Friday, August 15, 2008

Homemade Spinach & Ricotta Cannelloni

You can impress your friends with this one (I know you can, because I have done it). Fairly straight forward to make, this recipe is great for a weeknight or for a casual dinner with friends. Make extra for leftovers!
I have been making cannelloni for about 8 years now. It's one of my go to recipes or my "bread & butter" as my husband says. This is the first time I made it with home made pasta so it is extra special.

Ingredients & Preparation: (made up in my brain some 8 years ago)
Serves 4
  • 1 large tub of ricotta cheese
  • 2 cups of fresh and/or frozen spinach
  • 1 egg
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • homemade pasta sheets cut into 4-5" squares (or rectangles - whatever works!)
  • 1/2 cup of mozzarella, shredded
  • homemade bechamel and/or tomato sauce (see previous posts for instructions)

Whiz up your ricotta in a food processor with the egg and salt & pepper. Warm your spinach on the stove until wilty and soft. Set aside half of the spinach. Add the remainder to the ricotta and whiz until it is smooth.

Preheat oven to 350F. Get out a large oven-safe dish and add some sauce to the bottom (tomato would be best). Cut your pasta into 4-5" squares. If you don't have any homemade pasta buy the fresh lasagna sheets from the deli and cut each piece in half.

Place about 2 tbsp of the ricotta onto each piece of pasta and smooth it out so it is even. Leave some space at the edges. Add some of the reserved spinach. Now roll it up from one end to the other. Place seam side down in the dish. Continue until they are all rolled up. Now cover the pasta in your sauce of choice (I used both bechamel and tomato sauce in this recipe since I had just made them). Sprinkle the top with the mozzarella and place in the oven. Bake for about 20-25 minutes or until warm, gooey and golden brown.

Delicious with a side salad and big glass of vino!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Warm Lentil Salad - a super speedy vegetarian lunch

I thought I would post here about my latest craving to break up the pasta recipes (stay tuned - 2 more to come).
Lentils. What a delicious little thing a lentil is...full of protein, fibre, wholesome goodness. Find out more about the lovely lentil here:

Here is a very simple idea that has been both lunch and dinner in the last 24 hours.
Ingredients & Preparation: (no actual recipe was consulted in the making of this meal, just bare cupboard desperation!)
Serves 1 hungry gal

  • 1/2 can of quality lentils, drained
  • 2-3 handfuls of chopped fresh spinach, or frozen if that's what you have on hand
  • 1 tbsp of sun-dried tomatoes (not packed in oil)
  • 1-2 tbsp feta cheese on top

Warm up the lentils in either the microwave or on the stove. Add in the spinach, cook until it is soft and wilty. Toss in the tomatoes. Serve in a bowl and top with feta.

A delicious, filling vegetarian meal for one (multiply recipe by 2 for 2 people and so on). Serve with greens if you are feeling sporty!

PS - the picture is not of my actual meal (you will not see any sun-dried tomatoes), but it is a pretty good replica from

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Mushroom, Sage & Pinenut Ravioli served in a reduction of maple syrup, mushroom, olive oil & cream

I have to tell you - this was an experiment but it turn out better than I ever could have hoped! Along with my pasta maker I also bought a ravioli thingy (not sure the real name!). I can only hope that when I try to make this again it will be just as good!

Ingredients & Preparation:

Ravioli & Filling
  • 2 long sheets of fresh, homemade pasta (see last post)
  • 1/2 cup toasted pine nuts
  • 1 package of cremini mushrooms, sauteed (keep the juices for the sauce)
  • 2 slices of halloumi cheese, fried, cut into little pieces
  • 2 tbsp fresh sage, chopped
  • white pepper, to taste
  • 2 tbsp 100% real maple syrup
Saute the pine nuts and set aside. Saute the mushrooms, reserve juices and set the mushrooms aside. Fry up the halloumi. Mix up the pine nuts, mushrooms, halloumi, sage, pepper and maple syrup. Stir well.
Boil a large pot of salted water.
If using a ravioli maker, flour it well and place the first sheet of pasta over the mould. Push in the little holes. Add some of the mixture to each hole. Do not over fill. Place the next sheet of pasta over top. Using a rolling pin, roll over the edges (which are raised for this purpose) and cut the ravioli squares. Make sure there are no gaps. Carefully remove them.
Plop your ravioli into the water and bring back up to a soft boil (not a great rumbling boil). Cook for about 5-6 minutes. Taste one to make sure it is fully cooked.

While you are cooking the ravioli, make the sauce.
Ravioli Sauce
  • mushroom juices (previously set aside)
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup 18% cream
  • 1-2 tbsp chopped fresh sage
  • 2 tbsp 100% real maple syrup, or to taste (be careful not to make it too sweet)
Reduce the mushroom juices for about 1 minute or so. Add the cream and oil and whisk together. Cook another 1-2 minutes. Add sage and maple syrup. Stir well. Remove from the heat and add to the pasta straight away. Coat the pasta evenly. Garnish with some sage and halloumi bits.


Homemade Pasta: an everyday quick recipe

You might have wondered why I was posting about basic sauces earlier this week (or not, but I'll pretend you care). Along with my French butter chiller that I bought on the weekend, I also bought myself a manual pasta maker! I've wanted one for a while now and just haven't felt like spending the money on one. I found mine for $19 at Cayne's Housewares. This way if I don't like making my own pasta it won't be a waste of money. Needless to say, every meal this week has been pasta based!

This is a basic pasta recipe and can also be made if you don't have a pasta maker.

Ingredients & Preparation: (from The Naked Chef, Jamie Oliver)
Serves 4

  • 1lb of bread flour (3 1/2 - 4 cups)
  • 5 fresh, large eggs (preferably free-range organic)
  • semolina flour for dusting
You can use either a food processor or an electric mixer for the first stage. I used my KA Mixer with the dough hook attachment so that is the process I am posting here.
Add the flour to the eggs and mix at a medium speed for 3 minutes or until a firm dough forms. Take the dough out of the mixer and finish kneading by hand or until the dough is smooth, silky and elastic. If the dough is sticky, add some more flour. If it is too crumbly, add some more egg. Don't ever add water or oil.
Form the dough into a ball. Wrap in plastic wrap and put it in the fridge for 1 hour.

Once your pasta has chilled in the fridge, remove it and cut it into 4 balls. Work with one at a time and keep the others covered. Flatten the dough with the palm of your hand and run the dough through the thickest setting on your machine. Do this 3-4 times. Change your setting to a thinner one and run the pasta through another few times. Make sure to use flour to stop any stickage. Yes, I know stickage is not a real word. ;) Roll the pasta through until it is 1-1.5mm thick.
Follow instructions above for the rest of the pasta until you have a bunch of fresh pasta. Depending on the pasta maker you have, you can make your pasta into all sorts of different noodle shapes. If it doesn't have a certain attachment, you can always cut your pasta by hand. Hang it to dry and then seal it in airtight containers if you want it for another time or use it right away.
I'll be posting 3 new pasta recipes so you can always attempt one of those!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Basic Béchamel Sauce

This post is for Katryna. If you learn how to make this, you can make anything taste good! xo

I bet you didn't know this but Béchamel was invented by Catherine de Medici's Tuscan cooks who brought it to France from Italy in the 17th Century (thanks wiki). A great sauce to add to your repertoire for its versatility. Béchamel is a base for over 50 sauces. By adding one or two ingredients Béchamel can morph into the following:

Sauce Mornay (cheese) - Bring the Béchamel to a boil, remove from the heat and beat in 1/4 - 1/2 cup of coarsely grated Gruyere cheese or a Gruyere and finely grated Parmesan cheese. Season to taste with salt, pepper, nutmeg and hot paprika. Remove from the heat and then stir in 1 Tbsp. of butter.

Crème sauce (heavy cream) - Bring the Béchamel sauce to a simmer and, a tablespoonful at a time beat in 1/2 cup of sweet cream, simmering and mixing constantly until the sauce is at the consistency you want. Season to taste with salt, pepper and a few drops of lemon juice.

Sauce Aurore (tomato)- Bring the Béchamel to a simmer and then, a Tablespoonful at a time, stir in 2 - 6 Tbsp. tomato puree until you have achieved the color and flavor desired. . Correct the seasoning to taste with salt and pepper. Remove from the flame and just before serving stir in 1 - 2 Tbsp. of butter and finely chopped fresh parsley, basil or tarragon to taste.

Here is how you make it!

Ingredients & Preparation: Quick method

  • 1 cup of milk
  • 1 clove of garlic, whole
  • 1 bay leaf, whole
  • 1-2 tbsp butter (1 for a thinner sauce, 2 for a thicker sauce)
  • 1-2 tbsp flour (")
  • salt & pepper to taste
Put the garlic and bay leaf in a small pot with the milk. Bring the temperature of the milk up on med-low heat to a boil being very careful not to burn it. Take off the heat and steep the milk with the garlic and bay leaf for 15 minutes. Set aside.
Melt the butter in a saucepan. Whisk in the flour and cook the roux for a minute or so. Do not let it turn brown.
Gradually whisk in the milk. Cook and stir constantly until it is thick.
Add salt & pepper to taste.
The roux!

Thick Béchamel sauce ready for your next meal!

I'm submitting this recipe to Joelen's Culinary Adventures for her August Tasty Tools! She is featuring Whisks and this recipe qualifies! See Joelen's great blog here:

Monday, August 11, 2008

Basic Homemade Tomato Sauce

It's time to start making your own tomato sauce - nothing tastes better except (maybe) for Nonna's! This is a very standard recipe and you can add / delete ingredients to suit your meal.

The following instructions will take you from this:

or this:

Ingredients & Preparation:
Makes about 6 cups

  • 2 x 28oz cans of whole, organic plum tomatoes - if using fresh plum tomatoes I would guess you need about 8 cups once they are chopped up.
  • a handful of fresh basil leaves, roughly chopped
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, halved
  • 3 tbsp of olive oil
  • 2 tbsp of fresh oregano, chopped
  • 1/2 tsp of hot chili flakes (add more if you like it spicy!)
  • 1 or 2 tsp of salt
In a food processor or blender, whiz up your tomatoes until smooth. Put them in a large pot. Add all your other ingredients. Bring to a boil. Cover and reduce the heat to med-low. Cook for 1.5-2 hours or until the sauce reduces and is thickened. SO Easy!!

Add other ingredients to change it peppers, roasted red peppers, different herbs, mushrooms, sun-dried tomatoes, olives, fennel, spinach or some red wine.

To this!

Simmering on the stove at about the 20 minute mark. You will notice the sauce start to thicken as time goes on...

French Butter Dish - what a neat idea!

On Saturday, me and the husb went to our favorite bike store ( for a tune up and new pair of bike shorts (talk about the least flattering article of clothing on the planet). While bike gear is very exciting for one of us, it is the housewares store across the road that makes the drive that much more exciting for the other!

Somehow I managed to spend $70 on items I didn't really need...this butter dish being one of them. Recently, we switched from using margarine (Becel) back to good 'ol butter. I don't have the standard issue glass butter dish. I don't really like the look of room temperature butter. There's something not right about it. Until Saturday, I always kept the butter in the fridge which caused major issues with morning toast.

I think I've found the solution to my troubles! A butter dish, which keeps butter fresh and cool, without having to see it or put it in the fridge. The design is quite modern and architecturally pleasing making butter-on-the-counter look so much nicer. The actual butter dish portion is shaped liked a bell. Scoop the butter into the hole, fill the bowl with cold water, and place the bell back inside. Thanks to the marvel of molecules, your butter won't get water-logged.

What a magical invention! The best $5.99 I spent this weekend.