MATT'S BEER WE GO! GREAT LAKES BREWERY DEVIL'S PALE ALE 666

Happy Hallowe'en boos and ghouls! I hope your day has been filled with chills and thrills, and perhaps if you're anything like me, booze (but only in moderation mind you, or in my case, just this one can...so far!).

The same folks who brought you my earlier post about Pumpkin Ale has conjured up from the hottest depths of Hell this devilish brew which is oh so apt for today and all that it entails.

Not only did they pick a demonic name, they ensured that the "666" theme ran through and through the very making of this drink:
  • 666 kg of malt were used;
  • 6.66 kg of hops;
  • 66.6 minutes of boiling;
  • 6% alcohol;
  • conceived on 6/6/06.
Now is that devotion or is that devotion??

Settle in now dear reader as we descend into the lair of Lucifer and try this beer! (A bit melodramatic perhaps?)

Canned with a very blunt artistic make up, the beer pours a deep amber brown, although if you hold it into direct lamp light: blood red!!! Muahaha...

Like the Serpent tempting Eve in the Garden, it has an appealing nose of fresh grains, chiefly malt, and is sinple..erm, simple, and straight forward to the point.

Although I am not a fan of most ales and bitters as you may be well aware, this one does not offend by being overly bitter, although it certainly is a bitter ale. The taste is smooth even with a big alcohol content, and is light, with noticeable hops and definite malts, producing a smoldering, smoking, musty taste (must be all the sulphur in the Bottomless Pit).

It finishes quite nicely as the bitterness fades off into eternal damnation, leaving a slight grainy sweetness to complete this wickedly good ale.

Wow. Maybe I'm a convert to certain dark ales...then again, maybe the Devil made me do it...because, as the can itself says on its back, "The Devil made me brew it!"

Pick up a can or two of this tonight while you still can, it'll possess you and won't let you go...hopefully without unfortunate head spinning, spider walking or other physical contortions a la The Exorcist. In any case, it's a sinfully good brew!!

*** out of 4

Purchased at a Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO) store for C$2.60 (US$2.40).

From LCBO.com:

DEVIL'S PALE ALE, 473 mL can
LCBO #615880
Beer, Ale, Craft Brewery
6% Alcohol/Vol.
Sugar Content: 3
Made in: Ontario, Canada
By: Great Lakes Brewing Co. Inc.
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ORZO WITH BROCCOLI PESTO

This is a very interesting take on making pesto. I'm sure you've seen all sorts of varieties using arugula, spinach, tomatoes etc. but I think this one is quite unique in flavour. Broccoli itself is quite grassy in flavour, but with the addition of Parmesan cheese and fruity olive oil it blends nicely together to make a smooth slightly tangy spinach like flavoured sauce. I liked the idea of mixing orzo with the broccoli pesto since this then could be served as a quick side dish with any meal. However, you could substitute any other kind of pasta that you really like.

Serves 4 sides
Yields about 2 cups

Ingredients:
  • 1-1/2 cup orzo pasta
  • 2 heads of broccoli (discard stems)
  • one large handful of fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 garlic cloves
  • 1/4 cup toasted walnuts
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
  • 2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • coarse salt and freshly cracked black pepper
  • low sodium chicken stock (if needed to thin out the sauce)

1. Put a pot of boiling water on, and cook the broccoli florets for 2 minutes. Drain the water and immerse the broccoli under cold water to stop the cooking process.

2. Put another pot of boiling water to cook the orzo pasta. Read the package directions to cook the pasta. Once done cooking, drain and place the cooked orzo back in the pot, drizzle 1 tbsp of olive oil and place the lid on for now.

3. In a food processor, add in the cooked broccoli florets, the parsley, garlic cloves, toasted walnuts, Parmesan cheese, and the fresh lemon juice. Pulse the ingredients together until a paste forms. Taste it at this point and season if you wish with salt and pepper.

4. While pulsing the mixer, slowly drizzle in the extra virgin olive oil. Note: if you would rather have it thinned out a bit more, add in a bit of chicken stock or water. Mix together the cooked orzo pasta with the pesto and serve immediately.

Cook's note: Store the pesto in an airtight container to prevent the broccoli from changing colour. Use within the next few days.


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DRIED SAGE CHICKEN WITH BALSAMIC TOMATO SAUCE

It seems all of us need more and more chicken dinner recipes, so I wanted to write a recipe that was fast, easy and satisfying, for those nights where you just don't want to cook dinner. The balsamic in the tomato sauce really makes you feel like you're having a tomato flavoured barbeque sauce on top of the chicken. It really is a satisfying meal and I hope that you will give it a try. Serve this with a nice simple salad and rice.

Serves 2

Ingredients:

  • 2 chicken breasts, skinless and boneless (halved length ways)
  • coarse salt and freshly cracked black pepper
  • 2 tsp dried sage
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced finely
  • 1/2 cup white wine or chicken stock
  • 1 cup tangy tomato sauce
  • 3 tsp balsamic vinegar
  • chicken juices

1. Heat oil in a non-stick skillet on medium high heat, season the halved chicken breasts with salt, pepper and the dried sage. Sear the chicken breasts for about 5 minutes per side, set them on a plate and place foil over it.

2. Turn the heat down to low, add in the garlic cloves and let it cook for a minute, then pour in the 1/2 cup of white wine. Scrape up all of the chicken bits from the bottom of the pan. Stir in the tomato sauce and the balsamic vinegar.

3. Take the chicken juices that are on the plate with the cooked chicken and pour that into the pan as well. As soon as the sauce comes together turn the heat off and serve immediately.

Cook's tip: If you like the sauce to be a bit loose and not as thick add 1/4 cup more wine or stock.


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MATT'S WINE NOT! RUFFINO CHIANTI 2008 ITALIAN RED WINE

What's better than wine dear reader? I'm trying to think...a million dollars? Yeah, probably...but I'm not going to worry about THAT anytime soon. Hmm, what else? A great vacation? Sure, but that's fleeting. Well, I happen to know what IS better than wine. Easy.



FREE WINE!!!!



Big...shout out (is that what the kids say?) to E. and V. for their gracious gift of this wine: this blog's for them! The thing is though *whispers* sometimes when wine is given as a present, it turns out to be pretty lousy...

But...HAPPY DAY! This one ain't lousy! Score again!!! What luck have I! Free wine and delicious to boot! Maybe I should play ye olde lottery...pshhsh.

For now though, sit back and enjoy as you revel in the delights of this fine Italian vino, which apparently is made predominantly in Tuscany.

And what a fine wine it is, even the cork is classy, as it reflects the lion rampant (suddenly I know heraldry?!) on the shield of the label. Once poured, a lighter cherry red hue embraces the glass, not as deep as most other reds. As it turns out, this cherry theme carried onwards in both smell and taste.

Upon a few nice whiffs, one can pick up some peppery spice, along with raisins and a nice deep nose of dark fruits, including the aforementioned cherry. Although spices in red wine scare me (I'm seeking therapy, honestly), it is my duty to carry onward!!

*Glug glug glug!* Ah, what a pleasant surprise: no hint of spice really in the taste! This is something I truly have learned dear reader: that which one smells is not necessarily reciprocated in taste, and vice versa. (Maybe I should put that on a bumper sticker.) Anyway!

This chianti is light to medium bodied, fresh, with smooth pleasant flavouring, with a touch of berries and of course, cherries! The aftertaste fades nicely, but not too quickly, rounding out this wine wonderfully in all categories that one may be concerned with. Or something.

So, to sum up, I think I'll call this wine the wine of the three cherries: colour, smell, taste. Wouldn't three cherries win you something on a slot machine? Methinks so!

Maybe I should play the lottery. In the meantime, go out and try this wine, you'll love it. And next time you're given a wine for free, don't necessarily fear: you may be pleasantly surprised!

***1/4 out of 4

Given to me for free from a Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO) store for C$0.00 (US$0.00).

(But you can buy it for C$26.95 (US$25.01)).

From LCBO.com:

RUFFINO CHIANTI, 1500 mL bottle
LCBO #42606 (750 mL bottle: #1743)
Wine, Red Wine
12.5% Alcohol/Vol.
Sugar Content: 1
Made in: Tuscany, Italy
By: Chianti Ruffino S.P.A.
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DANCING SKELETON COCOA COOKIES

This is my Halloween post here on Food Tastes Yummy! I'm not really one to dress up for the occassion but I do love dressing up food. This is a recipe that I recently found on the Canadian Living Magazine (November 2009 issue) and saw these oh so cute cookies and knew I had to try them. Although I have to admit my icing technique was not as good as the magazine I still think I did a ghoulish job. This is a fun one to do with the kids. Have a Happy Halloween everyone!

Adapted from the "Dancing Skeleton Cookies" recipe from the Canadian Living Magazine (November 2009 Issue)

Makes about 32 cookies

Preheat the oven to 350 Degrees F.

Baking time: 20-22 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2-1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2-1/2 cups icing sugar
  • 3 tbsp milk

1. Preheat the oven to 350 F and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until it gets fluffy. Then beat in the egg and the vanilla extract.

2. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt. Slowly stir it into the butter mixture until a dough forms. Wrap it into two discs and refrigerate it for about 30 minutes to firm up.

3. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the discs to 1/4" (5 mm) thickness and using a 3" gingerbread cookie cutter, cut out the shapes. reroll the dough and do it again.

4. Place the gingerbread cutouts onto the lined baking sheet and place them into the refrigerator for 20 minutes to firm up a bit. Then bake in the oven for 20-22 minutes or until they're firm to the touch. Cool completely before icing.

5. In a bowl, whisk together the icing sugar with the milk, adding up to 1/4 cup more sugar if needed. The icing should be smooth and should hold it's shape when piped. Use a piping bag fitted with a small plain tip or a paper piping cone and start icing the skeletons. Let the icing harden for about an hour and enjoy!

Cook's tip: Place them into an airtight container for up to 3 days.


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CARAMELIZED ONION QUICHE

I really wanted to incorporate more egg recipes into the Food Tastes Yummy menu. The good thing about using eggs is that it can take pretty much any ingredient and make it work- i.e. caramelized onions. I should mention here that I do have a serious weakness for anything with caramelized onions in it. Now although I realize it is a bit time consuming to make caramelized onions I feel it is well worth the effort. You just can't replace the savoury sweetness that comes through. This is a melt in your mouth savoury pie that is just simply heaven!

Adapted and modified from the "Caramelized Onion Quiche" recipe on SimplyRecipes.com Posted by: Elise

Serves 6

Preheat the oven to 350 Degrees F.

Baking time: 30 minutes

Ingredients:
  • homemade or a pre-made frozen pie crust (that can fit a 9" pie plate)
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 large red onions, sliced thin
  • coarse salt and freshly cracked black pepper
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp balsamic vinegar
  • 3 large eggs, beaten (can use substitute)
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 2 tbsp chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 cup Gruyere cheese, shredded
1. Preheat the oven to 350 F. Line the pie shell with parchment paper and fill two-thirds of the pie shell with pie weights i.e. dried beans or rice. Bake the pie crust for 15 minutes, take it out of the oven and let cool.

2. Heat oil in a large heavy bottom skillet on medium heat, and place in the onions. Saute the onions for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Make sure to season with salt and pepper, and 1 tsp of sugar. Note: this will help the caramelization process further. After the onions become translucent, lower the heat down to low. Cook for another 30 minutes. In the last 5 minutes of cooking drizzle in 1 tsp of balsamic vinegar.

3. In a bowl, whisk together the eggs, salt, pepper, chopped parsley and the shredded cheese. Add the caramelized onions into the partially cooked pie crust and pour in the egg mixture. Gently stir to mix up the caramelized onion with the cheese and eggs. You want some of the onions to show on top. Bake it in the oven for about 30 minutes or until just set and golden brown. Cool for 10 minutes then serve.


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TURKEY KIELBASA SPICY JAMBALAYA

Jambalaya is a creole dish that is quite popular in Louisiana. This dish was heavily influenced by Spanish and French cuisine. I've always considered jambalaya to be a cross between a spicy tomato risotto and a hearty meaty stew, so if you like the sound of that combination, chances are you will love this dish. It really is a one-pot meal that can easily feed a crowd of people. Although there are many variations of this dish, I chose to go the simple route and use a smokey turkey kielbasa sausage. You can easily substitute shrimp, chicken or shellfish into this recipe as well if you like.

Serves 4

Ingredients:
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 turkey kielbasa sausage - quartered (I used a 375 g sausage)
  • 1 stalk of celery, diced
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • coarse salt and freshly cracked black pepper (to taste)
  • 3 sprigs of fresh thyme
  • 1/4 tsp dried basil
  • 1/2 tsp each: ground cumin, smoked paprika
  • 2 tsp chili powder
  • pinch of cayenne (optional)
  • 1 cup white rice
  • 1-1/2 cup low sodium chicken stock
  • 1 can diced tomatoes (28 oz.)
  • Bay leaf
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 5 white or cremini mushrooms, sliced
  • handful of chopped fresh parsley (optional)

1. Heat oil in a large deep shallow pan, sear the quartered turkey sausage for a few minutes, than place them on a plate for now. In the same pan, add in the chopped celery and onion, making sure to season them. When the onion gets translucent, add and toast all of the herbs and spices for a minute. Turn the heat down to low, add in the rice and lightly toast it as well.

2. Pour in the chicken stock and the diced tomatoes, and start to scrap up all of the brown bits on the bottom of the pan. Add in the bay leaf and garlic. Cover and simmer for about 30 minutes or until the rice is cooked. Note: make sure to stir occasionally to make sure the rice does not stick to the bottom of the pan.

3. When there is a few minutes left of cooking, add the sliced mushrooms and the cooked turkey sausage. Turn the heat off as soon as it is finished cooking and fold in the chopped parsley. Serve immediately.

Cooks tip: If you find the chicken stock cooks out too quickly go ahead and add a 1/4 cup more at a time.


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HERBED MUSHROOMS WITH WHITE WINE

My husband and I happen to love mushrooms and this recipe turned out to be a new family favourite. The mushrooms are sauteed with a dried herb blend, minced garlic and white wine. The wine reduces and gets absorbed right into the mushrooms. What's good about this recipe is that you can change up any type of mushrooms you like. I used the most well known variety - the simple button mushroom - but really you can use whatever looks good at the supermarket. Give these a try as your next side dish!

Adapted from the "Herbed Mushrooms with White Wine" recipe. Submitted by: Laura on allrecipes.com (Easy Everyday Favourites magazine: December 2006)

Serves 6

Ingredients:
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1-1/2 lb fresh mushrooms
  • 1 tsp Italian herb blend seasoning
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • coarse salt and ground black pepper to taste
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh green onion or chives

Heat the olive oil into a non-stick skillet over medium heat. Saute the mushrooms and season with the Italian herb blend, salt and pepper for about 5-7 minutes. Make sure to stir frequently. Add in the wine and the garlic, and continue to cook until most of the wine has been evaporated. Sprinkle the green onion or chopped chives and serve.


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TENDER ONE-PAN STEAK AND POTATOES

My family really enjoys eating steak and potato meals but sometimes I just don't feel like all of the clean up afterwards. Usually, you need to use a non-stick skillet for the steak and then you need to use another pot to boil the potatoes, among some other things. On this particular night, I really wanted to keep it simple. I made an earthy rustic sauce using tomato paste, beef stock and red wine vinegar. The secret ingredient in the sauce however, is the anchovy paste. I know it sounds a bit odd but I think once you taste it you'll see how it really helps to bring out the earthy flavours in the dish. At the end you get a tender beef and potatoes dish that will just melt in your mouth.

Serves 2

Ingredients:
  • 4 moist and tender quick fry steaks (usually packaged together)
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • coarse salt and freshly cracked black pepper
  • half a medium red onion, sliced thin
  • 1 cup of low-sodium beef stock
  • 1/4 tsp dried rosemary or thyme
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • 2 tsp anchovy paste
  • 2 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 medium sized potatoes, quartered
  • juice of two limes (or cut into wedges when serving)

1. Preheat a large shallow non-stick skillet on medium high heat, drizzle in the olive oil . Season the steaks on both sides with salt and pepper, and start to sear the steaks on both sides. Add in the sliced onion to saute for a minute.

2. In a bowl, combine the beef stock, dried herb, tomato paste, anchovy paste, and the red wine vinegar. Pour and stir in the mixture into the pan to deglaze. Add in the minced garlic and the potatoes and lower the heat down to a gentle simmer. Cover the pan and simmer for about 25-30 minutes. Note: make sure to check the steaks halfway through cooking. If you find the stock cooking out too quickly for you add a bit more stock or water.

3. Once you're ready to serve, juice a couple of limes on top of the steaks. This will give it another layer of flavour and eat!


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PURPLE COLESLAW

Serving coleslaw brings both freshness and zing to any meal. I wanted to use ingredients that were eye catching since we all feast with our eyes first. I used purple cabbage (if you haven't caught on already), sliced red onion, green onions and an apple. The sweetness of the apple matches perfectly with the zingy red wine vinegar dressing. It really is a nice balance. This coleslaw dressing is a nice alternative to the creamy version and you know what they say about most coleslaws...the longer it sits the better it gets.

Serves 4

Ingredients:
  • 4 cups red cabbage, thinly shredded
  • 2 green onions, chopped
  • half a small red onion, sliced thin
  • 1 apple, cored and sliced into matchsticks
  • 3 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • coarse salt
  • freshly cracked black pepper
  • 2 tsp dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp liquid honey
  • 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

In a large salad bowl, add and mix in the shredded cabbage, chopped green onions, sliced red onion and the sliced apple. In a small bowl, combine the red wine vinegar, coarse salt, pepper, dijon mustard and the liquid honey. Slowly whisk in the extra virgin olive oil until the dressing is emulsified. Toss the dressing with the salad using tongs and put it into the refrigerator for a good 30 minutes to get crisp and serve.


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Ahhh a chocolate cake...I don't think I need to say much more.

Cake recipe: adapted and modified from the "Easy Chocolate Cake" recipe from The Canadian Living Magazine: July 2009 Issue.

Frosting recipe: adapted from the "Dark Chocolate Buttercream Frosting" recipe from http://www.cooks.com/ website.

Serves 12-16

Preheat the oven to 350 Degrees F.

Baking time: 30 minutes

Cake Ingredients: makes two 8"/9" round cakes
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 cup cold strong coffee
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 3 tbsp white vinegar

Frosting Ingredients: yields 2 cups

  • 2-2/3 confectioner's sugar
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 6 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 5-6 tbsp milk
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1 tbsp corn syrup

Preheat the oven to 350 F, grease and line with parchment paper two 8" or 9" round cake pans (or you can use square pans if you like). In a large bowl, combine all of the dry ingredients, then add and mix in all of the wet ingredients. Equally divide the cake batter into two round cake pans and bake for 30 minutes or until a tester inserted comes out clean. Cool the cakes completely before icing.

Combine the confectioner's sugar and the cocoa powder in a bowl. In another bowl, cream together the unsalted butter and 1/2 cup of the cocoa mixture. Alternately, add and stir in the milk and the cocoa mixture. Keep beating the mixture together until you see it come to the right frosting consistency. Stir in the vanilla extract and the tbsp of corn syrup. Frost and layer the cooled cakes.

Cooks tip: If you desire a lot of icing on your cake go ahead and make a double batch of this frosting. Also, if you prefer cupcakes this recipe makes about 24 cupcakes.



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THYME BUTTERMILK BISCUITS

This is really a basic recipe for buttery buttermilk biscuits that can be made with so many different ingredients to suit your individual tastes. I happen to love the slightly lemony bite that the dried thyme gives to these biscuits, but really it's up to you how you want to make this. You can even keep it plain flavoured if you like. This is an easy recipe that I could do blindfolded. Make a ton of these and keep the pre-baked biscuits in the freezer, so anytime you feel like biscuits all you have to do is bake them! I think you'll be enjoying them a lot more often now, enjoy! I will suggest other variations of this biscuit recipe that you can make below.

Makes about 8

Preheat the oven to 450 Degrees F.

Baking time: about 13-15 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • pinch of salt
  • 3 tsp dried thyme (optional)
  • 5 tbsp cold butter, cut into cubes
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk
  • 1 egg, beaten (optional: if you want biscuits to be more crumbly)

Preheat the oven to 450 F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In a large bowl, sift in the flour, baking powder, and pinch of salt. Add in the dried thyme and the cubes of cold butter, using a pastry cutter or the tips of your fingers, incorporate the butter into the flour mixture. The flour should look like coarse crumbs.

Add and stir in the egg (if using) and the buttermilk into the flour mixture, just until a dough starts to come together. Lightly flour a large cutting board and start to gently roll out the dough to about 1/2" thick.

Using a round cookie cutter, start to cut the dough into discs and place them onto the baking sheet. Bake the biscuits in the oven for about 13-15 minutes or until golden brown. Best served warm with a spread of butter.

Other Variations:

Herbed biscuits - can replace the dried thyme with any other dried herb you like. You can also add fresh herbs like sage, rosemary or thyme as well.

Raisins or dried cranberries - Add 1 tbsp of sugar into the flour mixture and about 1/2 cup of raisins or dried cranberries.

Cheese biscuits - Add about 2/3 cup of shredded/grated cheddar or another full flavoured cheese that you like.


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SIMPLE TUNA BURGERS

Although I am quite partial to fresh tuna and would love to be able to buy and use that regularly in my home cooking it's pretty pricey, which prevents me from going to purchase that at my local farmers market. However, I always have cans of tuna available in my pantry so I used that in my delicious tuna burgers, that I think that even kids would love. If you enjoy eating burgers and need yet another fish burger recipe this one is for you!

Adapted and modified from the "Tasty Tuna Burgers" recipe submitted by: Marbalet on Allrecipes.com

Makes 4

Ingredients:
  • 1 (6 oz) can tuna, well drained
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup Italian seasoned bread crumbs
  • 1/3 cup onion, finely minced
  • 1/4 cup celery, finely minced
  • 2 tbsp light mayonnaise (Extra needed to spread on burger buns)
  • 2 tbsp chili sauce
  • 2 dashes of hot pepper sauce (optional)
  • 1/2 tsp dried dill weed
  • coarse salt and freshly cracked black pepper
  • 4 hamburger/kaiser buns (or can use a toasted baguette)
  • 1 medium sized tomato, sliced
  • 4 lettuce leaves (optional)

In a large bowl, combine the drained tuna, bread crumbs, onion, celery, mayonnaise, chili sauce, dill, salt, pepper, and hot pepper sauce. Shape the mixture into 4 equal patties. Note: the mixture will be quite delicate to the touch) I recommend refrigerating the patties for 30-40 minutes to firm up a bit.

In a non-stick skillet, drizzle about 2 tbsp of olive oil or coat the skillet with cooking spray. On medium heat, fry the tuna patties for about 4 minutes per side. Since these are delicate becareful turning the burgers over. Serve these burgers on a toasted burger bun with a slice of tomato and lettuce leaf on top. Spread a generous spoonful of mayo on the bun and enjoy!


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HERBED BALSAMIC POTATO AND TOMATO BAKE

I like to keep side dishes fun and exciting by adding herbs, spices, mustard or vinegars to the vegetables. In this particular side dish, I added a blend of my favourite dried herbs and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar. I placed it into the oven and baked it along side with chopped garlic, and the dish turned out to be a winner! The balsamic vinegar gets crusted onto the potato and the tomato flavour really concentrates as well. I served it along side spiced pork skewers, but honestly I have to say the star of the show was the potato and tomato bake. This is a good one to serve to your guests, enjoy!

Serves 4

Preheat the oven to 425 Degrees F

Baking time: 30-40 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium red onion, sliced
  • 5-6 medium sized potatoes, sliced into half moon shapes
  • 4 medium firm tomatoes, cut into wedges
  • 8 garlic cloves, cut in half
  • coarse salt and freshly cracked black pepper
  • 2 tbsp Italian herb seasoning blend (can substitute: vegetable blend seasoning)
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 tbsp balsamic vinegar

1. Preheat the oven to 425 F and line a large baking sheet with foil and parchment paper. Note: This step with the parchment paper is important so you can prevent any chance of burning from the balsamic vinegar.

2. Place the sliced onion, potatoes, tomatoes and garlic onto the baking sheet, and sprinkle on the salt, pepper and the Italian herb seasoning blend. Drizzle on the olive oil and the balsamic vinegar, and start to gently mix all of the ingredients together using your clean hands.

3. Bake it in the oven for 30-40 minutes or until the potatoes are tender. Make sure to flip the potatoes over onto the other side halfway through baking. Serve warm with any grilled or roasted meat.

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MATT'S WINE NOT! MARQUÉS DE RISCAL LIMOUSIN 2007 SPANISH WHITE WINE

Well dear reader! This wine was a bit of a mystery to me, both in variety and where the hell exactly it was made, but thanks to my extraordinary powers of deduction (i.e. using the Internet) I was able to find out. Kinda makes you wonder how Sherlock Holmes did it all those years ago.


...What do you mean Sherlock Holmes wasn't real.

Next thing you'll be telling me that I'll be wasting my time come Hallowe'en waiting for The Great Pumpkin.

Anyway! The story how I even came to buy this wine is quite the tale indeed. A long time ago, in a liquor store far, far away (actually just around and down the street) I came across this bottle sitting in the corner of a shelf, calling to me...primarily because it was discounted. So I bought it.

Turns out I've never tried this variety of grape with which this wine was made which - only by looking on the back of the bottle - did I find out was made with the verdejo variety of white grape in a region named Rueda, in Spain. This area of Spain has been producing wine since the 11th century (egads!) and is known for producing this grape variety, which originally originated from North Africa. And now it produced this bottle for my table.

Nice to see a detailed cork as always, it gave a light yellow apple juice colour, with sweet fragrant notes of apples in the nose (perfect for Fall).

Upon taste, it is indeed medium bodied and smooth, without any hint of sharpness, and is fairly buttery, a little woody, not terribly sweet, and frankly, almost a little flat. Well...hmm...flat might be too harsh, it just doesn't have that zing that other varieties of whites have, and is certainly dry.

The aftertaste left a little hint of apple reverberating.

Meh. It was fairly nice, nothing astounding, but paired with the right food (perhaps something a little strong or spicy, so this wine could take the edge off?), it could be much better than on its own. It might not have been the limousine of white wines, but at least, oh, a nice Buick?

**3/4 out of 4

Purchased at a Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO) store for C$15.00 (US$14.24).

From LCBO.com:

MARQUÉS DE RISCAL LIMOUSIN 2007, 750 mL bottle
LCBO/Vintages #153742
Wine, White Wine
13.5% Alcohol/Vol.
Sugar Content: D
Made in: Rueda, Spain
By: Vinos De Los Herederos Del Marqués De Riscal
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QUICK CHICKEN MARBELLA

Chicken marbella is a dish that I first read about in The Silver Palate Cookbook. I was really intrigued by the Spanish and Moroccan flavours in this dish, but like a lot of the recipes in the cookbook I found this one to take a lot of hours. The recipe called for marinading the chicken overnight and then baking it for an hour or so. Although I'm sure the authentic chicken marbella is absolutely fantastic I just don't have enough patience to wait for my meal. I instead created a quick version of this dish, where I do the whole meal on the stove-top and use halved chicken breasts, without marinading them. My husband and I really enjoyed it and I found the same sweet, sour and salty flavours come through. I recommend serving this with either cooked rice or couscous. Take yourself on a culinary adventure with this quick chicken marbella.

Serves 3

Ingredients:

  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 chicken breasts, cut in half
  • coarse salt and fresh black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp Spanish paprika
  • 1/4 tsp dried oregano
  • 4 garlic cloves, grated
  • 1 small onion, sliced thinly
  • orange bell pepper, sliced thin (optional)
  • 1/4 cup green olives, halved
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup prunes, pitted
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

1. Preheat a large deep non-stick skillet on medium high heat, drizzle in the olive oil and place in the halved chicken breasts. Season the chicken with salt, pepper, Spanish paprika and the oregano. Sear the chicken about 2 minutes on both sides.

2. Add in the grated garlic, sliced onion, the sliced bell pepper (if using) and the green olives, gently mix with the chicken. Once the onion is translucent, deglaze the pan with the white wine and the red wine vinegar. Make sure to the scrap the brown bits off of the bottom of the pan. Let the alcohol cook out.

3. Sprinkle in the tablespoon of brown sugar and place the lid on for about 5-7 minutes so the chicken can finish cooking. In the last minute of cooking, gently mix in the prunes and the chopped parsley. Once the prunes start to soften turn the heat off. Serve immediately with rice or couscous.



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SHRIMP AND VEGETABLE SPAGHETTI

This is a quick spaghetti recipe that definitely looks like a restaurant quality meal. Sometimes you don't need a creamy or tomato based sauce to enjoy spaghetti. All I did here was take some of my favourite hearty vegetables and tossed it quickly with some garlic, oil and pasta water. This is a fast supper that will be sure to please all palates. If you don't like some of the vegetables that I listed please feel free to substitute whatever you like. You can omit the shrimp altogether if you would like a full vegetarian supper as well. I hope you all enjoy!

Serves 2 generously

Ingredients:
  • 6-8 oz. spaghetti
  • 1/4 cup of reserved pasta water
  • 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced finely
  • half a small onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 medium carrot, shredded
  • 1 red bell pepper, sliced thin
  • small eggplant, cubed
  • 2 green onions, cut into thirds, then sliced length ways
  • coarse salt
  • freshly cracked black pepper
  • 20-25 shrimp, peeled and de-veined
  • 1 small tomato, diced
  • handful of chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1. Cook the spaghetti in a large pot of boiling water for about 8 minutes or until al dente. Note: when the spaghetti is halfway through cooking then start the next step.

2. Heat and oil a large skillet on medium heat, add in the minced garlic and onion. Saute for a minute, then add the shredded carrot, red bell pepper, eggplant and the green onions. Make sure to season the vegetables with salt and pepper. Cook for minute then add in the shrimp and the diced tomato.

3. Once the spaghetti is done add it immediately into the sauteed vegetables along with 1/4 cup of pasta water. Turn the heat off, and using tongs mix the spaghetti, vegetables, and the chopped parsley altogether. Serve immediately with a generous sprinkle of grated Parmesan cheese.

Cooks tip: You will know when the shrimp is done cooking when it has turned pink on all sides. Make sure not to overcook the shrimp, since it will taste rubbery if you do.


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FRESH APPLE CAKE MUFFINS WITH A BUTTERMILK GLAZE

I came across this recipe on Paula Deen's website where she called it "Grandgirl's Fresh Apple Cake from Georgia." I started to read through the recipe and knew I just had to try it. I pounce on any good apple cake recipe when I find one. Although I love making cakes there are just not enough mouths to feed in my family to finish this; so determined to make this I scaled the recipe down. I also made a few minor adjustments so it would suit my needs and presto I had the perfect apple muffin recipe, which I will use for a long time! The buttermilk glaze just made this muffin cake even more over the top! Love it!

Adapted and modified from Paula Deen's "Grandgirl's Fresh Apple Cake from Georgia" recipe. From the show: Paula's Home Cooking and from PaulaDeen.com

Makes 12 muffins

Preheat the oven to 375 Degrees F.

Baking time: 20-23 minutes

Ingredients:
  • 1-1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/2 tbsp ground cinnamon
  • 2 eggs
  • 3/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 3 tbsp orange juice
  • 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup quick cooking oats
  • 1-1/2 cup golden delicious apples, peeled, cored and finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans (optional)
  • 2 tbsp buttermilk
  • 1 cup powdered sugar

1. Preheat the oven to 375 F and grease the muffin pan, then lightly sprinkle the whole pan with sugar. In a large bowl, combine and gently mix the flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon.

2. Make a little well in the centre of the flour mix, and add in the eggs, vegetable oil, orange juice and vanilla extract. Mix until just moist. Pour in the quick cooking oats, the chopped apples and the chopped pecans (if using) and gently mix those in as well.

3. Spoon the batter evenly into the muffin pan and bake it in the oven for about 20-23 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean. Let cool for about 10 minutes before taking the muffins out of the pan. Cool completely before glazing the muffin cakes.

4. For the glaze: In a bowl, add and mix in the 2 tbsp of buttermilk and the powdered sugar. Drizzle on top of the cooled muffin cakes. Let the glaze set then eat!


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APPLE CORNBREAD STUFFING

What's a roasted turkey meal without stuffing? With the holidays fast approaching I wanted to do a classic cornbread stuffing recipe but with the tart and sweetness of apples. I had leftover corn muffins from a few days ago so I used those in my recipe, but you could always just purchase cornbread and use that instead. This stuffing recipe is cooked on the stove-top and can be served right away. If you like your stuffing to be a bit less moist then you could always bake it in the oven at 375 F for about 20-30 minutes.

Serves 4

Ingredients:
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • small onion, chopped finely
  • 2 green onions, chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, diced
  • half a red bell pepper, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 golden delicious apples, peeled, cored and diced
  • 2 cups coarsely crumbled corn muffins (should be dry) - I used 4 muffins
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • coarse salt and freshly cracked black pepper
  • 1 tsp Old Bay Seasoning blend
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries (optional)

Heat and oil a large non-stick skillet. Add in the chopped onions, green onions, celery, red bell pepper, minced garlic and the golden delicious apples. Saute for a good 5 minutes. Make sure to season the mixture with salt and pepper.

Turn the heat to low, then crumble in the corn muffins and stir to cook for about 1 minute. Note: make sure the cornbread is dried out when you add it in. Pour in the chicken stock and add in the old bay seasoning blend. You can add the dried cranberries at this point as well. Quickly stir so all of the mixture gets a chance to absorb the liquid. Gently cook for another minute then turn the heat off. It is ready to serve.

Cook's note: As mentioned above, if you would like to cook it further butter a baking dish, pour in the stuffing then bake it at 375 F for around 20 minutes or until lightly golden brown.


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TANGY ASPARAGUS AND CHERRY TOMATO SAUTE

One of my favourite vegetables are asparagus. I just love the earthy deep flavour that an asparagus gives when you eat it. Pairing this vegetable along side cherry tomatoes adds a nice slight sweet taste, that help make this a perfect quick vegetable side dish.

Serves 2 generously

Ingredients:

  • 2 tbsp good quality extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 large cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 bundle of asparagus, washed and trimmed
  • 2 tbsp water or stock
  • 1 pint of cherry tomatoes
  • coarse salt and freshly cracked black pepper
  • 3 tbsp white wine vinegar
  • Freshly shaved Parmesan cheese (optional)

Heat a large skillet on medium high and drizzle in 2 tbsp of olive oil. Saute the garlic and asparagus for about 2 minutes, then add in the water or stock to help steam the asparagus. Once the water has almost cooked out, add in the cherry tomatoes. Season with a couple good pinches of salt and little freshly cracked pepper. Drizzle in 3 tbsp of white wine vinegar and gently mix altogether. Once the vinegar has cooked out turn the heat off and serve immediately. Serve with freshly shaved Parm if you wish.


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I really like incorporating salmon into my diet. It is such a full flavoured fish it really doesn't need too much done to it. The taste just shines through even with a simple searing with salt and pepper. Salad is another story, it really needs a flavourful vinaigrette to jazz up the leafy greens. Since the mustard vinagrette is served warm, the ingredients in the dressing not only slightly wilt the salad greens but also give it a much sharper flavour. If you're looking for a light but satisfying meal this is it!

Adapted and modified from the Canadian Living Magazine: December 2004 issue. Recipe by the Canadian Living Test Kitchen.

Serves 4

Ingredients:
  • 4 salmon fillets (6 oz. each)
  • freshly cracked black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp dried thyme
  • 4 tbsp Extra virgin olive oil
  • half a small onion, thinly sliced (can use red onion)
  • 1 tbsp dijon mustard
  • 3 tbsp white wine vinegar
  • 1 package of fresh spinach
  • 1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, halved

Preheat a large non-stick skillet on medium high heat, season the salmon fillets with salt, pepper and the dried thyme. Drizzle in 1 tbsp of olive oil and start to sear the salmon fillet. It should take about 5 minutes per side. Once done, place the cooked salmon on a plate and place foil over it. In a salad bowl, add in the package of fresh spinach and the halved cherry tomatoes.

In the same pan, with any juice from the salmon drained off, drizzle in 2 tbsp of olive oil and turn the heat down to low. Gently saute the sliced onions for a minute, seasoning with salt and pepper. Whisk in the white wine vinegar and the dijon mustard for a minute. Then turn the heat off, add another tbsp of olive oil and then pour it quickly over the salad green. Mix together the salad and the dressing and serve immediately along side the salmon.

Cook's Tip: Can substitute the spinach for arugula if you wish. You can also add sliced avocado into the salad as well.


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CAULIFLOWER GRATIN

It was Mark Twain that said "Cauliflower is nothing but cabbage with a college education." I couldn't agree more. Cauliflower itself is actually quite a sophisticated vegetable but with really a bland taste and one that needs a bit of help. I find adding flavours, in this case being cheese and a creamy bechamel sauce, really adds the necessary boost that the cauliflower needs. Gratin essentially means a baked on crust and this method brings out the nutty flavour out of the cheese and the vegetable. This would be a great side dish with any meat that you're serving. Enjoy!

Serves 4

Preheat the oven to 400 Degrees F.

Baking time: 25 minutes

Ingredients:
  • 1 head of cauliflower, cut into florets
  • coarse salt
  • freshly cracked black pepper
  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter (substitute: olive oil)
  • 3 tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 1-1/2 cup warm milk
  • 1/2 cup low sodium chicken stock
  • pinch of ground or fresh nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup shredded Gruyere cheese
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup fresh bread crumbs (recommended: use day old butter croissants)
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

1. Preheat the oven to 400 F and lightly spray a casserole baking dish. Quickly blanch (i.e. partially cook) the caulflower florets in a pot of salted boilng water, for about 3 minutes. Drain the cauliflower and let it sit in the colander for a bit, to ensure all of the excess water is drained.

2. In a saucepan, on medium high heat, melt in 2 tbsp of butter and stir in 3 tbsp of flour. Let the flour cook for a minute, then slowly whisk in 1/2 cup of chicken stock and the 1-1/2 cups of warm milk. Keep whisking until you see the sauce thicken. Then season with salt, pepper and the ground nutmeg. Turn the heat off, then add in the shredded Gruyere and whisk it until it is well incorporated into the sauce.

3. In a small bowl, mix together the fresh breadcrumbs, chopped fresh parsley and the grated Parmesan cheese. Then start to assemble the gratin, by first adding in the drained cauliflower, topped with the cheesy bechamel sauce and then sprinkling the breadcrumb mixture on top. Bake it in the oven for about 25 minutes or until lightly golden brown on top. Cool for about 5-10 minutes before serving.

Cook's notes: If you would like to use all milk in the bechamel than please do. I happen to like the depth that chicken stock gives. You could also substitute Gruyere for a nice sharp white cheddar if you prefer that.


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MATT'S BEER WE GO! AFFLIGEM DUBBEL

I will be the first to admit, dear reader, that when it comes to dark beers or ales, I'm...weary at best (except for Guinness, which is, I don't care what people say, the fruit of the gods). There.

When I purchased this one, I didn't even know it was a dark beer/ale...although the subtle writing of "brune" on the bottom right-hand side of the label perhaps should have tipped me off. But hey, who the hell knows what brune means? (I should have...it's French for brown!!! Le d'oh.) Let's get to details, shall we, and leave the linguistics for another day.

This beer is named after the Affligem Abbey of Belgium, which was founded in the year 1074, and to this day, well, it only licenses its name to be slapped onto the label.

But! In its defence, they did brew beer since 1574, or, according to LCBO.com, since 1704 using traditional methods. Believe who you want I reckon! Anyway, I could think of worse things to do than making beer for centuries on end, seeing as there isn't much else to do in an Abbey save for pray and clean up after each other.

And this beer, to my delight, really cleaned up in the taste department. Let's see more, and come back in time to the days of when these noble monks worked to make a noble beer.

Using ye olde bottle opener, it pourethed a dark amber brown colour, and was says I, very rich looking (thou better believeth it)!

A smell as sweet as the most chaste of maidens greeted ye olde sniffer, deep and full, yet with hark! striking notes of malt.

I tasted it, and thou wilt also note dryness and thy good malt as in the smell, with bitterness, which, I art glad to reporteth, is not too overwhelming. Ye big alcohol punch of almost 7% does not kill the taste of this lovely ale, and remains true like a knight's honour: smooth, with a medium-full body.

When hence thou art almost finished thy beer, observe with thy senses the pleasant aftertaste, which aye, 'tis not too dry either nor too bitter, with some lingering sweetness. I say: interesting!

'Tis definitely not a beer to quaff in large amounts, or gulp down like the greediest of serfs, but nay, drink it like a Lord, with slowness, admiration, and enjoy...ability.

So, cart thyself down in thy cart to thy local inn keeper or ale hall, and demand this brew for thyself: thou shalt not regret choosing this ale once crafted by the humblest of monks (now owned by Heineken international conglomerate multinational beer interest).

*** out of 4

Purchased at Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO) store for C$2.75 (US$2.64).

From LCBO.com:

AFFLIGEM DUBBEL, 330 mL bottle
LCBO #125153
Beer, Ale
Sugar Content: 4
Made in: Belgium
By: Heinken'S Brouwerijen Nederland Bv
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CLASSIC SPAGHETTI AND MEATBALLS

Who doesn't love a classic spaghetti and meatballs? It seems almost everybody has a fond memory associated with this classic family dinner meal. I found that there are still quite a lot of people that don't know how to make this favourite, so I thought I would place this recipe on the spotlight on Food Tastes Yummy and do this comfort food proud!

Serves 4

Preheat the oven to 400 Degrees F.

Baking time: 10-12 minutes

Ingredients:
  • 3-1/2 cups of Classic Marinara Sauce (click on this link for my easy classic recipe)
  • 12 oz. spaghetti
  • 1 lb. Lean ground pork or beef
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup dry Italian bread crumbs
  • 1/4 cup grated onion
  • 2 cloves of garlic, grated
  • 1/2 tsp chili powder
  • 1 heaping tbsp ketchup
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese (extra needed when serving)
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley (extra needed when serving)
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/4 tsp each: coarse salt and ground pepper

1. Preheat the oven to 400 F and line a baking sheet with foil. In a large bowl, mix together all of the listed meatball ingredients. The easiest way of doing this is to use your clean hands. Make sure not to overmix, you don't want tough meatballs.

2. Shape the meatballs using a 1 tbsp measure as a guideline, and then place each meatball onto the lined baking sheet. Place it into the oven and bake it for about 10-12 minutes. Make sure not to overcook this.

3. Place a large pot of boiling water and salt the water. Place in the spaghetti and cook it until al dente, which should take about 8 minutes. Reheat the marinara sauce in a large deep pan.

4. Place the drained spaghetti into the pan with the marinara sauce and using tongs gently mix it altogether. Take out the baked meatballs and gently mix those into the spaghetti and sauce as well. Serve immediately with a sprinkle of freshly grated Parmesan cheese.


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CLASSIC MARINARA SAUCE

All good cooks should know how to make a basic marinara sauce that can be used for most recipes, that calls for a tomato base. This is one that I learned several years ago from an Italian friend who came to Canada to study at the same University as I. One day we just happened to be talking about cultural cooking methods; and she said that she was fascinated by how people in North America ate jarred tomato sauce; when it was easier and cheaper to make a fresh one at home. So obviously, to make a long story short, I asked her for a classic marinara recipe and any other secrets she could let loose. This recipe is the one that she gave to me, and the secret...is the grated carrot. Since tomatoes are naturally acidic she balanced it out using the sweetness from a carrot. Although classic marinara's don't have a grated vegetable in them she said that her father used it and it tasted great, so naturally she never stopped. Since I learned to make this I have never stopped using this recipe.

Makes 3-1/2 cups

Ingredients:
  • 2 tbsp good quality olive oil
  • 1 small onion, finely minced
  • 1 small carrot, grated
  • 2 cloves of garlic, grated
  • coarse salt
  • freshly cracked black pepper
  • 1 can of Italian whole peeled tomatoes (796ml/28 fl oz.)
  • 1/4 cup water or stock
  • 1 tsp tomato paste (can add 1 tsp more if you want the sauce more thick)
  • 1/2 tsp dried basil (use fresh if you have it)
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • pinch of hot pepper flakes (optional - if you like it a bit spicy)

Preheat a deep skillet on medium heat, drizzle in 2 tbsp of olive oil and add in the minced onion, grated carrot, and garlic. Season with salt and pepper and saute for 2 minutes.

Add in the can of whole tomatoes and break up the tomatoes using your wooden spoon. Pour in the 1/4 cup of water or stock and add in the tsp of tomato paste. Sprinkle in the dried basil and oregano. Simmer the sauce for about 10-12 minutes until slightly thickened. The sauce is now ready to use.

Cooks note: If you prefer a basic tomato sauce, omit the grated carrot and add in a teaspoon of sugar instead.


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