cook everything for 1-2 minutes until everything is heated.
3. Remove mushrooms from pan and place upside down in a baking dish, pouring the remains of the mixture into the mushroom caps. Fill each mushroom cap with a little sprinkle of panko or breadcrumbs to soak up the moisture as the mushrooms cook.
4. Cut rind off of brie (or leave it on if you don’t mind it) and then cut brie into small cubes. Place a piece of brie on top of each mushroom.
5. Cook mushroom caps in the oven for 10 minutes or until mushrooms are tender. Allow to cool slightly and then eat!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Roasted tomato soup in a spaghetti squash bowl

Decisions decisions decisions. 
Like watch a lecture? Or watch the first season of How I Met Your Mother instead?
Research future life prospects? Or research unbelievable savings on Groupon instead.
Go for a run? Or run to the fridge and finish off the container of Vanilla Swiss Almond Hagen Daz ice cream instead.
Watch a tutorial to explain this week's lecture? Or watch a tutorial on "5 Simple and Trendy Ways to Tie a Scarf" instead.
Look into post-graduation internships? Or look into hostels in Australia instead.
Go on food blogs after class? Or go on food blogs during class and then again after class instead.

And the closer graduation gets, the more there seems to be pressure to start making some hefty life decisions. Because the question that’s on the back of every forth year student’s mind is “With so much of our time and money invested, what’s our next move going to be?” Eek, overwhelming. And a visit to the Career Fair left me with a really cool pen but with the same response to many of those unanswered questions. What am I going to do after graduation? “uhh...I don’t know.”

But sometimes there is beauty in not knowing. In surprises. In deviating from “the plan”.  Like the amazement my boyfriend and I had upon cutting into the roasted squash for dinner to find that the inside was entirely in spaghetti like strands. (Seriously, spaghetti squash still amazes me.) Or when I had tomato soup for the first time, not at all expecting the complexity in flavours created simply by taking tomatoes and roasting them. (I think the entire time I was drinking my soup, I was mumbling, “But all that’s in here is tomatoes!”) And yes I know that some of those life decisions are going to have to be addressed eventually. But whose to say we are supposed to have all the answers right now. Right now, I'm okay with not exactly knowing. There might even be some pleasant surprises ahead. In the meantime, I find that when things get overwhelming, its better to start with the small stuff. Like soup.

Adapted from the Food Network 
Around 8 fresh tomatoes (heirloom, vine, plum or mix)
6 cloves of garlic, peeled
2 small yellow onions, sliced
Salt and black pepper to taste
3 cups water/or chicken stock
1/2 teaspoon each, sage and oregano (or dried herbs of choice)
Splash of cream

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 spaghetti squash

Tomato soup:
Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.
1. Wash, core and cut the tomatoes into halves or quarters. Spread the tomatoes, garlic cloves, and onions onto a baking tray. Season with salt and pepper. Roast everything for 45 minutes until caramelized.
2. Remove roasted tomatoes, garlic and onion from the oven and transfer to a stock pot. Add 2 cups of water/or chicken stock and spices. Bring to a boil, and reduce heat to simmer for 15-20 minutes.
3. Use a food processor or blender to puree the mixture until smooth. Return soup to low heat and add another cup of water/or chicken stock (or more if desired). Season to taste with salt and black pepper. Add cream if using.

Spaghetti squash:
Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.
1. Slice spaghetti squash in half evenly down the middle. Remove seeds from the cavity. Take a knife and score the inside of the squash to break down some of the spaghetti squash strands. Drizzle the inside with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
2. Place squash, cut side down on a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Bake for 45 minutes or until squash is tender 
3. Cut a small slice off the bottom of each spaghetti squash half so it has a flat bottom and can sit on its own when turned over. Fill cavity with soup and slowly tear off spaghetti strands with a fork. 

(Everything for the tomato soup and the spaghetti squash can be roasted together and for the same time. You can also eat the tomato soup and the spaghetti squash separately. Roasted tomato soup and a grilled cheese. Or scooped out spaghetti squash with pasta sauce? Your decision.)

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Green pea hummus

As a university student, one of the greatest things to happen while living away from home is when parents come to visit. Parents, once undervalued in the days of high school are now given a newfound appreciation. Who but parents will offer the vehicle and the Costco card necessary to stock our apartments with a pack of 72-rolls of toilet paper. Only parents will take one look at our apartment and with a tone of disgust, offer to help clean it. And parents, convinced that all students are undernourished, will work an obligatory eating portion into their visit.

In short, parents are great.

So this past weekend, my good friend Chloe’s parents came to visit. Lucky for me, Chloe invited me to the classy French restaurant they were going for dinner. Walking in, not a single pair of McGill sweatpants could be spotted. Instead there were candles, nice tablecloths, good wine and a breadbasket. I had the butternut soup to start, followed by sea bass with a passion fruit caramel sauce and sweet potato mousse. Slightly more gourmet than my usual go to: pizza served on a paper plate by a large, handlebar moustached man. Dollar beer to start.

So while we’re waiting for those parents to make it down for another visit, why not make this dip. It’s not quite as fancy as whipped rabbit pate (which we found out was what was placed next to our bread basket,) but it’s great on bread and a good source of vitamin A and K. Plus if you are like me, it's a great way to use up that huge bag of frozen peas sitting in the freezer.

2 cups frozen green peas, thawed
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tablespoon tahini paste
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon paprika
Salt to taste 
1 tablespoon olive oil to sprinkle on hummus (optional)

Put garlic cloves in food processor and pulse. Add rest of the ingredients and pulse until almost smooth. Remove and top hummus with a tablespoon of olive oil if desired. To serve I toasted some bread, melted some cheese on top and then topped it with the green pea hummus. You could also have it on a salad, as a sandwich spread or even mixed into a pasta salad. 

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Hasselback potatoes

Its Friday of Halloween weekend and I find myself in the penthouse of the Hilton Hotel downtown. There’s chocolate covered strawberries, chilled glasses of white wine, and glitzy masquerade masks. Promising night?
Unless you’re the babysitter.

Oh wait that’s me.

Chocolate monsters faced off with our little superheroes, Jimmy Two Shoes was watched, and “keep the bright green play dough out of the white shag carpet” was played. The last one mostly just by me. Think Bridget Jones trying to be Nanny McPhee:

Me: “Why aren’t you sleepy? I’m sleepy and I’m waaaay bigger than you.”
Much more intelligent individual: “I want to play superheroes. Spiderman. Flash. Batman. *flying noises*”
Me: “What if I bring you food and you can eat it in bed.”
Intelligent individual: “Okay, I want Raisin Bran” (Really, a five year old that requests fibre cereal. I think I met the Halloween fright quota for the night.) 

Needless to say, I spent the rest of the weekend indulging the five year old inside me. Candied apples were made, old shirts were stuffed with tissue paper (I was an M&M for Halloween, my boyfriend was Eminem; the candy and the w-rapper!), and the majority of my babysitting money helped me acquire additional Halloween candy. 

But before all that craziness, I made these: 

Afterall, even potatoes should dress up a little for Halloween.

Inspired by: Joy the Baker
2 small sweet potatoes
2 small russet potatoes
Olive oil and/or butter
Sage, cumin, salt and pepper for seasoning

1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Thoroughly wash the skins of the potatoes.
2. Start slicing through the potato being careful to not slice all the way through. Create very thin rounds connected at the base, working from one side of the potato to the other. (Also score the bottom of the potato to ensure the thicker base will cook evenly.)
3. Place the potatoes on a baking sheet. Drizzle about one tablespoon of olive oil onto each potato, trying to also get the oil in between the potato slices. Generously sprinkle all the potatoes with salt and pepper. Rub the sweet potatoes, with a generous sprinkle of cumin and top the regular potatoes with a generous sprinkle of sage (or dried herb of choice).
4. Bake the potatoes for half an hour at 450 degrees F. Take potatoes out of oven and re-apply with olive oil or scrapes of butter. The more oil you use the crispier the potato will be. Return to oven for an additional half hour. In total, the potatoes should bake for around 1 hour, (or longer depending on size of potatoes) until tender on the inside and crisp on the outside. Enjoy plain or with baked potato toppings or ketchup.

Happy belated Halloween!

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