Category: Cooking

In addition to photography, I also cook! This category has some of my own adventures in the kitchen. Usually based on recipes I’ve found online and modified to my own tastes!

Exploring the Kitchen – Cast Iron Mac

Exploring the Kitchen – Cast Iron Mac

Okay, as I’ve mentioned before it’s not hard to go wrong with the cheesy comfort of Mac & Cheese. But why not kick it up a bit and give a baked version of it a little bit extra by adding in some bacon (or prosciutto in this case) and make it extra crispy by baking it in cast iron? It makes for a good, quick, enjoyable evening meal. Sadly Heather and I didn’t find this one as creamy as our slow-cooker Mac & Cheese, maybe next time increase the amount of cheese sauce.

Ingredients

  • Elbow Macaroni ~300g
  • Prosciutto or bacon ~8oz
  • 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons of all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups whole milk
  • 8oz of cheese, any cheese of your choice
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan Cheese, grated
  • 1/4 cup Panko Breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 teaspoon Red Peper Flakes (Optional)

You will need a cast iron skillet for this recipe, I have one and need to start using it more, despite the increased care and feeding for these they are worth the effort. Best to buy one that’s pre-seasoned just to get you going a lot quicker.

Directions
To determine how much macaroni you’ll need to use, pour the dry pasta into the skillet, allow it to fill up halfway. Then cook according to the package instructions. In my case, I used the Barilla brand which makes it easy to cook for 10 minutes without boiling or draining the pasta. Once done, set aside in a separate bowl.

Cut the Prosciutto (or bacon) into 1/4 inch cubes and cook in the skillet over medium-high heat. Allow them to get crispy and brown. Once done set aside in a separate dish. Do not clean out the skillet, set aside for now. You’ll need it later.

Start preheating the oven to 400F at this point. Get the flour, butter, milk, and cheese set out and ready because it’s time to make the sauce.

In a medium saucepan, combine the butter and flour over medium heat constantly whisking until the roux is light brown. Now slowly add in the milk, continuing to whisk. Once smooth turn down the heat to low and add in the cheese. Keep up the whisking until cheese melts, and the sauce is smooth and creamy.

Now add the prosciutto (or bacon) along with the macaroni. And if you want an extra kick add in the red pepper flakes, once everything is nicely combined, put the mixture into the cast iron skillet. Top with the breadcrumbs and parmesan. Place in the oven and cook for 30 minutes at 400F. Once done allow cooling for 10 minutes before serving!

Exploring the Kitchen – Poffertjes

Exploring the Kitchen – Poffertjes

As many may have guessed based on my last night my heritage is Dutch, in fact, my mother was born in a small town on the cost of the North Sea. So it’s only fair that I add a bit of international flavor to my cooking. The ironic part is that I tend to lean more towards Asian style dishes, but not this time around. I give you Poffertjes, or as the French cafe my wife and I went to in New York City on our Honeymoon called them…Mini Dutch Pancakes.

Ingrediants

  • 350mL (1.5 cups) – Luke Warm Milk
  • 250g (1 heaping cup) – All Purpose Flour
  • 2tbs – Sugar
  • 7g – Dry Active Yeast
  • A Pinch of Salt
  • 1 Egg

Before continuing you will need to invest in a Poffertjes Pan, they’re easy to find at a local Dutch Store, I picked up mine at the store in Acton, Ontario (71 Mill St E, Acton, ON). There are also ones in Burlington and Guelph. Or you can always pick one up on Amazon.

Process
Heat up the milk until lukewarm; I used a microwave to do this. Set the power level to 70% and time for 2.5 minutes, stop and stir every 30 seconds or so. Once warmed, whisk in the yeast and the sugar and let stand for five minutes.

Using a stand mixer bowl, add the flour and salt. Then using your mixer’s whisk attachment (or do this by hand), whisk in the egg along with the yeast and milk mixture. Continue to whisk until you have a smooth batter. If it’s too runny, just add a touch of flour until it thickens up a bit. Then let it rest for an hour under a damp cloth to allow it to rise. If you’re making this for breakfast, now is a good time to go and cuddle with your SO.

Once the batter has doubled in size, you can heat up your poffertjes pan on the stove to medium heat. Brush the pan with butter (repeat this each batch). Pour the batter into a Ziploc bag, clip a corner and pour a loonie size amount of batter into each indent in the pan. Let them cook for about a minute, then flip. This can be tricky, I found using a fork and spoon a good method to get them over.

Once you’ve done the whole batch top with butter and powdered sugar or your favourite maple syrup. These aren’t as sweet as regular North American pancakes on their own, but still rather tasty. When I do this again I’ll probably speed up the process by using pancake batter.

Exploring the Kitchen – Slow Cooker General Tao Chicken

Exploring the Kitchen – Slow Cooker General Tao Chicken

Whenever I’m out traveling and come into a new town or city, there are two types of takeout that I often will judge a location on, the local hole-in-the-wall pizza joint and the Chinese place, specifically their General Tao Chicken. I’ve had some excellent General Tao such as Chambersburg and Waterville, and some terrible ones in Ottawa and Gent. Now, this can be a bit of a difficult dish to master at home. Thankfully Heather and I in our trips through Pinterest ran across a Slow Cooker version of the dish and decided to give it a go.

INGREDIENTS
One of the best parts of this recipe is that you can get all the items at your local grocery store!

  • Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts (between 1-3)
  • 1/4 Cup of Corn starch
  • Vegetable oil (Enough to cover the bottom of a wok/skillet/electric frying pan
  • 1 Cup of Hoisin Sauce
  • 4 Tablespoons of Rice Wine Vinegar
  • 4 Tablespoons of Brown Sugar
  • 2 Teaspoons of Sesame Oil
  • Crushed red pepper flakes

Additionally, you can have Sesame Seeds, and Green Onions for garnish, Heather and I opted to serve with rice and steamed broccoli, but noodles would work as well!

Make It!
Cut the chicken up into small bite-sized chunks, place into a ziplock bag with the corn starch. Shake until all the chicken has a good coating.

Heat up the vegetable oil in your wok/skillet/electric frying pan. You want it hot but not smoking. Saute the chicken, giving it about two minutes on each side. You won’t fully cook the chicken, but that’s okay. Once done, transfer the chicken to your slow cooker.

In a bowl combine the Hoisin Sauce, Rice Wine Vinegar, Brown Sugar, Sesame Oil, and Red Pepper Flakes, whisk until combined. Pour over the chicken and stir to coat.

Set the slow cooker on low for 2-3 hours.

While this dish is excellent as it stands there are certainly some changes that I want to make to it. The first being is that Heather and I were unable to find just regular hoisin sauce and used a garlic hoisin sauce which added a bit of a different flavour. The second and this is mostly a personal preference is that I wasn’t happy with the chicken, it wasn’t as crispy as I would like so I’ll probably make a thicker coating the next time using flour, cornstarch, and baking powder with some extra spices. But this one is certainly a keeper!

Exploring the Kitchen – Thin Crust BBQ Chicken Pizza

Exploring the Kitchen – Thin Crust BBQ Chicken Pizza

I have never met a single person who did not like pizza in some form or another. I’ll be the first to admit, whenever I’m staying in a new town there are two things I like to get delivered to the hotel room, the first is the local Chinese take-out place, the second is a local pizza joint. While take-out is convenient, homemade is better. And the best part is that you can have it ready in about an hour.

Before I get into the details, there are a couple of items that will make your life easier when making homemade pizza, the pizza stone, and a pizza peel. You can get a complete set for less than 40$! Heather and I have done our pizza dough before, so it wasn’t our first rodeo. We did, however, want to switch to a thin crust dough recipe. After trying out a recipe on New Year’s Eve and it not working out the best, I decided to switch up the method, and it turned out much better the second time around.

Ingredients

  • 3/4 of a Cup of tap Warm Water
  • 1/2 Teaspoon of Dry Active Yeast
  • 1/2 Teaspoon of Honey
  • 1 1/2 cups of Flour (All Purpose works great)
  • 1/2 Teaspoon of Salt

Method
Place the pizza dough in the oven and preheat it to 500F. In a bowl place 1/2 cup of water and stir in the yeast and the honey. Let this sit for 10 minutes. After the 10 minutes is up, add in 1 cup of flour to the bowl, stir with a spoon, then add in the 1/4 cup of water continue to combine with your hands, and add the remaining 1/2 cup of flour. Continue to knead until everything is combined. Turn the dough ball out onto a well-floured surface, roll out to the diameter you desire.

Now you can dress the pizza as you wish. This time around Heather and I went with a BBQ Chicken just to be different. Plus I’m a big fan of BBQ Chicken pizza. Getting a pre-cooked roasted chicken, slicing off the desired meat, then layering it on a base of President’s Choice Maple Bacon BBQ sauce, then a generous layer of pizza mozzarella. Additional toppings can be strip bacon, caramelized onions, and mushrooms. When you have the pizza dressed up as you like it, transfer to the pizza stone via the peel, making sure you’ve placed cornmeal on both to ensure it doesn’t stick.

Bake in the oven for 10 minutes, you may have to increase the time, but bake the pizza for no longer than 15 minutes. Remove the pizza from the stone using the peel and slice it up and enjoy!

Exploring the Kitchen – Baked Mac & Cheese

Exploring the Kitchen – Baked Mac & Cheese

As someone who has tried a baked mac & cheese and didn’t like it (sorry mom) because it didn’t taste like the box, well I guess my tastes have expanded. This most recent dish I made was a big hit for both Heather and I and certainly will be revisited and modified later. So let’s get into the kitchen with my take on the college classic, Mac & Cheese. And the best part is that you can make this dish entirely vegan!

baked-mac

Ingredients
Nothing in this dish you can’t find in your local grocery store.

  • 2.5 Cups 2% Milk
  • 2 Cups of shredded chedder cheese
  • 1.5 Cups of grated parmisan cheese
  • 3 tablespoons of butter
  • 4 tablespoons of flour
  • 500g of Cavatappi pasta
  • 0.5 cups of Panko Breadcrumbs

Instructions
This recipe can be easily made in about 30-40 minutes. It takes a little effort, some patience, and observation, but if I can get the cheese sauce without burning it, anyone can!

Preheat your oven to 400F, place the pasta in a large pan of boiling water, allow the pasta to cook for 5 minutes. Then drain the pasta and set aside.

Once the pasta has cooked, in a small saucepan add the milk and bring up to a medium heat, stir constantly until small bubbles form, can take between 6-7 minutes, faster with 1% or whole milk. Once the bubbles have formed, remove from the burner and let stand.

In another saucepan melt the butter over medium heat until foamy, then add three tablespoons of flour, cook for 5 minutes until the mixture is browned. Then add the milk slowly stirring constantly. Once all the milk has been poured in, add another tablespoon of flour. Whisk the mixture until smooth and creamy. Add in the cheddar cheese, whisk until creamy, then add in the parmesan cheese. Keep whisk until you have your cheese sauce.

Place the cooked pasta into a glass baking dish. You might want to have the dish on a tinfoil covered cookie sheet to save your oven if it overflows. Then mix in the cheese sauce. Cover the top with the breadcrumbs.

Bake in the oven for 15 minutes. Once done serve immediately!

This dish is certainly getting a revisit maybe over the Christmas break to see if I can make it more like the four cheese mac and bacon that you can get at Applebee’s. Another option for this dish is to reduce the amount and use it as a sidedish.

Exploring The Kitchen – 15-Minute Spaghetti Carbonara

Exploring The Kitchen – 15-Minute Spaghetti Carbonara

It’s been a long day, and you just want to make up a quick meal, that is filling and tastes great for an evening of lounging. Well, look no further than this great easy short pasta recipe that has bacon. I mean, who doesn’t love bacon. This was one that Heather suggested, and it worked well!

bacon-spag

Ingredients
There isn’t anything too weird in this dish so no need to worry about hitting up odd/international markets.

  • 8oz of Spaghetti
  • 2 Large Eggs
  • 1/2 Cup of Parmesan, grated
  • 8 Slices of Bacon, diced
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • Salt & Pepper

Instructions
In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook pasta according to package instructions; reserve 1/2 cup water and drain well.

In a small bowl, whisk together eggs and Parmesan; set aside. While the Parm was good, we felt it would be better to use some different cheese. They’d have to be harder cheeses with a sharper flavour. Like a Parm and Romano blend.

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add bacon and cook until brown and crispy; drain and save the excess fat.

Add the garlic into the bacon, saute until fragrant, then reduce heat to low.

Next, you have to work fairly quickly, add in the pasta along with the egg and cheese mixture. Toss to combine, then slowly add the water until the sauce reaches your desired consistency. This didn’t work too well for us, but it gives us a reason to try it again with the enhanced cheese mix!

Dish and Serve! This would be a good side dish in a smaller portion with a chicken breast.

Exploring The Kitchen – Mongolian Beef and Broccoli

Exploring The Kitchen – Mongolian Beef and Broccoli

After discovering and making a 30 Minute Mongolian Beef recipe on Pinterest and making it with great results. After following the original recipe, Heather and I decided to kick it up a notch to not only make the meal more filling (and a little healthier). So here’s our take on the dish, the 30 Minute Mongolian Beef, and Broccoli! The dish is a quick, easy to make, and to great dish to share that can serve between two and four people depending on the amount of meat you include in the recipe!

beef-and-broccoli

Ingredients
You can easily find all these ingredients in your local grocery store. While you may not be able to find the Udon Noodles if your local store doesn’t have an international food aisle, but a local Asian market should be able to help! The best part is that this can be a fairly inexpensive meal to make!

  • Fast Fry Steak, cut into strips. You can adjust the amount depending on the number of people
  • Instant Japanese Udon Noodles
  • Vegetable Oil
  • Frozen or Fresh Broccoli
  • 2-3 Cloves of Garlic, grated or minced
  • 1 Teaspoon of Ginger
  • 1/2 Cup of Low Sodium Soy Sauce
  • 1/2 Cup of Brown Sugar
  • 1/2 Cup of Water
  • 1/4 Cup of Cornstarch
  • 1/4 Cup of Flour

Instructions

The first step is to prepare the broccoli, cook the broccoli for about 5 minutes (or until there is slight resistance putting the fork into the stalk).

Combine the flour and cornstarch, then cut the meat into strips coating them in the flour/cornstarch mix, place in the fridge for approximately ten minutes.

In a saucepan on medium heat add in 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil with the garlic and ginger, saute until fragrant. Add in the Soy Sauce and Water. Bring the heat up to medium-high and bring it up to a low boil and add in brown sugar. Use a whisk to combine, allow to boil for approximately three minutes then remove from the heat and set aside.

In a large saucepan or wok heat up 1/2 cup of cooking oil. You can either use vegetable oil or another cooking oil of your choice. Heat the oil but not too hot. Don’t let it smoke. Add the meat and cook until browned on the outside. Once the meat is cooked, drain off the oil. Mix the noodles, broccoli, and sauce until thoroughly combined.

Serve immediately!