Monday, November 16, 2015

Sugar & Spice Pumpkin Seeds

Holiday traditions have always been a big deal in my family. Every year during Christmastime we always spend a day making Christmas cookies with my Oma, we always open presents from "Santa" on Christmas morning, we still do a gift hunt each Easter, and ever since I was old enough to hold an exacto knife in my hand my family has always taken the time to carve intricate pumpkins each Halloween. 
My 2015 Halloween Pumpkin Carving
Though busy schedules and different living arrangements has meant that we don't get to carve pumpkins all together as a family anymore, my sister and I have still carried on the tradition on our own, taking great care to carve our own pumpkins inspired by the ones our dad taught us to make growing up. Though the greatest delight for my sister and I was getting to spend hours dedicated to focusing on a craft (yes, carving pumpkins is the ultimate craft!), we also found joy in utilizing the slimy pumpkin seeds scraped out of the innards of the pumpkin by making Sugar & Spice Pumpkin Seeds. 
I can't even remember when I first came across Martha Stewart's recipe for Sweet and Spicy Pumpkin Seeds, but that too has now become an annual Halloween tradition thanks to its wonderful contrast of flavours and addictive appeal. I make these every single year a few days before Halloween, and even though I use sesame oil all year round, that smell of the sesame oil hitting the pan will always remind me of Halloween thanks to these delicious seeds. While Halloween brings out the worst sweet tooth in me as I find myself craving all of my favourite Halloween chocolates and candy, my Sugar & Spice Pumpkin Seeds are, dare I say, my favourite of all the Halloween treats! 

Recipe slightly adapted from Martha Stewart
1 cup pumpkin seeds, rinsed and dried
4 Tbsp. white sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground ginger
pinch of cayenne pepper
1 1/2 Tbsp. sesame oil

  1. Preheat oven to 325ºF. On a rimmed baking sheet, evenly spread pumpkin seeds. Bake for 1-hour or until seeds are golden-brown and crisp. Stir several times during baking.
  2. In a medium bowl combine 2 Tbsp sugar, salt, cinnamon, ginger, and cayenne pepper.
  3. In a medium non-stick skillet heat sesame oil over medium-high heat. Add pumpkin seeds and remaining 2 Tbsp. sugar. Cook while stirring until all seeds are coated in caramelized sugar. 
  4. Immediately transfer seeds into bowl of spices and toss to coat. Let cool. Store in an airtight container for about 1-week.
Listening To:

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Coconut Curry Chicken Noodle Bowl

Without a doubt in my mind I can say that noodles are the royalty of all comfort food. Oh so you think chili's and stews are the royalty of all comfort food? Well get the heck out because you're wrong! haha I kid...kind of. What makes noodles the top of the crop in terms of comfort food for myself at least is the fact that noodles can be served in so many different ways, all of which are guaranteed to be delicious and satisfying! Whether it's spaghetti and fresh from-the-garden tomato sauce or a big ol' bowl of piping hot ramen, noodles are are like that hug from your mom at the end of a really bad day...except hugs from mom don't exactly fill a hungry belly. 

When I'm in the midst of a rough week all I seem to crave are noodles, which means either whipping up a big pot of homemade pasta, or ordering Asian takeout. More often than not I find myself making pasta over ordering in as an attempt at saving money and perhaps eating ever so slightly healthier, being able to control exactly what's going into my food. Making my own Asian noodles had never been an option for me, as I was intimidated by both the ingredients and techniques from a cuisine that I had not grown up making. It's felt easy picking up recipes from cultures such as Greece, Italy, Poland, etc. having grown up around the same types of flavours and cooking techniques, but with so many unique ingredients, cooking tools, and methods in Asian cuisine I have always chosen to leave the cooking to the pros. 

With such a love for Asian cuisine, I was itching to find a great noodle dish that I could rely on to become a mid-week staple for my boyfriend and I to nip that comfort food noodle craving right in the bud! After scouring Pinterest for more than I care to admit to even myself, I found two delicious-sounding Thai noodle recipes that seemed simple to execute and featured flavours that I was familiar with, many of which I already had on hand. With a lot of skepticism, I combined the two recipes to create something that I thought may be a good start for my intro to Asian cuisine. Though I was so sure that my first attempt at Asian noodles would end up tasting very "white" and like it missing something, I was so pleasantly surprised at how my Coconut Curry Chicken Noodle Bowls turned out! Featuring that same punch of flavour found at my favourite Thai restaurants, these noodles were incredibly addictive and satisfied my craving for comforting Asian noodles. The rich coconut-infused sauce hugged every noodle and kept its intensity even upon reheating the following day! Despite my previous apprehensions over making Asian noodles, I have a newfound confidence thanks to such a successful first attempt! I am really proud of how this dish turned out and am so excited to hear what you think of it! Give it a try in your own kitchen and let me know how it went on Twitter: @thisgingerrose

  • To speed up the softening of the noodles, soak them in boiling water until softened.
Recipe adapted from Pinch of Yum and Bon Appetit
4 ounces rice noodles
1 Tbsp. peanut or vegetable oil
2 shallots, minced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 Tbsp. ginger, minced
1 Tbsp cilantro stems, finely chopped
2 Tbsp. red curry paste
2 tsp ground coriander
2 tsp ground turmeric 
1 (14-ounce) can coconut milk
1/2 cup chicken broth
3 Tbsp. sugar
1 Tbsp. hot chili paste (Sambal Oelek)
2 Tbsp. fish sauce
2 Tbsp. soy sauce
1 1/2 lb. boneless skinless chicken thighs, halved lengthwise
1 Tbsp. peanut or vegetable oil
1/2 onion, finely chopped
1 cup broccoli florets
1 large carrot, long slices peeled with a vegetable peeler
1 cup snow peas, trimmed
2 Tbsp. cilantro, finely chopped
3 Tbsp. lightly toasted peanuts, chopped
1 lime, cut into wedges (for serving)

  1. Soak noodles in very hot water until softened. Rinse and drain. Begin this right at the start of cooking as noodles will take some time to soften. See above note for more info. 
  2. In a large saucepan, heat 1 Tbsp. oil. Add shallots, garlic, ginger, and cilantro stems and stir fry for about 3-4 minutes, or until shallot has softened and is translucent. 
  3. Add curry paste, coriander, and turmeric and stir-fry for 1-minute.
  4. Add coconut milk, sugar, chili paste, fish sauce, and soy sauce and stir. Add broth and chicken and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 25-minutes, until chicken is fork tender.
  5. Transfer chicken to a plate and shred with 2 forks. Add back to sauce.
  6. In a large skillet, heat 1 Tbso oil over medium-high heat. Add onion, broccoli, carrot, and snow peas and stir fry for 5-minutes. Add sauce, noodles, and 2 Tbso. cilantro and toss to combine. Serve in bowls topped with additional cilantro, peanuts, and a lime wedge. 
Listening To:

Friday, November 6, 2015

Cacio e Pepe

It's 6:30 pm on a Wednesday, you just got home, the fridge is empty and you're hungry. What do you do? Prior to my trip to Italy this summer I would have always answered that question by quickly replying "make Ina Garten's Agio e Olio!" but since getting to experience the epitome of simple Italian classic dishes, Cacio e Pepe, in Rome I've added a new quick and easy weeknight pasta to my repertoire! Even when it may appear that the fridge is empty and there's nothing to make, I always make sure that my cupboards and fridge are stocked just enough to be able to throw together a tasty pasta on the fly. In order to keep myself prepared come the mid-week hunger freakout I always make sure to have good quality pasta, peppercorns, olive oil, garlic, and Parmigiano-Reggiano and/or Pecorino cheese on hand. Truly, that is all you need to whip together a fantastic pasta dinner! 

Though in theory cacio e pepe is simpler than aglio e olio (there are less steps and less ingredients), it is the simplicity of ingredients and preparation that actually makes cacio e pepe trickier to master than it's olive oil sister. With only pasta water, fresh cracked pepper, butter, and cheese, the trick to mastering cacio e pepe is all about finesse in preparation and quality of ingredients. I know, quality ingredients means pricey ingredients, but it is in instances like this where the quality of your ingredients truly makes all the difference. With so few ingredients, you really have to use the best in order to get the most flavour, so make friends with your local cheesemonger (get out of the grocery store and visit a gourmet cheese shop or a farmers market for your cheese!) and get yourself a big ol' hunk of parm. In terms of finesse, the way to achieve great results with this pasta is making sure everything is prepped ahead of time, ensuring your pasta is nice and al dente (you want it to have a nice bite), and serving it all up at the exact right moment. The exact right moment is when you have just enough sauce to coat your pasta with a little bit left in the bowl. Don't second guess yourself. If you think it's done, take it off the heat right away! If you take an extra 30-seconds to consider whether your pasta is done, your sauce may have dissipated and your noodles may have over-cooked. Trust your gut! 

With such a simple recipe and such high standards after having an insanely good take on cacio e pepe at Flavio Al Velavevodetto in Rome, I still feel as though I have not perfected my cacio e pepe quite yet. Though it's always delicious and leaves me feeling satiated and comforted, my cacio e pepe is not quite as creamy as the perfect one that I had the pleasure of devouring in Rome. What is my cacio e pepe missing? I still don't have a clue, but I welcome any advice or tricks that you may have to achieving that wonderfully creamy result that I'm dreaming of. Give the dish a try and let me know how it went on Twitter: @thisgingerrose. What did you like about the recipe? Where did you struggle? I want to know! Let's chat! 

  • I like to freshly crack my peppercorns for this dish right before I make it in a mortar and pestle. I highly recommend you do the same for the best flavour!
  • Have everything prepped and in its place before you get anything going on the stove. Crack your pepper, grate your cheeses, set the table, etc. It all goes very quickly as soon as your pasta comes out of the water. 
  • I like to use Molisana dry pasta as a good-quality, yet reasonably priced pasta that I can get at the grocery store. 
Recipe slightly adapted from Bon Appetit
kosher salt
1 lb dry pasta (such as spaghetti, tonnarelli, chittara)
6 Tbsp. unsalted butter, cubed and divided
2 tsp black peppercorns, freshly cracked
1 1/2 cups Parmigiano-Reggiano, finely grated
2/3 cup Pecorino, finely grated

  1. In a large pot of salted boiling water, cook pasta until very al dente (the pasta will continue to cook in the sauce). Drain, reserving 1 1/2 cups of pasta water. 
  2. Meanwhile, in a large heavy skillet set to medium heat, toast the pepper for 1-2 minutes, or until fragrant. Add 4 Tbsp butter and melt while whisking. Whisk together in pan for 1-minute. 
  3. Add 1-cup reserved pasta water and bring to a simmer. Simmer for 5-minutes. 
  4. Add pasta and remaining butter and mix together with tongs. Reduce heat to low and add Parmigiano-Reggiano, stirring and tossing with tongs until melted. 
  5. Remove pan from heat and add pecorino. Stir and toss until cheese has melted, and the sauce has coated the pasta. Add more pasta water if the pasta seems dry. 
  6. Serve immediately in warmed pasta bowls topped with additional grated Parmigano and a drizzle of good-quality olive oil (optional).
Listening To:

Monday, November 2, 2015

How To Be A Food Hero - Freeze Leftover Wine

As my age creeps higher and higher towards the big 3-0 I've found both myself and my friends beginning to care a little bit more about what we put in our glasses. Suddenly that $9 bottle of Pinot Grigio isn't as appealing as it once was, giving my poor abused taste buds a welcome break, while my wallet inevitably takes a bit of a hit. With more of my hard-earned cash going towards sipping from the Vintages section at the LCBO, it's no longer acceptable for that little bit of wine that so often gets left over at the bottom of the wine bottle to be poured down the drain. I mean, if the wine was hardly palatable the previous evening, it sure isn't going to be very tasty after spending the night oxidizing on your kitchen counter, but with delicious wine made with care making its way into my home, I now have to take a little more care in how I treat this luxury. 

Before anyone has a chance of pouring those few last sips of wine down the drain in my home, I make a point of emptying the remains into an ice cube tray to freeze. Once frozen, I pop the wine cubes out and transfer them to a freezer bag to have on hand when needed. Not only am I rescuing precious wine that could have easily been thrown out, I am also making my life so much easier in the future when a recipe calls for a splash of red or white wine. I no longer have to open up an entire bottle just for that splash! I can simply thaw out a wine cube or two and I'm good to go! 

Listening To:
(I don't know who I have become now that I'm listening to Bieber, but this song is so damn catchy I just can't stop!)