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Pesto & Portobello Mushroom Pasta Bake and Why I Took Dinner Away From My Husband

I’m about to dive fork first into this dish, but held off just long enough to snap a photo for you, my dear reader! (I know. I’m all heart.)

I went camping last weekend, and boy did we eat well! After the whole Amazon-bought-Whole-Foods news bite recently, the DH went shopping at Whole Foods to see what the furor was about, and bought most of our camping food there. (As I said, we ate well.) There were some Portobello mushrooms that he had picked up, all nice and juicy plump, and he grilled some of them on the camping trip, along with the steaks he bought (and grilled them just plain for me, his beloved vegetarian spouse) but there were still a couple mushrooms left after the trip. What to do with these high caliber morsels of mushroom heaven? Fry ’em up and toss them in my next pasta bake!

Sound boring? Not at all! I picked some basil from my balcony garden, added it to some frozen pesto I had made a few months ago (made using almonds instead of pine nuts because that was what I had in my cupboard), tossed it with some pasta, added in the mushrooms after frying them to an aromatic buttery golden colour, topped it with homemade breadcrumbs and aged white cheddar, and voila, a lovely casserole! So, so, SO good!

This dish is worth making again and again! Sophisticated enough for an adult dinner, but easy enough for a family meal with kids. The Portobello mushrooms add a nice meaty flavour and texture, and who doesn’t love a cheesy crunchy topping?

Want to duplicate the dish? Let’s!

Close up of the veggie cheesy pasta nom-nom-nom-ness

Pesto & Portobello Mushroom Pasta Bake

  • 1/2 c. pesto
  • 10 basil leaves, fresh, chopped
  • 5 cups cooked small shell pasta (I also think orecchiette pasta would be fabulous in this dish!)
  • 3/4 c. crumbled aged white cheddar
  • 1/2 c. bread crumbs
  • 1/2 c. butter, divided into 1/4 c. measurements
  • 2 large Portobello mushrooms

Fry (it’s actually a combination of frying and toasting) the breadcrumbs in 1/4 c. butter. Set aside.

Chop the mushrooms into large chunks, and fry in 1/4 c. butter, until golden and the juices have reduced. Toss the mushrooms (including any juices in the pan) with the cooked pasta, pesto, and fresh basil. Dump this mixture into a casserole dish, sprinkle the crumbled cheddar on top, and top it all with the toasted crumbs. Bake in a 350 degree oven for about 10-15 minutes, or until the cheese has melted, and the crumb topping is uniformly golden and crispy.

Serve, and be prepared for everyone to ask for second helpings!

This pasta bake was so good that the DH said (and I quote) “Get it away from me or I’ll eat it all!” (I do so love when my sweetie appreciates my cooking!) Make this for your friends/family/work lunches and let me know what feedback you get! It’s a seriously yummy dish!

Next Post: It’s Nanaimo bar time, my friends! But chocolate-ified, because, well, chocolate! 

Linking Up at Meal Plan Monday!

Vegan Peach Galette – Plus Why I Put Bread in My Pie

Ready for the eating! The crust isn’t the expected golden brown, because there isn’t any butter in the dough, just shortening. Hence the vegan title!

I attended a potluck BBQ thrown by a friend recently, and as she is vegan, I wanted to bring something that she could eat. Also, I wanted to bake because I love baking. And sugar. And I had a bowlful of peaches in the house. And that’s how my peach pie was born!

Except that I made the rustic French version of a pie, a galette. It’s…wait for it…easy as pie (ba da dum!) except easier, because you don’t have to worry about shaping the pie all purdy like. You just roll out that dough, slap in some filling, pull up the edges, and shove the thing in the oven. How’s that for easy?

Let’s make some!

VEGAN PEACH GALETTE

  • 1 batch pie crust, but made with only vegetable shortening (I used my regular dough recipe, and whole wheat flour)
  • 5 peaches (free-stone, because it’s easier to slice for display)
  • 1 tsp. lime zest
  • 1/8 tsp. cinnamon
  • Pinch each nutmeg, cloves, and cardamom
  • 1 tsp. cornstarch
  • ¼ c. brown sugar
  • ¼ c. bread crumbs
  • 1 tbsp. large sugar crystals

Make dough and chill in fridge for at least an hour.

Cut peaches into sixths, place in a bowl, and add cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, cardamom, corn starch, and brown sugar. Stir until combined.

Roll out dough on a silicone liner (or wherever and then transfer to a cookie tray) into a round shape. Place silicone liner on cookie tray. Spread bread crumbs in centre of dough, leaving 2 cm bare around the edge of the circle.

Place fruit wedges in a pretty design on top of the bread crumbs. Then gently pull up edges of dough and fold in on the filling. Sprinkle the sugar crystals on the edges of the dough, and a few in the centre.

Bake in a 375 degree oven for 30 minutes or until the pie crust is golden and the filling is bubbling.

Crust with crumbs, ready and waiting for the peach filling!

BREAD CRUMBS? HUH?: The fruit in your galette will be nice and juicy, but too juicy will mean soggy crust and a galette that falls apart or worse, doesn’t bake properly. The corn starch will help thicken up the fruit juices, and make the galette less soggy. And the bread crumbs also absorb all those luscious fruit juices, preventing your galette from being a soggy mess! You won’t be able to see the bread crumbs in your galette once it’s baked, don’t worry. Bread crumbs in pie. Who’d a thunk it?

I’m happy to say that the galette was happily received! And happily eaten, with friends. The best way to eat a pie, yes?

Next Post: Erm, I dunno. Imma gonna think on that and get back to you, ‘kay ?

Linking Up at Meal Plan Monday! And Full Plate Thursday!

Easy Hot Cross Buns & How I Avoid Getting Bored During Baking

Hot Cross Buns, looking good, and swiftly consumed!

Growing up, my mother made hot cross buns each year at Easter, and gave some to all our neighbours. It was a lovely tradition, and I remember little Margaret kneeling on the kitchen chair, trying to help stir the dough. And by help stir the dough, I mean eat the candied fruit. (Apparently my sweet tooth was prominent at an early age!)

I don’t normally make a lot of fancy-ish breads, because I find waiting for the dough to rise such a pain (Patience? Me? Ha!) but in this case, I mixed up the dough and left it to rise while I went for a walk with the DH and my sister. Then I came back and let it rise for the second time while I made dinner. I baked it during dinner, and then was able to eat it for dessert! Now that’s my kind of baking!

A lot of fancy-ish breads (that’s the technical term, doncha know?) are what are called ‘enriched’, which just means that they have more butter/oil, milk, and eggs in them. I decided to start with my basic pizza dough recipe (Easiest Pizza Dough in the History of Ever) and enrich it with milk, a dollop of butter, and some eggs. And whadya know, it turned out fantastic!

I think my goal of making an easy, no-fuss hot cross bun recipe was achieved! Want to make some yourself? Let’s!

Easy Hot Cross Buns

Dough

  • 1 tbsp. yeast
  • 1 c. warm to hot milk (not boiling, but not lukewarm)
  • 3 eggs
  • 3 tbsp. sugar
  • 3 tbsp. melted butter, cooled
  • 2 1/2 c. flour
  • 1/2 c. raisins
  • 1/2 c. dried candied fruit
  • 1/2 tsp. almond extract
  • 1/8 tsp. ground cloves
  • 1/4 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon

Icing

  • 1 tsp. lemon juice
  • 1 c. icing sugar

Mix yeast and milk and let sit until foamy, about 15 minutes. In a mixer (or by hand), mix in remaining ingredients, except for raisins, candied fruit, and one egg, until dough forms. Then mix in raisins and candied fruit.  Let rise in a warm place for about an hour or until dough is doubled in size.

Punch down dough, and cut into 12 pieces. Form each piece into a ball, and place on a greased cookie tray, or silicone mat. Let rise again, until doubled in size.

Beat the remaining egg, and brush it on the tops of the buns. This will give the buns the characteristic golden-brown crust. Bake in a 375 degree oven for 15 minutes, or until buns sound hollow when you knock on the bottom of one.

Let cool. Mixing icing sugar and lemon juice together, and drizzle on buns in a cross shape. Eat! And delight in your deliciously fruity buns! (Hmm. Perhaps I should rework that last sentence.) Point is, they’re yummy!

Balls of dough, yo!

I realized after I made these, that I forgot to add in the spices (the cloves, nutmeg, and cinnamon). I told my mom.

My mum: “Slight oversight, Margaret!”

Margaret: “Um, no, the candied fruit is the most important part!”

I guess I haven’t changed that much since I was little; once a sweet tooth, always a sweet tooth!

Next Post: Maybe some Easter cookies? I’m actually off to bake cookies with the son of a friend right now!

Linking up at Meal Plan Monday, Happiness is Homemade, and Inspire Me Monday!

Foodie Trends: Hemp Seed Antioxidant Smoothie Bowl

The ying and yang of life, all in a smoothie bowl.

The ying and yang of life, all in a smoothie bowl.

I present: the Hemp-Seed & Kale Antioxidant Smoothie Bowl! It’s super-yum, super-easy, and so on trend that it’s practically on fleek.

I don’t have a crystal ball (or a crystal mixing bowl, for that matter) but I do read a lot of food blogs. Between the food blogs and Pinterest, you can totally see trends emerging, with pumpkin-spice-everything being the most obvious one. I’ve made a point to follow (almost exclusively) food bloggers on social media and it’s an education in itself to see how trends evolve and take off.

So I thought I’d try something different today, and talk about some of the trends I see developing on the foodie blog scene. And then try to develop my own trendy recipe, just ’cause I wanna go viral like that. (Referencing this post in which I talk about my plans for foodie world domination. Because why not?)

FOODIE TRENDS, according to moi:

  1. Cram-It-All-In Recipes — Take all the key words (gluten-free, low-carb) and/or mash-up a couple of types of recipes (brownie, cake, cookie), and voila! You’ve got a recipe that’s a) original and b) hopefully will go viral. Case in point, the Pumpkin Fudge Brookie.
  2. Dessert for Breakfast — As I’ve previously written, I have insomnia and as such am not a morning person. A dessert person, on the other hand, I most definitely am! If you’re like me, when you have no time to prepare breakfast, just make one of this year’s popular breakfast desserts and pop them in the fridge.
  3. Candy-Store-on-Top Cakes — You have your cake, and then you add slabs of chocolate, lollipops, macaroons, candy floss, basically everything you can find in a candy store and stack that baby up. It’s a one way street to a diabetic coma, but oh, what a way to go! Another variation of this is the everything-but-the-kitchen-sink milkshakes. You know, the ones that have a donut, a slice of pie, whipped cream, chocolate AND caramel sauce, and perhaps a few chocolate bars, all balancing on a tall, frosty milkshake? Not familiar with the concept? Check this out.
  4. Smoothie Bowls — Take a smoothie, pour it in a bowl, sprinkle some toppings over it all, and call it a smoothie bowl. Add in a few trendy words to get the clicks.

Which brings me to my latest easy-peasy recipe! Smoothie bowls are one of the next big things, and I do love my kale smoothies, so I thought I’d see what sort of a delicious mash-up I could make.

Hemp Seed & Kale Antioxidant Smoothie Bowl

Terri’s smoothie from this buzzfeed article is my absolute favourite, so I adapted it for this recipe.

Smoothie Base:

  • 1 small banana, frozen
  • 1 cup kale, frozen
  • 1/2 ripe pear, frozen
  • 1 c. milk
  • 1 tbsp. peanut butter
  • 1 tsp. dehydrated broccoli powder (greens powder from a bulk food store works too)
  • 1 tsp. goji berry powder (optional, but ups the antioxidant factor)

Topping

  • 1/4 c. hemp seeds
  • 1/2 c. blueberries

Blend all ingredients for the smoothie together. Pour into a bowl. Sprinkle toppings over the smoothie.

Yup, it’s that easy! And it’s surprisingly delicious! The protein keeps you full until your next meal, the goji berries and blueberries are full of antioxidants, you’ve got your veggies in the form of kale and broccoli, and healthy fats via the hemp seeds. And did I say it’s delicious? It’s basically like…dessert for breakfast! (See what I did there? Foodie trendz for the win! *high fives self*)

Honestly, this smoothie bowl is much more delicious than it sounds.  Try it out, switch up the toppings, and come up with your own trendy version! And then post your version in the comments. Maybe it’ll go viral!

Next Post: The Sandwich Bread post, probably. Because I’ve already made the recipe twice and there are two more loaves in the oven right now!

Making the Most of Leftovers: Easy Pickled Vegetables

Pickled veggies displayed prior to consumption.

Pickled veggies displayed prior to consumption.

Given that I’m not a morning person, I usually prepare the day’s lunches the night before. Tonight I was making Thai spring rolls, and had some sliced green peppers left over. And given that I have a waste not, want not philosophy when it comes to food, you know I had to use them up somehow. So I made some pickled vegetables!

Want to make some too? They’re the work of a few minutes only!

Easy Pickled Vegetables

  • 3 small carrots, sliced thinly
  • 2 onions, sliced
  • 1/2 green pepper, cut in thin strips length-wise
  • pinch mustard powder
  • 1 c. water
  • 1/2 c. white vinegear
  • 1/2 c. apple cider vinegar
  • pinch black pepper
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 bay leaf
  • pinch of hot pepper flakes

Mix vinegars, water, and all spices (so everything but the veggies) in a bowl and heat in the microwave for 3 minutes. The pickling brine should be nice and hot when you pour it over the chopped vegetables in a large bowl. Make sure to press down the veggies so that they all get bathed in the brine; I stirred and pressed down gently with a potato masher, repeatedly for about 5 minutes. Then I scooped the veggies into sterilized jars, making sure to top up with brine to cover all the veggies in the jar. Let them sit for at least overnight. And then voila — condiment time!

Stirring the veggies with the pickling juice.

Stirring the veggies with the pickling juice.

I used these quantities and ended up with just the right amount to fill three half pint jars. Given that I fully expect to eat these pickled veggies within a few weeks, I only sterilized the jars in the microwave. I’ll keep the jars in the fridge until used, but had I done a quick water bath, they would be properly canned and could stay on my cupboard shelves for several months. But they’re too tasty to last that long!

Now, what shall I use these pickled recipes on? I shall probably use it as a topping for veggie burgers, sandwiches, and salads. I’ve used previous batches on pizza, which was surprisingly delicious with crumbled feta. Mmm…now I want to eat! Maybe I’ll just eat one of the Thai spring rolls that I had leftover from tomorrow’s lunch prep. Yes, that’s what I’ll do!

Next Post: Cherry Pie, a la Francais! Followed by homemade copycat oreos. Chocolate-dipped copycat oreos. So. Good!

Post-Pub Edit: Do link-ups work? Bloggers say that they increase blog traffic, and hey, I’m all for that! So this is now my contribution to Christy Jordan’s latest link-up.