nana’s meltaways

wire rack
Just because the holidays are over doesn’t mean that baking needs to come to an end. The cold of winter with its howling winds and powerful storms has had me hiding indoors. I find a nice way to get the apartment extra warm is to turn on the oven and bake something. A perfect excuse to make something sweet.

This recipe comes from my Nana. She was an expert baker, and this cookie is one of my favourites that she would make. It’s simple and buttery, and not too sweet. As the name suggests, it melts in your mouth! I made them recently with a girlfriend, then when I was home for the holidays, my mom said she had found a bag of the little silver ball candies that my Nana would used to top her Meltaways with, so of course, I had to make them again.

I have cut this recipe in half, and it still makes an outrageous amount of cookies. I counted 76. If you are attending a cookie exchange, or baking for lots of friends and family, then feel free to double this recipe and you’ll get about 150 cookies– they’ll be sure to please.

Ingredients

1/2 lb butter
1/2 cup icing sugar
1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
1/2 tsp vanilla
dragées (silver ball candy), optional

butter cubes
Preheat oven to 325 F, then begin by cubing room temperature butter, and placing it in a large bowl.

cream butter
Using beaters, cream the butter.

butter sugar
Add icing sugar to butter and beat 1 minute.

finished dough
Add vanilla and flour, beating all for 3 minutes. This time, I used whole wheat flour, but the original recipe calls for white all purpose flour, and it really does taste better– well more authentic ‘Nana’, anyway.

parchment uncooked
uncooked
Drop small balls of dough onto a cookie sheet, and space evenly. Dough balls should be very small– these cookies are meant to be a one-bite treat. If desired, top the balls with dragées before baking. Between batches, keep the dough in the fridge.

For Christmas, I got a silicone baking mat and thought I’d test it out for this recipe. Since I wasn’t sure how the cookies would turn out using the mat, I decided to bake half the cookies on a parchment paper-lined cookie sheet, just in case. Both methods worked well! I was pleased with the results of the mat, and was happy with the easy clean-up. Since the mat is reusable, there was also zero waste.

Place in oven for 12-15 minutes. The trick is to make sure the bottom of the cookies are a delicate golden colour. The tops of the Meltaways should not be browned.

delicate golden

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parchment-baked lemon & basil trout

parchment-baked lemon & basil trout.jpg
This is a no-fail recipe. IT IS SUPER EASY TO MAKE. I have made this dish with both salmon and trout (upwards of 20 times) and it’s always a hit; packed with flavour and never dried out. If you’re looking to make an impressive meal, but don’t necessarily have the time for something extravagant with a ton of steps, then look no further! Ready in 20 minutes, with about 5 minutes of prep? Yes, please.

Oh, and leftover trout (or salmon) is great in a sandwich with sliced cucumber and cream cheese. Sometimes I don’t even wait for leftovers, and make the sandwiches right away.

This recipe serves two, but is very easy to adapt for serving more people.

Ingredients

2 trout fillets
2 tbsp julienne basil
2 full basil leaves
2 tsp olive oil
salt and pepper
6 thinly sliced lemon rounds
lemon wedges

slits
Preheat oven to 400°F, then start by making two deep slits in each fillet.

basil
Stuff the slits with julienne basil.

before oven

Place trout on a piece of parchment paper, then rub with olive oil and add salt and pepper. Top fish with lemon slices, then a whole basil leaf.

parchment
Wrap the parchment paper around the fish to create a packet. Alternatively, you can use kitchen twine, and tie up the parchment as a bundle. Place the packets on a baking sheet, and bake at 400°F for 20 minutes.

plated
Remove from parchment paper, and serve with lemon wedges.

baked beef stew

beef stew3.jpg

If you’re looking to whip up an impressive, flavourful, easy-to-make meal, definitely give this one a try. Baked beef stew is a must for meat and potato lovers. It is simple to make, and while it’s cooking, it’ll have your whole house smelling incredible. My parents suggested I give this recipe a try, and it is now one of my go-to winter meals.

This recipe is courtesy of Noob Cook. I have stayed pretty close to original recipe with only a few minor differences. Be sure to make your way over to noobcook.com for some other great meal ideas!

My dutch ovens are not big enough to cook the whole stew in one batch, so for this recipe, I divided the ingredients and essentially made two half-batches at once.

Ingredients

800g stew beef cubes
sea salt and cracked pepper
olive oil
4 stalks of celery, diced
1 large white/yellow onion
2 glasses of red wine
2 tbsp flour
2 cups of beef stock
1 garlic bulb, separated into cloves and peeled, then crushed with flat end of knife
4 carrots, peeled and cubed
4 parsnips, peeled and cubed
1.5 tbsp Worcester (Worcestershire) sauce
6 sprigs of thyme
2 tsp dried rosemary
3 dried bay leaves
1/2 tbsp slightly crushed black peppercorns
6 medium-sized hard potatoes, cubed
1 cup frozen vegetables(peas, corns, beans, and carrots), thawed

cookedmeat

Place your dutch oven on the stovetop, and coat the inside with olive oil. Once heated, add salt and pepper seasoned beef cubes (and make sure they are not overcrowded in the pot– do a layer at a time if necessary). Brown the beef on one side, then flip with tongs. Browning the beef first is essential, because it will add a ton of flavour to the rest of the dish early on. Set the cubes aside, and do not discard the little bits that are left at the bottom of the pot.

onion

Add some more oil to the dutch oven, then toss in the onion and celery, stirring occasionally for 3-5 minutes on medium-low heat.

spiaces

Then, add red wine and simmer for a few more minutes. Once you can smell the nice aroma of wine, add flour and stir to thicken the mixture. Immediately after, add the beef stock. When it comes to a simmer, add carrots, parsnip, bay leaves, peppercorns, thyme, rosemary, garlic, and Worcester sauce.

addpotatoes

Return the stew to a simmer, then add the potatoes and the browned beef. Once the stew comes to a simmer again, remove from heat, cover, and bake in oven at 350°F for 1 hour 20 minutes.

outoftheoven
Remove from oven. If you find the stew is too watery, add more flour and stir. If the stew could use more liquid, add more broth or hot water.

peas

Add the thawed frozen vegetables, stir, and serve!

creamy gorgonzola risotto

gorgrisotto.jpg

One of the best presents I have ever received is a cookbook from my dear friend, Dana. It is called ‘Cheese: Sumptuous Cheese Recipes for all Occasions’. Oh, she knows me so well.

This is my take on the cookbook’s ‘Sage and Gorgonzola Risotto’ recipe.

Ingredients:

scant 4 tbsp unsalted butter
150 g pancetta
1 sm onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
scant 1 1/2 cups risotto rice
1/2 white wine
4 cups reduced sodium hot vegetable stock
200g Gorgonzola cheese, crumbled
1/4 cup fresh walnuts, chopped
1/4 cup fresh red grapes, halved (or sub. 1/4 cup crisp pear, diced)
2 tbsp minced fresh sage, plus extra, whole, to garnish
2 tbsp finely grated Parmesan cheese
pepper to taste

pancetta
Start by adding half the butter in a large pan or skillet and cook the pancetta over medium high heat, stirring frequently until the fat melts, and the pancetta begins to brown and get slightly crispy.

I used a pack of President’s Choice pancetta. It was pretty inexpensive, and contained exactly 150g which was perfect for the recipe. I was happy with the quality, too. If you do not have any pancetta on hand, a thick-cut bacon will do trick (just add 1 tbsp of butter instead of 2).

pancettaoniongarlic2
Add the onion and garlic and cook, stirring frequently for 5 minutes, or until the onion is soft.

rice
Add the rice and stir to coat the pancetta mixture. Pour in the wine and cook, stirring constantly, until almost all the liquid has been absorbed. Start to add the hot stock, a ladleful at a time, stirring constantly and letting each addition be absorbed before adding the next. Continue adding the stock until it is all absorbed, and the rice is creamy but still firm to the bite.

gorgsage2stiringorg2
Remove from heat, then add the Gorgonzola and sage. Stir mixture until the Gorgonzola has melted, then add remaining butter. Then, fold in the nuts and grapes.

garnished

Serve immediately, garnished with sage and Parmesan.

Bon appétit!

spicy tortilla soup

soup.jpg

After a day out in the cold, there’s nothing quite like a hot bowl of soup to warm up even the chilliest winter-enthusiast. This spicy soup is a favourite year-round, but it’s that much more satisfying to have on a snowy day. It is well-seasoned and hearty. Doesn’t get much better.

For this meal, I used two medium sized pots to cook all of the soup, but 1 large soup pot is ideal*.

This recipe is based on Harvest Chicken Tortilla Soup from TasteFood.

Ingredients:

2 tbsp olive oil
2 chicken breasts
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
1/2 scotch bonnet pepper
1 sweet red pepper, stemmed and seeded, roughly chopped
1 jalapeno pepper, stemmed and seeded, medium-fine chopped
1 pinch red pepper flakes
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 zucchini, cut in 1/2 inch pieces
6 cups chicken stock
1 – 28 oz can Italian plum tomatoes, with juice
1/4 cup tomato paste
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp Italian seasoning
1/4 tsp cloves
2  1/2 tsp chili powder
1 tsp ancho chili powder
1 cup canned peaches and cream corn kernels
1 cup canned black beans
1-2 teaspoons salt, to taste
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup cilantro leaves
tortilla chips, broken in pieces (garnish)
grated cheddar or monterey jack (garnish)
Astro Balkan Style yogourt (garnish)
sliced avocado (garnish)

To start, create a quick dry rub for the chicken with 1/4 tsp of the ancho, 1/2 tsp of the chili powder, a generous dash of each salt & pepper. Once the chicken breasts are seasoned, heat 1 tbsp of the olive oil in your soup pot (in my case, i used one of my two  medium seized cast-alluminum dutch ovens*), then sear the chicken until it is cooked through and you get a nice dark crust on the outer layer of chicken. Set aside.
chicken
Using the oil and juices from the chicken, add your chopped onion to the pot, and pour in the remaining tbsp of oil.
onions
Once onions become slightly translucent (about 2-3 minutes), add all of the peppers and sauté with the pinch of red pepper flakes (2 minutes).
peppers
Stir in the garlic and zucchini. After a minute, add chicken broth, canned plum tomatoes with their juices, tomato paste, cumin, Italian seasoning, cloves, remaining chili powder and remaining ancho chili powder. Bring to a boil then reduce heat and let simmer for 20-25 minutes.I ended up fishing out the cloves with a slotted spoon at this point, because i don’t like getting an unexpected bite of this powerful spice while having my meal. Putting the cloves in a piece of cheesecloth and tying it off would also do the trick, and could stay in the soup until the meal is ready to be served.
soup
Chop up the cooked chicken into small bite-sized pieces, and add to the soup with the beans and corn. Toss in most of the cilantro, reserving some for garnish, and stir.
Per serving, add about 1/2 tbsp of cheese, followed by a dollop of yogourt, broken tortilla chips, and cilantro. When I have made this in the past, I have also topped the soup with sliced fresh avocado. Unfortunately I didn’t have any on hand this time around, but it is a great addition. Do not skip the garnish for this meal. The garnishes aren’t just there for decoration; the chips offer a crunchy texture, while the cheese, yogourt, and avocado help to cool some of the spice. Oh, and cilantro just tastes great, so bring it on.