When Sweetie and I got married (which now seems like a gazillion years ago) we decided to divide our honeymooning time between Paris and London England. And while I realize that honeymooning overseas sounds rather posh and quite expensive, we definitely traveled as cheaply as we could. Our hotel rooms were very basic (but clean!), we feasted on baguettes and cheese while lounging on park benches each day at lunchtime (bliss!) and visited street vendors for food nearly every night, and we thoroughly enjoyed and experienced both cities (but in a rather non-fancy and exceedingly thrifty sort of way.)
Sweetie did make one food related splurge, however. When we wandered into a small pub one night down some random narrow cobblestoned street in London, Sweetie spied something on the menu that he really really wanted to try.
Steak and ale pie.
Yep. Steak. Plus beer. In a pie. It was love. English hospitality-style culinary love. And, five years later, Sweetie still speaks fondly of the best meal he had during our two weeks overseas.
So when a coworker (hi Laura!) recently mentioned that she’d found (and successfully tried) a very simple recipe for Steak and Guinness pie (courtesy of the wonderful and amazing Mr Jamie Oliver), I knew what I had to do: I had to make Sweetie a spectacularly yummy and special Valentine’s Day supper, featuring (of course) Steak and Guinness pie.
(Laura has an awesome blog over at The Cozy Project btw. Definitely check her out!)
I won’t completely rewrite the recipe here – it was quite easy to follow (despite a few English-isms that I interpreted along the way.) Instead, to keep things super simple, here is the link to the (delicious!) recipe…
And here’s my Steak and Guinness pie, all steak-y and Guinness-y and good.
In the end, it actually turned out rather impressive-looking, if I do say so myself (especially considering I’d never ever worked with puff pastry before.) I had a bit of pastry left over after covering the filling, so I improvised with a twisty rope border thingy (technical baking term) around the edge, and (being Valentine’s Day and all) I even added a (admittedly, kinda sad-looking) little puff pastry heart on top.
It was cute. And tasty. Yep, all in all it was a very successful English-honeymoon-nostalgia-filled Valentine’s Day meal.
And now I really really really want to go back to England.
But, regardless of whether we’re honeymooning overseas, or stuck in the midst of a gray, snowy, cold, miserable, seemingly never ending, O-M-G-will-spring-just-hurry-up-and-get-here-already Canadian winter, at least we have pie. Wonderful steak and Guinness pie.
Thank you Jamie Oliver! (And Laura too!) :)
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My traditional Christmas gift of choice for friends has always been baked goods of some sort. Last year I made fancy little chocolate truffles, peanut butter cookie reindeer, and chocolate cookie bark.
I didn’t take any pictures of last year’s treats, but luckily my friend (and happy cookie recipient) Shawn did.
And it got Instagram-ed. :)
(Related confession: I haven’t yet figured out Instagram. I should probably work on that eh?)
This year, I’m skipping the somewhat time-consuming (yet adorable!) pretzel-antlered cookies, and the crazy delicious (and rather pretty!) chocolate truffle balls, and I’m going straight to the bark. Partly because it’s everyone’s favourite. Partly because I haven’t had time yet this year to make multiple Christmas-tin offerings. (Has the Christmas season been insanely busy for anyone else this year? Or is it just me?) (Maybe it’s just me…)
My bark recipe? It’s Kraft’s. (Shhhh… Don’t tell!) And it’s absolutely delicious.
In a nutshell, bark-making looks a bit like this:
Add this (plus a wee bit of peanut butter)…
Drop (or dollop, if you prefer) randomly on wax paper…
Make super swirly…
Refrigerate and break into pieces. Poof! Bark!
The most important component (that isn’t listed in the ingredients?) LOVE. And a dash of Christmas cheer. And a pinch of merriness.
(Cheesy? Yep. True? Yep again!)
But, if you ask me, even more important than the bark itself is the bark delivery mechanism. If I delivered delicious cookie bark in a plastic baggie, would it be just as delicious? Likely. Would it be as special? Absolutely not!
Last year I packaged up my Christmas yumminess in pretty teal canisters. And they were cute with a capital C.
(Thank you again to Shawn for immortalizing the pretty multi-tin package I left on his front porch.) (And yes – I’m a bit of a Christmas cookie drop-and-dash kinda elf.)
This year I’ve moved beyond my tin-lined comfort zone and stepped things up a notch. I’ve moved on to glass containers. Fancy eh? Cue “ooooohs” and “aaaaaahs.”
I found these glass jars at HomeSense for $3.99 each. $3.99!
And with a wee little bit of yarn wrapped around the middle, and a couple of coordinating pompoms attached (I chatted a bit about my pompom obsession HERE), the once rather utilitarian glass jars become cheery bark-ready vessels.
I think they’re even cuter once filled with super swirly bark…
Yep! I’m pretty pleased with how they turned out. :)
So there! Dear friends, please consider this your 2012 Christmas-baking delivery preview. Coming shortly to a front porch near you!
Very shortly, in fact. Only six more days to go! :)
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Have I told you yet about my most favourite recipe ever? No? Oh! Let’s chat, k? :)
I heart risotto. A lot. But I hate putting a lot of effort into food (which, sadly, risotto generally demands.) The solution? Microwave Risotto. Like, made entirely in the microwave. Really. This is the ultimate (ridiculously!) simple and (amazingly!) delicious comfort food. We eat it as a main course. We eat it as a side dish. I’ve brought it to work on potluck day. I’ve made this for company. I have this cold for lunch the day-after. It is SO GOOD.
I’m not sure of the exact origin of this recipe (if it’s yours, please tell me!) but I’ve been making this for years. It came through one of those email recipe chain letters (way back in pre-Pinterest times) – you know, those emails where some friend would add your name to some list and forward it to a bunch of other friends, and you then were expected to email a recipe to 5 people (who you probably didn’t know) under the promise that, like, a hundred-ish people would then send you a recipe within seven days. Remember those emails? Yeah. I didn’t really like those emails either. This is the only recipe I think I ever received from one of those recipe chain letters. Luckily for me, it’s fantastic. :)
I’m pretty sure the original microwave risotto recipe included mushrooms, not green peppers. But, well, I think mushrooms are squishy, so I use green peps instead. :) I’ve also substituted a couple cups of frozen broccoli/cauliflower (thawed), and that’s yummy too. Or I’ve added corn. Or I’ve added asparagus. This is a pretty casual recipe (if a recipe can be casual?) so I generally just use what I have on hand. It’s pretty hard to screw this up!
1-2 tbsp butter
Half an onion, chopped
1 large green pepper, washed (of course), seeded and chopped
2 cloves of garlic (or 1 tsp of the pre-chopped-in-oil stuff)
1 cup arborio rice (or some other short grain rice)
2.5 cups of beef broth (I usually just use bouillon)
Grated cheese (about a cup?)
1. Melt butter in a large bowl in microwave
2. Add onion, green pepper, and garlic to bowl. Stir to coat with melted butter. Microwave uncovered for 5 minutes.
3. Add rice and beef broth to vegetables in bowl. Stir. Microwave uncovered for 25 minutes, stirring once midway.
4. Add cheese. Stir.
5. Eat. Enjoy. Marvel at how simple that all was. :)
And, when you’re done, this is what it looks like, all risotto-ed up…
In case it doesn’t look like there’s much in my bowl… ummmmm, yeeeeah. You’re right. I didn’t remember to take pics until the next day and this is all that was left from the night before. Ooops. So yep! It’s JUST that tasty. On the well-known comfort food scale of 1 to 10, this is definitely a 10.5. Maybe even an 11. It’s like happiness in a bowl. Like a big risotto hug. Sound weird? Trust me. Try it. You’ll see. :)
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I remember my mom once telling me that she’d never seen anyone peel potatoes like my grandmother. Having lived through the Great Depression years, my grandmother had perfected the art of peeling potatoes, removing very little more than just the peel. Apparently it was quite impressive to see. Ever since then I’ve strived to peel a mean tater. I can’t say I’m there yet (but it’s coming.)
(Does anyone else peel potatoes on a cut-open plastic bag? Or is this just something quirky that my mom and I do?)
We had Easter supper this year at my brother and his fiance’s house. We’re a potluck kindof family, so I was responsible for the potatoes. Specifically requested? My (er, Kraft’s) Mashed Potato Layer Bake. Two types of potatoes (sweet potatoes and potato-potatoes.) Sour cream. Cream cheese. More cheese. All layered up. Baked. Soooo good.
Truth be told, I’m not really a fan of sweet potatoes. I know – they’re GOOD for me. I get that. But there’s something about the consistency/flavour combo that doesn’t work for me (I kinda consider the sweet potato one of Mother Nature’s few fails.) And, plus, they look a bit funny – they’re a bit like the baking potato’s ugly cousin.
BUT, in this recipe, they’re good. So good, in fact, that Sweetie (also not a sweet potato fan) (which is one of the reasons why I married him – having similar food-likes/dislikes just makes things a whole lot easier. There’s nothing worse than sitting next to someone who’s eating a big chunk of salmon when you really don’t like salmon) actually asked me to make a double batch (so that we could greedily keep one batch just for us.) (And, yes, I know. Salmon is good for me too.)
So, since I was whipping up a big batch yesterday anyway, I thought I’d show y’all what they look like and how it’s done. Recipe courtesy of Kraft Canada (click HERE for the original recipe/pictures/raving reviews from other happy potato-makers.)
HEAT oven to 375°F.
PLACE potatoes in separate bowls. Add half each of the cream cheese product and sour cream to each bowl; season with salt and pepper. Mash until creamy.
STIR half the Parmesan into white potatoes. Stir half the Cheddar into sweet potatoes. Layer half each of the potatoes 2-L clear glass casserole dish. Repeat layers.
BAKE 15 min. Top with remaining cheeses; bake 5 min. or until melted.
And, in case you’re a visual person (like me!) here’s what that all looks like…
Sweetie added the wooden spoons on top of each pot. He says he’s heard this keep things from boiling over. In fact, neither pot boiled over. But the potatoes came close.
Once everything is all boiled up, mash. And mash. And mash. (I was so busy mashing that I forgot to take pics.) For the record, I’m not a particularly good potato masher (I tend to run out of patience/get tired before all the lumps have been de-lumped.) My dad, however, is a potato mashing genious. No lumps, perfect fluffiness… If you need awesome taters, definitely have a chat with my dad. :)
Things mashed (-ish), then add the other stuff (the “yumminess-makers”, if you will.)
And then the layering begins…
When you get to the third layer (more potato-potatoes over sweet potatoes), layering gets a little trickier (because the sweet potatoes are runnier than the mashed potatoes.) I’ve found that if you cover the sweet potatoes with little mounds of the regular potatoes, you can then spread everything out with a knife. It works pretty well. :)
A second layer of sweet potatoes later, and a wee bit more cheese too, and – poof – you’re done! :)
And – poof again! – there you have it. My entire yesterday morning in pictures LOL. :) I’m not gonna lie: this is a super time consuming dish to make (by the time I got the potatoes all peeled, boiled, mashed, mixed, and layered I think about 2.5 hours had passed) (true story) (and don’t even get me started on the sink full of dishes this receipe creates too) BUT it’s sooo worth it. And if you only make it for special occasions, it’s not so bad. :) And, well, if you have a dishwasher, that last complaint likely doesn’t apply to you (and, PS, I’m quite jealous!)
Hope everyone had a good (and delicious!) Easter!
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So I’m still getting the hang of this whole blogging thing. And a particular challenge (that I haven’t yet mastered) (obviously) is remembering what to take pictures of mid-process. Take this post, for example (since you’re already reading this) (thank you for reading this btw!): it’s a recipe. Which, from looking at other blog-posts from other much more experienced bloggers (ie: pretty much everyone in blogland) I think means I was supposed to take pictures of all my ingredients lined up neatly pre-cooking, and then a few action shots too (water flying dramatically off the potatoes as I furiously scrub, or Sweetie grating-away at a big block of cheddar) (since I’ve declared cheese-grating a boy-job) before the final reveal. Shamefully, I don’t have any action shots for this post. Or a “before” pic of what all my ingredients looked liked before being expertly combined with chef-like skill (teehee), magically resulting in the best and easiest potato soup ever (seriously, it is… just wait… the recipe is a’comin once I finish jabbering.) BUT, what I do have, is this lovely pic of yumminess. Let’s call this my “after” shot…
(For the record, there’s something a little odd about taking pictures of your lunch. And I’m obviously not particularly good at it [although I'm rather proud of that little gleam of sun that's shining off the bowl. I PLANNED that.] [K, no I didn't. It was a complete fluke. But a good one!])
Another admission? This isn’t my recipe. It comes from the good folk at Kraft (Kraft folk: you rock.) With a few changes that make it ours (and, well, yours too, if you’d like to try this!) Firstly, here’s the original recipe.
Looks yummy eh? And it IS. It’s SOOOO good. But, we had a few challenges with the original recipe. For starters, my microwave is archaic (it’s over 15 years old, which, in microwave terms, means it’s tired and grumpy and would really really like me to stop asking it to cook stuff, I think. But until it absolutely quits altogether, I just keep asking it to be a trooper.) (Label me “thrifty” but I hate throwing (quasi-)functional stuff out.) So while the Kraft recipe says to microwave the potatoes for a puny 5 minutes, plus an additional 6 minutes once added to the liquid, I found I was microwaving my taters for 30 minutes or so. Sometimes even longer if I had particularly ornery spuds.
Secondly, I just like to embellish recipes a wee bit. :) We love garlic, so a soup without garlic just seems odd to me. And we never have green onions on hand, but we always have corn (completely different veggie-family, I know, but quite yummy in this soup!) And cooking bacon is just far too hard and messy. I’m a pre-cooked bacon bits kinda girl (more expensive, yes, but absolutely worth every penny, in my mind, to have a bacon-grease-free pretty little kitchen.)
So, without further rambling, I present my version of Loaded Baked Potato Soup. :)
-3-4-ish baking potatoes (washed, obviously), halved
-1 can (10 fl oz/284 mL) 25%-less-sodium chicken broth
-1 soup can of milk (we’re a 1% family, but I don’t think it really matters what kind you use)
-two cloves of garlic minced (or, if you’re lazy like I am, a teaspoon of the pre-chopped stuff in oil)
-about a cup-ish (maybe a little more – I just pour it in) of frozen corn
-cheddar cheese (grated) for sprinkling
-bacon bits (bitted) also for sprinkling
-whatever else you’d like to add (Sweetie adds a dollop of sour cream to his)
METHOD (how very Grade 9 Science experiment-y eh?):
1. Cover halved potatoes (I leave skins on – apparently they’re good for you?) with water in a large-ish soup pot and boil potatoes until soft (10-15 minutes.)
2. Drain water. Mash up potatoes lightly (using a potato masher.) Lumps are a-ok. :)
3. Add liquids and garlic and corn. Stir everything together.
4. Cook on medium (giving it the occasional stir) until hot and yummy (5 minutes-ish)
5. Ladel into bowls and serve with the option of sprinkling cheese, bacon bits, freshly ground pepper, dill (ooooh! Dill is really good in this), sour cream (a dollop, not a sprinkling)… Whatever you’d normally add to your potatoes. :)
6. Eat. Marvel at how quick and easy this was and how yummy it all turned out.
Poof! And there you are. :) It probably only takes 20-25 minutes from tater-scrubbing to soup-eating. And it’s soooo good. One batch serves Sweetie and I for supper, with leftovers for the next day (so it probably serves 4.) It’s thick (kinda like liquid mashed potatoes) and super filling. Perfect for a blizzardy Tuesday.
Just to give you another angle (and to show off my crazy awesome soup-photography skills just a little more) here’s another look at my lunch…
Yummy goodness in a bowl. :) And again with the little bit of sun being all gleamy off the side of my bowl. Food-photography? I think you’ve been mastered. :)
PS – in case you’re marveling at how dirty my windows look in these pics, um, you’re likely right. But the dirt is on the outside part that I can’t get to without taking the storm windows off. Ever had to take storm windows off? If you have, you’ll understand why the outside of my windows look so dirty. (Regardless, sorry about that btw!) (Oooh! And try the soup – it’s GOOD!)Leave a comment