Spaghetti Makeover

I had a very sheltered life growing up, for a variety of reasons, and that sheltered-ness extended to the kitchen. My mother is an ok baker but a very reluctant (and sadly, not very good) cook, so we had mostly very simple dishes for dinner. Now I know simple doesn’t mean bad in any way, but our menu was never versatile (my mother hated cooking and never branched away from her four or five recipes). It wasn’t until I started going to dinner at my hubby’s place when we were dating that I discovered a whole wide world of food.

Now, I had looked through cook books and such, but things like pasta with tomato sauce were new and exciting for me (I can see your shocked expression! I know!) now, about a decade and many different meals later, there are still (apparently notmal) recipes I find that make me scratch my head and/or get me excited for dinner.

This Baked Cream Cheese Spaghetti recipe from Damn Delicious is one of those recipes. Who bakes spaghetti? Apparently I do, at least once in a while. This recipe was yummy, pretty easy, and gave me a completely different way of serving up ‘boring’ old spaghetti with tomato sauce. It’s not the prettiest recipe, but it’s definitely a tasty one.

 Baked Cream Cheese Spaghetti 
Yield:

  • Original Yield: 8 servings
  • Actual Yield: 4 large servings (it could have been 6… maybe we should have had it with a side salad?)

Prep Time:

  • Original Prep Time: 15 minutes 
  • Actual Prep Time: 35 minutes (I had to whip the cream cheese…)

Cook Time:

  • Original Cook Time: 25 minutes
  • Actual Cool Time: 25 minutes

Notes or comments from the author:

  • I hadn’t realized that I could buy whipped cream cheese and I bought a block and whipped it myself… This added to the prep time (obviously), but I think the end result was the same either way.

Verdict: Success! This was a fun, yummy, and easy recipe and we’ll definitely be having it again. It tastes a bit like a meat lasagna, but without the fuss of layering. I can see how this would be awesome for kids, as it’s a fun dinner

 Baked Cream Cheese Spaghetti 

**Please note, the recipe for Baked Cream Cheese Spaghetti is in no way mine. The views and experiences above are mine and not endorsed/influenced by Damn Delicious or any other third party.

    Roll With It

    So on Monday, I talked about this yummy cream of mushroom soup. I also mentioned that I made some amazing rolls to go with the soup. Can we talk about those rolls? We need to talk about the rolls. Rolls 

    Having dinner rolls is a bit of a foreign concept to me. Growing up in a Polish household, bread didn’t usually have a place on the dinner table, and the only time it did was when everyday bread (usually rye at my house) was sliced and served with soup. Even then, only my dad ate bread with his soup. I still find the idea of bread with dinner to be a bit strange, but I’ve developed a love for fresh bread with homemade soup. There’s just something about it!

    On the day I was making the mushroom soup, I knew I was going to make a bread or rolls, so I started browsing my savoury baking board on Pinterest to see if something stood out. I usually turn to my French bread recipe, but I wanted to make something different. Then I found these Amazing Dinner Rolls from Cooking Classy. They looked delicious, but I didn’t want to make 24 rolls… I didn’t think we’d eat more than two or three each, and even with leftovers the next day 12 would be more than enough. I decided to try the recipe, but halved it. I almost never modify a recipe before trying it, so I was nervous about how they’d turn out, but there was nothing to be nervous about. They were amazing!

    I can vouch that the recipe is as easy and delicious halved as it is in full. See, these rolls turned out to be so yummy that I had to made a fresh batch the next day to go with dinner. That’s right. We ate 6 rolls each the first night (I think I had seven and left hubby with only 5, but that’s still nuts!). No extra butter. No dipping (not for the first one anyway). These rolls disappeared fast. We still had half-full bowls of soup fast. I’m wanting to make them now. Just to eat alone. They’re that good. Maybe it’s because I’ve only made rolls two or three times in my life, or maybe because bread of any sort at dinner is a novelty to me, but I want these with every meal. Go make these. Now.

      
    Yield:

    • Original Yield: 24 rolls
    • Actual Yield: 24 rolls (the recipe is easily halved or doubled)

    Prep Time:

    • Original Prep Time: none given
    • Actual Prep Time: 30 minutes + 1.5 hours first rise time + 10 minutes prep + 1 hour second rise time

    Bake Time:

    • Original Bake Time: 15-19 minutes
    • Actual Bake Time: 17 minutes

    Notes or comments from the author:

    • As I mentioned a few times, this recipe is easily halved and doubled without having to make complicated changes to ingredient amounts. Just halve or double the amount given. Easy peasy. Take my word for it, though. There’s no point in halving the recipe. 24 rolls aren’t going to last very long… And if by some miracle you don’t eat them all in one sitting, you can freeze them easily. 
    • These rolls are great for freezing. To thaw, place in your fridge over night, then warm up in your oven (325F for 10 minutes) and brush with melted butter (about 1 tbsp/12 rolls) before serving. Again, super easy!
    • The author, , mentions using less or more flour depending on your local elevation and/or humidity level. I didn’t have to change anything, but some of you might!

    Verdict: Success! I am making these again. Probably several times over. These are the most delicious, buttery, fluffy rolls I’ve ever had. You need to go make these. Like, now. I know the rise times make it a recipe that isn’t great to start when you get home at 5pm from work and are starved, but make these on a Sunday, freeze them maybe, or just have them the next day (although they are tastiest fresh from the oven).

     Rolls 

    ** Please note, the recipe for Amazing Dinner Rolls is in no way mine. The views and experiences above are mine and not endorsed/influenced by Cooking Classy or any other third party.

      The No-Can Policy

       Cream of Mushroom Soup I’m all for swapping out crap-filled, store-bought foods and staples for homemade versions. Why buy a can of sodium-laden, preservative-filled chicken stock when you can make a huge batch at home and freeze it in different portion sizes? Toaster strudels? I’ll go make some puff pastry. Cream of mushroom soup? Fresh mushrooms and cream please! Now, not everything you buy in store is bad for you, of course. And not everything is necessarily worth the time and effort if you can buy it for a decent price. It won’t kill you to buy jarred pasta sauce, especially a good-quality one made from wholesome ingredients, and no one I know has died a horrible death because they had a Dellisio pizza for dinner. The point is to know what you want to and can make yourself, and know what you should just buy.

      I’m a huge fan of soups, especially on a cold day, and I have a love of (not all that healthy) cream soups. Hey, winter will be here soon. I need my insulation.

      Back to soups. I came across another Damn Delicious soup I had pinned and decided that this Cream of Mushroom Soup and some fresh rolls (I’ll talk about those on Wednesday) is what we needed that week.

      Boy was I right! The soup turned out amazing… Although the rolls were even better. But the soup was truly fantastic. It was creamy, rich, fragrant, filling, and very flavourful. We had leftovers the next day (although I had to make a fresh batch of rolls), and it was just as delicious. We had enough soup to freeze two servings, too, and it was just as good thawed as it was freshly made (just don’t heat it in the microwave… Much yummier and easier to do in a pot!) 

      Cream of Mushroom Soup Yield:

      • Original Yield: 6 servings
      • Actual Yield: 6 servings

      Prep Time:

      • Original Prep Time: 10 minutes
      • Actual Prep Time: 40 minutes (I didn’t buy pre-sliced mushrooms, and the onion and I were not friends)

      Cook Time:

      • Original Cook Time: 20 minutes
      • Actual Cook Time: 30 minutes

      Notes or comments from the author:

      • For the soup to be as thick as hubby and I like, I had to double the amount of cornstarch slurry that Chungah uses. That gave us a nice, thick soup.
      • I had to double the amount of butter I used for cooking the mushrooms, as they absorb it and would have burnt if I hadn’t added more. Mushrooms love butter, so never be afraid to add extra if your recipe seems to leave them a bit dry!

      Verdict: Success (with modifications)! This soup is delicious. I’ll be making it again for sure, and maybe doing a double batch to freeze some more for a lazy day. The flavour is nice and rich, nothing like the canned stuff, and even though it took a bit longer than posted to make the soup, I’m thrilled and amazed at how quickly it came together and how well the flavours developed in such a short time.

       Cream of Mushroom Soup 
      **Please note, the recipe for Cream do Mushroom Soup is in no way mine. The views and experiences above are mine and not endorsed/influenced by Damn Delicious or any other third party.

      My Secret Ingredient

      Pasta Very often when I cook, I stick to the recipe I’m following and never deviate. Hubby, on the other hand, is amazing at putting together flavours and throws together some amazing dinners simply using his knowledge of flavour combinations. He’s never made a meal I didn’t like.

      One ingredient that often finds itself in his adhoc recipes is goat cheese. We both love the flavour and creaminess it brings to dishes, and tend to have it on hand fairly often because of that. Many of my favourite dishes include goat cheese, and when I came across a pin for Roasted Red Pepper and Goat Cheese Alfredo Pasta from Closet Cooking, I immediately put it on my menu for the next week. And it did not disappoint! It was creamy, tangy, and just amazingly delicious! Here are the details. 

      Pasta 

      Yield:

      • Original Yield: 2 servings
      • Actual Yield: 2 servings, although if we had made a bit more pasta, there would have been enough sauce for 4 servings

      Prep Time:

      • Original Prep Time: 5 minutes
      • Actual Prep Time: 25 minutes (

      Cook Time:

      • Original Cook Time: 10 minutes
      • Actual Cook Time: 15 minutes

      Notes or comments from the author:

      • Kevin (author of Closet Cooking) makes his own roasted red peppers (the recipe is linked in the ingredients for this dish), but as we’re a little short on time these days, we used the jarred kind, which worked beautifully. Maybe next time we’ll make our own.
      • Kevin serves the sauce over the pasta, while I tossed my pasta in the sauce instead (I put the cooked pasta right into the skillet with the sauce). This gave me a well-coated pasta dish, which is how we like it best. We also skipped the basil garnish as hubby isn’t a basil fan.
      • As I mentioned above, there was more than enough sauce for the amount of cooked pasta. I could have doubled the amount of pasta and still had enough sauce.
      • You could add some chicken into the dish as well, as the sauce would pair perfectly! Either cook about a pound of chicken (2 medium breasts), then slice it, or use half of a rotisserie chicken to keep things quick and easy.

      Verdict: Success! This dish is going to be a staple for us I’m sure. It’s simple to make, amazingly creamy and tangy, and makes enough for leftovers or lunch the next day. We usually have the ingredients needed on hand, too, and picking up a jar or roasted red peppers isn’t a huge inconvenience or expense. Let’s just hope that our little one likes goat cheese as much as we do!

       Pasta 
      **Please note, the recipe for Roasted Red Pepper and Goat Cheese Alfredo Pasta is in no way mine. The views and experiences above are mine and not endorsed/influenced by Closet Cooking or any other third party.

      One Pan, One Pot

      Honey Garlic Chicken and Veggies
      I can be very lazy. I don’t usually mind doing a few pots by hand after dinner, but some days I just leave them… And don’t get around to cleaning them until a couple days later. I rinse them after we use them, of course, but I don’t always feel like scrubbing them after a long day and I can’t always do it during the day (the little one is quite demanding of my time, and rightly so). I don’t like putting our pots into the dishwasher (they’re dishwasher safe, but I want them to last and I’m overly cautious about things I’ve spent a good amount on), and I try not to use too many at once.

      So when I find meals that promise to be one-pot or one-pan meals, I jump at the opportunity to give them a try. One such recipe is Damn Delicious’ One Pan Honey Garlic Chicken and Veggies. It’s simple, tasty, and only uses one pan!

       Honey Garlic Chicken and Veggies 
      Yield:

      • Original Yield: 4 servings
      • Actual Yield: 4 servings (very easy to scale)

      Prep Time:

      • Original Prep Time: 10 minutes
      • Actual Prep Time: 30 minutes (maybe I was too meticulous in my prep work?)

      Cook Time:

      • Original Cook Time: 35 minutes
      • Actual Cook Time: 35 minutes

      Notes or comments from the author:

      • Chungah placed her chicken on top of the potatoes to cook, while I placed mine side by side. I also drizzled some of the honey garlic mixture over the potatoes, so they absorbed some of the flavour (there was more than enough mixture for the chicken and potatoes).

      Verdict: Success! This is a simple and super delicious meal that can be scaled up or down depending on the number of hungry people that need feeding. The sauce is amazing and doesn’t require specialty ingredients (unless you consider Dijon mustard fancy). You could easily use another veggie or replace the potatoes with sweet potatoes or squash (mind the cooking time, though). You could also do just the chicken and veggies in the oven and serve them over rice or quinoa. Versatility at at its finest!

       Honey Garlic Chicken and Veggies

      **Please note, the recipe for One Pan Honey Garlic Chicken and Veggies is in no way mine. The views and experiences above are mine and not endorsed/influenced by Damn Delicious or any other third party.

      Semi-Healthy Crisps

      Eating healthy definitely doesn’t have to consist of eating salad and flavourless meats and skipping dessert. On the other hand, you can’t expect to survive on a deep-fried, sugar and corn-syrup filled diet. I find it very important to eat healthy but there’s no way I’m totally giving up things like cookies or sweet potato fries. Moderation, people. Moderation.

      When I come across recipes likes these Zucchini Parmesan Crisps from Damn Delicious, I tend to want to try them out asap. Healthy, cheesy, and crispy? Sign me up!

      Hubby and I needed a nice side (read: wanted something like fries) to have with fish one night, so I suggested we give this recipe a try. We both really like zucchini, and these seemed to fit the bill perfectly. There were a few glitches for us with this recipe, but the end result was very tasty. Zucchini Parmesan Crisps 

      Yield:

      • Original Yield: 4 servings
      • Actual Yield: 4 servings (we ate all of the crisps with dinner… No leftovers here!)

      Prep Time:

      • Original Prep Time: 15 minutes
      • Actual Prep Time: 30 minutes (the egg-flour-breading process for the rounds took quite some time for us, and we worked quite efficiently)

      Cook Time:

      • Original Cook Time: 10 minutes
      • Actual Cook Time: 15 minutes (close enough)

      Notes or comments from the author:

      • Maybe my two medium zucchinis were bigger than those that Chungah used, or maybe I have them too thick of a coating, but I had to double the amount of Panko-Parmesan breading for this recipe. That’s right. Double! The given amount for the egg and flour were fine.
      • As the zucchini rounds cooked, I noticed that each batch took a little less time to reach our desires doneness. Our first batch took a minute 15 seconds per side and our last (we did six or seven) took about 45 seconds per side. A few of the rounds were a touch darker than we wanted because we forgot that this can happen!

      Verdict: Success (with modifications)! This is a delicious side or snack that you can feel pretty good about having. These bad boys can be baked in an oven (10-15 minutes at 350) if you want or need a healthier alternative, but even the fried ones are much better for you than potato chips or commercial donuts (baked donuts are awesome). I’ll be making this recipe time and time again I know. 

       Zucchini Parmesan Crisps

      **Please note, the recipe for Zucchini Parmesan Crisps is in no way mine. The views and experiences above are mine and not endorsed/influenced by Damn Delicious or any other third party.

      For The Love Of Turkey

      Happy Thanksgiving to my fellow Canadians!!

      It’s been almost a week since my last post… I apologise profusely. But, with a sick me, sick hubby, and teething baby, it’s been a little tough to do much of anything.

      Last night we had my best friend and her fiancĂ© over for Thanksgiving dinner, even though we should have done it today. Since we visited hubby’s grandparents on Saturday, we wanted Monday to ourselves, so we moved the dinner to Sunday night. Anyways. Back to our amazing dinner.

      Hubby always makes an amazing Thanksgiving meal. Seriously. I look forward to this dinner pretty much all year. And who could blame me? Turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, green beans, cranberries, and some amazing dessert to finish it off. Not to mention leftovers and turkey sandwiches! Makes me think of the abundant Hogwarts feasts (I’m re-reading the series as I just got the UK edition!).

      I was going to share my review of yummy zucchini crisps, but I decided to give you a run-down of our feast instead. I also wasn’t planning on reviewing any recipes today, but the crisp I made just had to be included. This will be a long one, so grab a cup of tea and get comfy!

      Unlike most things we make, we use some not-so-healthy boxed goods, but I figure once or twice a year should be ok (we do a similar dinner for Christmas if we’re home). I’m sure you all have some yummy traditional foods you prepare for your Thanksgiving feast, but if you’re itching for a change, try one of our favourites. Now, where to start?

      The Turkey: We have ordered our turkeys from the Tanjo Family Farm for a few years now, and they blow any other turkey we’ve had out of the water. Butterball has nothing on these guys. They’re a local farming family that sells their meats at the St Lawrence Farmer’s Market on Saturday mornings, and we get pretty much all of our meats from them. If you ever get a chance to pop by on a Saturday morning, buy from them. Their sausages and bacon are out of this world, and every other cut of meat is phenomenal. Ok. Done with my plug (they didn’t ask for it, nor did anyone else. They’re just that good!). Back to the turkey.

      This time we had a 13lb turkey, so he hung out in the oven at 325 for just over 4.5 hours. We had him tented for the first 4 hours, basting every 30 minutes, and let the skin brown and crisp up after that. One thing I’ve learned is that if the cooking time is, say, 4.5 hours, you won’t have a done turkey in that exact amount of time. The first time we did our timing calculations a few years back we didn’t add time to take the turkey out and baste it and all that, so we had cold potatoes and slightly overdone green beans. We fixed that issue since. The turkey came out juicy, delicious, with delectably crispy skin, and with great pan drippings for the gravy. I didn’t get a picture (I forgot!), but he was beautiful! We didn’t do much to the turkey; besides stuffing him with, well, stuffing, we buttered the skin, and that was it. In my opinion, if you have a good turkey, that’s all you need! 

      Carved Turkey 

      The Stuffing: I’d love to tell you that I make pure, 100% homemade stuffing. But I don’t. We buy the Kraft Stove Top stuffing in Turkey flavour and add ingredients from there (we don’t follow the box exactly as we have a great formula for a stuffing we think is amazing). We always do 4 boxes of stuffing, mostly because I can eat all of it by myself. For the stuffing, we melt 11tbsp of butter (Thanksgiving is a chance to indulge… And we don’t like margerine). To the butter we add 2 medium chopped white onions and cook until they are soft and translucent (about 10 minutes). While the onions cook, dump the contents of the 4 boxes into a massive bowl. We tear up 2/3 of a loaf of white bread (the regular WonderBread kind works well, and we’ve used stuffing bread or a French loaf too) and toss it into the bowl. Add just over 2 cups of lukewarm water (start with 2 cups and add more to get the right moistness) and mix well. Pour the butter and onions over your stuffing and continue mixing. Add poultry seasoning to taste (we do about 2-3 tsp) and continue mixing until everything is combined. If the stuffing is a bit too wet, tear up some more bread and mix it in; if it’s too dry, add some water. There you have it! Amazing stuffing! 

      Stuffing 

      Mashed Potatoes: Hubby likes to experiment with his mashed potatoes, and so every year he does something a little different with them. This year he did skin-on goat cheese mashed potatoes, and they were delicious! They were pretty simple to make, too. He did six white potatoes. He removed any eyes and blemishes, cubed them and boiled until fork-tender. He broke down the potatoe pieces with a potato masher. Then he added 3tbsp butter, 80g of soft unripened goat cheese, and about 1/3 cup of milk and mixed them with a hand mixer until they were creamy. And voila!

      Goat Cheese Mashed Potatoes 
      Green Beans: Hubby likes to do his green beans sautĂ©ed with butter and garlic. Again, this is a super-simple recipe that comes out delicious and satisfying. For a half-pound of green beans, melt 2 tbsp of butter in a skillet. Add 2 small cloves of chopped garlic (about 1tsp) to the skillet and cook until fragrant. Add the green beans and cook over medium-low heat for about 10 minutes. The green beans should be crisp but warmed through. This is a dish even picky eaters will love.

      Cranberries: This is another instance where I wish I could point you to some delicious, made-from-scratch recipe that I’ve been using, but I can’t. We buy the ever-popular Ocean Spray Whole Berry Cranberry Sauce, stick it in the fridge, and serve it chilled. Maybe next year I’ll make my own cranberry sauce (it’s hard to do much with a six-month-old that loves attention and is teething and cranky a lot).

      Gravy: We make our gravy using pan-drippings from the turkey, the broth from boiling the neck and pope’s nose (we use this as the basting liquid), and the Club House Brown Gravy Mix. Once the turkey is out of the oven and resting (under a couple of towels to keep it warm, lucky duck!), we take all of the pan drippings, get rid of the fat, and mix them with some of the broth. We use 2 packages of the gravy mix so we use 2 cups of liquid total. Then we bring it to a boil over medium heat and let it thicken. Another simple recipe (and we all know the turkey is the star of the show anyways). Gravy 

      Last but not least is dessert. I usually make an apple or pumpkin pie (I’ll get the recipes up eventually), but since I made an apple pie for our visit to Lindsay on Saturday, I decided to make hubby’s favourite: a strawberry rhubarb crisp. Specifically, this Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp from Creations by Kara. It’s amazing. I make a few small changes but that’s just for personal preference. The original recipe is actually perfect as is.

       Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp 
      Yield:

      • Original Yield: 1 8in x 8in crisp, 8 servings
      • Actual Yield: 1 8in x 8in crisp, 4-6 servings (there’s No way to make this last in my house, apparently!)

      Prep Time:

      • Original Prep Time: none given
      • Actual Prep Time: 20 minutes

      Baking Time:

      • Original Baking Time: 35-40 minutes
      • Actual Baking Time: 38 minutes (the same)

      Notes or comments from the author:

      • As I mentioned above, I now modify this recipe to suit our tastes. I’m not a huge fan of rhubarb, so I use less of it (about 1/2 a pound, or just over 2 cups) and add extra strawberries (3-4 cups, or 1 1/2 pounds). Strawberries are juicier than rhubarb, so I use 4tbsp of cornstarch instead of 3. Everything else I keep the same.
      • The crisp topping Kara uses is the one I use for all of my crisps now, no matter the recipe. It is AMAZING and can be used for any filling.

      Verdict: Success! This crisp recipe is gold. I actually printed out the crisp topping part so I never lose it, it’s that good.

       Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp 
      Phew! Done and done! Dinner tonight will be leftovers (sans green beans… They all disappeared last night), and then we’ll be having turkey sandwiches (bread, mayo/miracle whip for hubby, turkey) for lunch the next day. There’s a reason I love Thanksgiving and it’s not only because of the extra day I get with hubby. And for my US friends, I’ll have some extra stuffing for you. It’s got nothing to do with how good it is, I just don’t want you to feel left out. You believe me, right?

      This year, we have a beautiful bundle of wiggles to be thankful for. What are you celebrating?

      ** Please note, the recipe for Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp is in no way mine. The views and experiences above are mine and not endorsed/influenced by Creations by Kara or any other third party. Also, this post is not sponsored in any way by the brands mentioned and linked. I just want to share the products we love and use to make our meal easy but still special.