sweet potato and chorizo soup

a couple of weeks ago i was trying to decide on a new soup recipe to try when the boyfriend suggested this one. the name didn’t grab me, and i wasn’t really excited to try it. fast forward to the next day, after i had gone grocery shopping to buy what i needed and came home to make it. the light curry smell in our house was amazing and i couldn’t wait to try it. it’s not the prettiest soup, i agree, but the flavour combination makes for a party in your mouth. this recipe quickly jumped into my ‘hug in a bowl’ list of favourites and i look forward to making it again. plus it gives me an excuse to use my immersion blender, which is one of my favourite kitchen tools.

soup1

2 carrots, peeled and roughly sliced

2 celery stalks, sliced

2 medium onions, roughly chopped

2 cloves of garlic, sliced

1 3/4 lbs sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped

7 oz chorizo sausage, sliced

1/4 c fresh parsley (including stalks), finely chopped

1 3/4 litres chicken broth

olive oil

1 rounded Tbsp madras curry powder

salt and freshly ground pepper

1 fresh thai chili

2 Tbsp olive oil

soup2

put the broth in a saucepan and heat until boiling.

meanwhile, put a large pan on a high heat and add the olive oil. add all your chopped and sliced ingredients with the curry powder and mix together with a wooden spoon. Cook for 10 minutes or so, with the lid askew, until the carrots have softened but are still holding their shape, and the onion is lightly golden. add the boiling broth to the vegetables. give the soup a good stir and bring to a boil. reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes, until the sweet potato is cooked through. season with salt and pepper. using an immersion blender pulse the soup until smooth and scatter over a little finely chopped chili. divide between your serving bowls and dive in.

serves 6 to 8

bon appetit!

s,b&b

mexican pot roast tacos

i’ll do my best to not drool over my keyboard while typing this post.

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last year for the boyfriend’s family birthday dinner i decided to go with a mexican theme. my sister brought delicious salsa and guacamole, and i made these beef tacos. i also made a sort-of deconstructed guacamole salad (lettuce, tomato, onion, avocado and cilantro lime dressing). for dessert i made an amazing chocolate cheesecake, and i’ll share the recipe for when i make it again and remember to take photos.

anyway, back to the tacos. after months of craving them i finally made them this week and, let me tell you, it would be a serious disservice to the public if i didn’t share the recipe. they’re that good. super easy too!

2-3 lbs beef shoulder

salt

freshly ground black pepper

extra-virgin olive oil

2 cloves garlic, smashed

1 large onion, sliced

1 (28-ounce) can crushed san marzano tomatoes

1 Tbsp ancho chile powder

1 Tbsp cayenne pepper

1 Tbsp ground cumin

3 bay leaves

season all sides of the beef with a fair amount of salt and pepper. in a large heavy pot that has a tight cover, heat 2 Tbsp of olive oil over moderately high heat. add the garlic and the beef to the pot, browning the meat on all sides, taking the time to get a nice crust on the outside. add the onion and allow to lightly brown, about 3 to 4 minutes. add the crushed tomatoes, plus 1 tomato can of water, spices, season with salt and pepper, to taste, and add enough water to cover the meat. bring to a boil then reduce heat and simmer with a lid for 3 hours until the meat is fork tender. let meat cool in the liquid. shred meat, add enough of the cooking liquid to coat the shredded meat to your preference, and set aside.

to serve: use whichever tortillas you prefer (we like flour), and top with your favourite fixings. one of my favourite finds is queso fresco, but if you can’t find it any cheese would work (jalapeno jack and feta are good substitutes in my opinion). don’t forget cilantro or a squeeze of fresh lime!

bon appetit!

s,b&b

link:

tyler florence mexican pot roast tacos

black bean soup

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this recipe is adapted from budgetbytes (link below), and was super easy to make – and super tasty!

2 cloves garlic, minced
1 small onion, diced
2 stalks celery, grated
2 medium carrots, chopped
3 cans black beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup medium salsa (store bought is fine)
1 Tbsp chili powder
½ Tbsp cumin
1 tsp oregano
4 c chicken broth
2 c water
combine the garlic, onion, celery, carrots, black beans, salsa, chili powder, cumin, oregano, chicken broth, and water in a large pot. stir well. bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes. remove the pot from the heat, and blend the soup with an immersion blender – being careful to not splash hot soup all over yourself. taste, and adjust seasoning as required.
serve with toppings of your choice (sour cream or yogurt, green onions, tomatoes, cheese, guacamole, hot sauce.. the possibilities are endless!)
makes 6 servings
bon appetit!
s,b&b
link:

book club news

exciting news to share!

once upon a time i started a book club with a few friends. each month we’d read a book, post a review on our blog and share a recipe that the story inspired us to make. a book a month – on top of our often hectic busy lives – proved to be too much to handle, so we managed to get through only three books before putting the project on hiatus.

fast forward a couple of years, and we’re starting up the book club again. we’ve got a new name, a new site, and are committing to a book every two months. this seems much more manageable.

the current book selection is .. drum roll, please ..

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i’ve read this before and absolutely loved it, so i’m super excited to read everyone’s reviews and see what delicious food they made.

if you’re interested in learning more about our book club and perhaps joining us (the more the merrier), please check out the link below. be sure to check out the frequently asked questions page, and get to know us through the links on the members page.

i hope you’ll join us!

s,b&b

link:

nibbles and books book club

creamy basil pesto

when i was younger i thought pesto was supposed to look like the jarred stuff bought at the supermarket. have you ever looked at it closely?

disgusting pesto

what the hell is that?! it’s nothing like proper pesto, and super unappetizing. it boggles my mind that people think it’s good.

my friend shared this recipe with me for creamy vibrant delicious pesto. the secret is to blanche the basil, which helps to keep its vibrant colour. now that i’ve made it this way i don’t think i’ll ever go back – or resort to that horrible store bought stuff again.

ice bath

1 Tbsp plus 1 tsp kosher salt

3 c packed basil leaves

1/4 c ice water

2 cloves garlic, smashed and peeled

1/2 c pine nuts

1/4 c grated parmesan reggiano

1 tsp freshly ground black pepper

1/2 c extra-virgin olive oil

bring a large pot of water seasoned with 1 Tbsp of the salt to a rolling boil. meanwhile, set up an ice bath by combining ice and water in a medium bowl.

put the basil in the boiling water, pressing it gently under the water, and cook for just 2 or 3 seconds. quickly remove the basil from the water with a metal mesh strainer and plunge it immediately into the ice bath to stop the cooking process. let cool completely for 2 minutes.

remove the basil from the ice bath and squeeze it lightly with your hands or in a clean dishtowel to remove most of the excess water.

chop the basil coarsely with a sharp knife and then put it in a food processor. add the 1/4 cup ice water, the garlic, the pine nuts, the cheese, the remaining 1 tsp salt, and the pepper. blend until the basil is coarsely puréed, scraping down the sides and adding more water to facilitate blending only if needed. be patient; don’t add more water if it isn’t necessary. with the food processor still running, add the oil in a steady stream until the pesto looks creamy and emulsified. cover and store in the refrigerator for a few days or in the freezer for up to a few months.

doesn’t this look delicious? creamy and a perfect blend of flavours.

pesto

slurp.

i’ll definitely be making this one again!

bon appetit!

s,b&b

bella italia

my sister and i went to italy to celebrate my 40th birthday. we visited rome, pompeii, sorrento, capri and lucca. it was a great trip and it’s difficult to believe it’s already been 2 months since we returned home. sad kittens.

people often ask me what the highlight of my trip was and it’s impossible to answer. any given moment of any given day i’ll give you a different answer to that question. italy is .. well, it’s amazing. how can you narrow down your favourite moments or experiences into a short list?

i’ll do my best, but please understand that these are my highlights for this minute and they’ll likely change if you ask me again tomorrow.

in no particular order:

trastevere twilight walking tour

our garden suite at hotel cisterna

walking into basilica di santa maria for the very first time

waking up in sorrento and looking out across the bay of naples

the boat ride to capri

torre argentina cat sanctuary

shopping for groceries and pretending to be locals

guided tour of pompeii

a decaf cappucino to start my days

pasta and sauce cooking class

pizza at pizzeria florida

wandering the streets with my camera in hand

our last italian dinner in san lorenzo

spending time with my sister

real buffalo mozzarella that puts the stuff we buy here at home to shame

here are a few photos from our trip. if you’re interested in seeing more, feel free to check out my flickr account (link below).

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link:

italy photos

s,b&b

ricotta meatballs with tomato sauce, and a dash of sweat and tears

i love ricotta cheese and one day hope to try my hand at making it myself. until then, i’ll continue to buy store bought whenever a recipe calls for it. like for these delicious meatballs. yes, for a non-fan of balls of meat on my plate, i really loved them.

i wish i could say that i had a wonderful experience making them, but that would be a lie. it was hell. we’d recently moved back into our old apartment downtown (long story) and the smoke detector is directly across from the entrance of the shoebox sized kitchen. what i’d forgotten, from the first time we lived here, is that the smoke detector is super sensitive. i swear, if you looked at it the wrong way it would start screaming at you.

the recipe calls for baking the meatballs in the oven, so that’s what i did tried to do. within 10 minutes of putting them in the oven the smoke detector was shrieking its head off at me. regardless of what i did, the stupid thing would not stop it’s assault. i tried fanning it with a tea towel, pressing the buttons on the front, covering it with the tea towel.

nothing. worked.

keep in mind that the meatballs had only been in the oven for 10 minutes – they were still raw, and definitely not burning. it seems that the smoke detector took exception to me having the oven on at such a high heat (450F). and let’s also discuss my fear of fire and the fact that i’ve been diagnosed with panic disorder. i was barely keeping myself together.

after about 10 minutes of this (but what felt like much longer), i heard a knock on the door. in a normal situation i’d be embarrassed but this wasn’t normal. i opened the door and saw the concerned look on my neighbour’s face and practically begged her to come in to help me. she stood on a stool whacking at the smoke detector with a wooden spoon while i set up the stand fan and faced it up at the wall. finally, the smoke detector shut.the.hell.up.

it was then that i fell apart. big fat tears rolled down my face as i sobbed and tried to thank her and apologise at the same time. bless her for keeping her composure, because i can only imagine how much of a nutter i looked like. needless to say, i sat down with a much needed glass of wine afterward to calm myself down while waiting for the boyfriend to come home.

her suggestion was to finish cooking the meatballs on the stove top and speak with our landlord about getting a replacement smoke detector. i did both. the meatballs were delicious and we are now the proud owners of a subtle, less sensitive, smoke detector that literally beeps while a woman’s calm voice calls out “there is a fire. there is a fire.”

so, i do recommend this recipe – but make sure your smoke detector isn’t an uptight cow before you turn the oven on. or do yourself a favour and cook them on the stovetop.

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for the tomato sauce..(this makes 7 cups, so freeze the extra)

1/4 c olive oil

2 shallots, finely diced

1 bay leaf

1 tsp chopped fresh oregano or 1/2 teaspoon dried

2 garlic cloves, roughly chopped

1 tsp salt or to taste

2 Tbsp tomato paste

2 28-ounce cans whole plum tomatoes, chopped with their liquid

heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. add the shallots, bay leaf, oregano, garlic, and salt and cook, stirring often, until the shallots are soft and translucent, about 10 minutes.

add the tomato paste and continue cooking for 5 minutes. add the tomatoes and stir constantly until the sauce begins to boil. lower the heat and simmer for 1 hour, stirring every 5 minutes or so to prevent the sauce on the bottom of the pot from burning. taste and season with additional salt, if desired. remove the bay leaf before serving.

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for the meatballs (this makes 2 dozen 1 1/2 inch balls)

2 Tbsp olive oil

2 lbs 80% lean ground beef

1 c ricotta cheese

2 large eggs

1/2 c bread crumbs

1/4 c chopped fresh parsley

1 tsp dried oregano

1 tsp salt

1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes

1/2 tsp ground fennel

4 c tomato sauce

preheat the oven to 450°F. drizzle the olive oil into a 9×13-inch baking dish and use your hand to evenly coat the entire surface. set aside.

combine the ground beef, ricotta, eggs, bread crumbs, parsley, oregano, salt, red pepper flakes, and fennel in a large mixing bowl and mix by hand until thoroughly incorporated.

roll the mixture into round, golf ball-size meatballs (about 1 1/2 inches), making sure to pack the meat firmly. place the balls in the prepared baking dish, being careful to line them up snugly and in even rows vertically and horizontally to form a grid. the meatballs should be touching one another.

bake for 20 minutes, or until the meatballs are firm and cooked through. a meat thermometer inserted into the center of a meatball should read 165°F.

while the meatballs are roasting, heat the tomato sauce in a small saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring often.

when the meatballs are firm and fully cooked, remove them from the oven and drain the excess grease from the pan. pour the tomato sauce over them. return the meatballs to the oven and continue roasting for another 15 minutes.

or, as i mentioned, cook them on the stove top in the tomato sauce following the same guideline for internal temperature.

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bon appetit!

s,b&b

southwestern kale power salad with sweet potato, quinoa & avocado sauce

i recently made this salad and just about died. it’s so good, so fulfulling and it makes you feel like you’re doing something good for your body. the avocado cream was worth the effort itself, and it’s definitely something i’ll be making again to accompany other dishes.

salad

speaking of effort, anyone who has been to our house knows how tiny our kitchen is. you couldn’t swing a cat around in it (<< what a dreadful saying!). anyone who’s seen me at work in said tiny kitchen knows that i’m the type to use every single dish we own and i do not clean as i cook. because this salad has so many different components, my kitchen looked like a bomb had gone off by the time i’d finished making it. but again, it’s so damn tasty that it was well worth it. if you’re going to give it a go yourself i implore you to make it exactly as the recipe calls, and don’t skip any of the components. you’ll thank me for it.

the recipe calls for massaging the kale. i’d heard of this before but had never done it because, frankly, it sounds a bit pervy to me. but after reading the recipe reviews i knew it had to be done. so here goes..

kale

and this avocado cream! i could put it on cardboard and happily eat it for days. seriously..

avocado cream

head over to cookieandkate (link below) for the recipe. run, don’t walk. her website very sternly advised against copying her recipe and after watching a few episodes of orange is the new black, i’m pretty sure i wouldn’t last an hour in prison for plagiarism.

bon appetit!

s,b&b

link:

southwestern kale power salad with sweet potato, quinoa & avocado sauce recipe

la régalade french bistro

several months ago, a few girlfriends and i bought a groupon for la régalade french bistro in west vancouver. i’d never been before but am always happy to try new restaurants – especially french ones. especially at a discounted price.

i’m the jerk who pulls out their camera in a somewhat fancy restaurant to take photos of each course. i’m the bigger jerk who forgets to take even a single photo of my dining companions. i swear, it’s a wonder i even get invited out with people!

a great start to any meal..

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the pièce de résistance.. delicious melt in your mouth beef bourguignon for two..

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paired with sinfully creamy garlicky drool worthy potato gratin..

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followed by this perfect almost too good to eat (but not quite) raspberry tart that reminded me of paris..

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if you’re looking for somewhere different to eat, and want to try something a little fancier than the regular  chain restaurants taking over the city, i do recommend la régalade french bistro. it’s not cheap by any means, so keep an eye out for deals on groupon.

s,b&b

link:

la régalade french bistro

devilled eggs

following up on my last post about the perfect hard boiled eggs, i thought i’d share a recipe for really tasty devilled eggs that i recently made for a potluck at work.

eggs

ideally, i’d have used a piping bag to fill the eggs but a certain person who shall remain nameless (cough, the boyfriend, cough) accidentally threw my piping bag tip and ring away. so i simply used a ziploc bag with the corner cut off. not as pretty, but the taste was the same.

1/2 cup mayonnaise

2 tablespoons 2% milk

1 teaspoon dried parsley flakes

1/2 teaspoon dill weed

1/2 teaspoon minced chives

1/2 teaspoon ground mustard

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon paprika

1/8 teaspoon garlic powder

1/8 teaspoon pepper

12 hard-cooked eggs

in a small bowl, combine the first 10 ingredients. slice eggs in half lengthwise; remove yolks and set whites aside. in another bowl, mash yolks; add to mayonnaise mixture, mixing well. stuff or pipe filling into egg whites. sprinkle with additional paprika. refrigerate until serving. makes 2 dozen.

bon appetit!

s,b&b

no fail perfect hard boiled eggs. every time.

for the most part, i have a very good memory. this works both for and against me, depending on the specific memory. having said that, there are certain things in my life that – without fail and regardless how hard i try – i can never seem to remember.

examples that come to mind are the correct ratio for water to rice or coffee, which pedal is gas and which is brake (although i’ve learned a handy trick to work through this one, thank goodness!), whether i’m supposed to feed a cold and starve a fever (or vice versa) and when to use affect – and when effect is correct.

once also on my list was how long to cook eggs until they were perfectly hard boiled. there were many disastrous attempts and many curse words screamed. but that’s no longer a concern.. which is great because every so often i get a craving for egg salad.

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rather than having to look online for instructions when the craving comes back, i now just know to do the following (and thought i’d share it with you):

1. place eggs in a large pot

2. cover with approximately 1 inch of water

3. bring to a good boil

4. cover, turn off heat and let sit undisturbed for 12 minutes

5. remove each egg and lightly bash the shell before running it under cold water while peeling.

this works. every.single.time. and the eggs are always perfectly cooked with no runny centres or creepy grey rings surrounding the yolks.

easy peasy.

s,b&b

chopped thai salad

this delicious salad recipe comes to me by way of pinterest (surprise, surprise!) and is originally  from a website called pinch of yum. after rave reviews from a couple of people i decided to try it myself.

thaisalad

i had heard that the chopping would feel endless, so I bought pre-washed and prepped kale as well as pre-cut julienned carrots. i also bought the thai lime and chili cashews from trader joe’s especially for this recipe. on their own, i really didn’t like them and it’s because i’ve realised I’m not the biggest lemon grass fan, and that flavour is quite intense in these cashews. in this salad though, they give a nice pop of flavour every so often. i didn’t bother with the lime juice (because i forgot to buy a lime) and left both the edamame and the edamame whole. i also left the salad undressed, and simply tossed each serving together with dressing and cashews just before serving.

the recipe calls for 3 cloves of garlic, which might be a bit much for you, so decide beforehand how intense of a garlic taste (and the vampire-killing breath you’ll have after eating this salad) you want to commit to. i take public transit to/from work and am happy to report that the added garlic helped to keep people away from me. :)

 

dressing:

⅓ c vegetable oil

3 cloves garlic, peeled

3 Tbsp sodium-reduced soy sauce

2 Tbsp water

2 Tbsp seasoned rice vinegar

2 Tbsp honey

1 Tbsp sesame oil

1 Tbsp minced ginger

puree all the dressing ingredients in a food processor until smooth. taste and adjust to fit your preferences. transfer to a jar with a tight fitting lid, which can easily be stored and simply shaken before dressing your salad to re-mix the ingredients.

salad

16 oz frozen shelled edamame

6 c chopped kale

1 handful julienned carrots

2 bell peppers (1 red, 1 yellow), julienned

1 cup cilantro leaves, stalks removed

3 green onions, julienned into long strips

1 handful trader joe’s thai lime and chili cashews

 

in typical marla-style, i did manage to somehow use twice as many dishes as necessary resulting in my kitchen looking like a particularly scary episode of kitchen nightmares by the time i was finished – it was well worth the effort AND it made enough to feed me (and a colleague) for several days!

bon appetit!

s,b&b

link:

pinch of yum thai chopped salad