Bacon and Roasted Cauliflower Cream Sauce

You know how it goes. You get this idea and it seems really great in your head but then somehow, it turns out oh so terribly wrong in real life. Like wearing toe socks. Or purchasing the slap chop.

I had this vision for a beautiful light cream sauce accented by golden cauliflower florets and crispy browned bits of bacon. It was going to be amazing. The inspiration came from a recipe out of the Company’s Coming Slow Cooker cookbook but I didn’t have any of the ingredients that that recipe called for, so I just made up my own.

That is where everything went wrong.

I rarely make cream sauces. In fact, I never make cream sauces. I can rock an oil based or tomato based pasta sauce like nobody’s business but milk and butter and flour is new territory. So why did I think that this would turn out amazing?

I roasted the cauliflower at 375F for an hour, turning them over after 30 minutes. Before putting them in the oven, I brushed the florets with olive oil and seasoned with sea salt and cracked fresh pepper.  While the cauliflower was slowly caramelizing, I fried six slices of chopped bacon in a small frying pan and then placed them on a paper towel to soak up the excess fat. In a large non-stick frying pan, I melted 2 tbsp butter over medium heat and a tsp of the left over bacon fat. To this, I added two chopped leeks (thoroughly washed and rinsed) and 2 cloves of garlic diced.

At this point our house smelled divine.  All was going well. I added 2 tbsp of all purpose flour and let it brown for a couple of minutes.

That is when I discovered that we had less than a 1/4 cup of milk left. Milk was supposed to be the main liquid in this sauce! The flour, leek and garlic mixture sucked every ounce of milk and left a gooey dough. In a panic I ransacked the pantry for chicken stock. Nothing. In desperation I found a jar of evaporated skim milk but it expired in 2009 (I was going to use it anyways, until I opened it up and realized that it had been rotten for a very long time. Oh my.). So I kept adding cup after cup of water. In response the flour mixture just kept expanding.

At this time the baby was bawling, my hair was frazzled, and my husband was confused. I shouted at him to make me some chicken oxo, thinking he knew how to do that. He didn’t. I added that cup of whatever it was into the mix anyways, along with the cauliflower and bacon.

The sauce never thinned out, it only expanded.  Getting bigger and bigger and more gross looking.

It was like this sauce had a mind of its own and was going to reach up and slap me in the face. So I threw some shredded cheese at it and stabbed it with my wooden spoon.

Defeated, I took the sauce off the burner and added it to my pasta. I only had speghettini which was a terrible choice. The sauce was too heavy and thick for such a delicate noodle. It ended up looking like runny scrambled eggs.

Guys, this was the Jabba the Hut of pasta dishes. To dress it up, I garnished it with chopped fresh parlsey. But like putting a french beret on Jabba, no one was fooled. It was still a hot mess with a bit of parsley.

Thank goodness my husband will eat ANYTHING I place in front of him. He even took the left overs to work the next day. Next time, if there is a next time, I will follow a recipe when making a cream sauce.

And on that note, what’s your go-to cream sauce recipe?


Tomato, Spinach and Tortellini Soup

Every once in a while I have one of those super domesticated days where I feel like I can go head-to-head with Martha Stewart. Last Tuesday was one of those days.  It was during the cold snap when I wasn’t leaving the house. I was stocked up on groceries and felt frenetically motivated to cook, clean and de-clutter.  I washed the floor, cleaned the bathroom, made the squash and lentil curry, and roasted and pureed my own gourmet baby food. And I did this all while wearing my baby on my back! She was happy and well fed, the house smelled amazing and I felt domestically invincible.

Bring it, Martha! Bring it!

And in the midst of accomplishing all of the tasks listed above, I threw together this tomato, spinach and tortellini soup.  This soup has been a long time household favourite and is my go-to recipe when I want something quick, fresh and filling for lunch. I often use home made chicken stock but when I’m out, I’ll use a carton or two of store bought stock. In the summer time when fresh herbs grow aplenty in my little balcony garden, I’ll use fresh rosemary, thyme, orgegano and basil. In the winter, I use the dried versions.  I believe the original recipe came from Rachael Ray, but I’ve made so many changes over the years that it’s probably morphed into a very different soup.

Tomato, Spinach and Tortellini Soup

  • 2 glugs of extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 large onion diced
  • 2 garlic cloves minced
  • herbs to taste
  • 1 tsp of dried chilli peppers
  • can of diced tomatoes
  • 1-2 cartons of chicken stock
  • 1 package of spinach and cheese tortellini
  • a few handfuls of fresh spinach
  • parmesan cheese as a garnish

In a large pan saute the onion and garlic until the onion is soft. Add the herbs and chilli peppers and saute for two minutes. Add the tomatoes and stock and bring to a boil.  Add the tortellini and cook until the pasta floats about three minutes. Just before serving, stir in the spinach. Ladle into bowls and top with parmesan cheese.  Serve with crusty bread for mopping up the left over broth.

Squash and Lentil Curry

Fun fact: The only month out of the entire year that I really enjoy is July.

July is fresh and green and warm and bright. My birthday is in July. Growing up, I went to summer camp every year for a week in mid-July. The month is full of excitement for festivals and camping trips and vacation days. Food just seems to taste better.  In July gardens are growing, the produce is fresh and barbecue’s beckon to be grilled on.

You know what the opposite of July is?

January. Good ol’ cold, dark, and dull January.  There’s a sad lull, a let down from the bustling activity and cheeriness of Christmas and New Years. In Alberta, the temperatures drop so low that all motivation to go out and get groceries is outweighed by the lure of staying in my pyjamas all day and eating nothing but cereal until the milk runs out and I have to switch to dry crackers. And then when I finally venture out to get groceries because my baby has made it clear that plain cereal is not acceptable, the produce is embarrassing at best. I find myself wandering the aisles pining for brighter days.

But you know what makes cooking in January much, much better?

You got it: my slow cooker!

As you know, I love my slow cooker. The only thing that makes up for the lack of fresh produce is the slow caramelization of sweet root vegetables. On a particular cold day I concocted a squash and lentil curry recipe I found in the Company’s Coming Slow Cooker Dinners cook book (Cookbook #1). It was everything I hoped it would be: creamy, spicy and sweet. As I cuddled my baby on the couch, our condo filled up with the flavourful aroma of spicy curry.

This was originally intended to be a vegetarian recipe using vegetable stock but I used chicken stock and added boneless, skinless chicken thighs to make it more heartier.  The recipe also called for peas (which I don’t care for) and cashews (which I don’t have on hand).

Squash and Lentil Curry (adapted from Slow Cooker Dinners, Company’s Coming)

  • 3 cups Chicken Stock
  • a package of boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • 1 chopped onion
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • 2 tbsp curry paste
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 2 cups butternut squash
  • 1 1/4 cups of green lentils
  • 1 cup chopped yam
  • 3 cups of fresh spinach
  • 1/3 cup of plain yogurt

Combine first seven ingredients in your slow cooker and add the squash, yam and lentils. Stir and cover, cooking on low for 7 to 8 hours.

Before serving, add the spinach and yogurt. We enjoyed it with brown rice and raw vegetables on the side.


Baby Shower Bonanza! with Caramelized Onion and Brie Tart

2011 was a baby boom! Between myself, my step-sister and my cousins, four babies were joyfully welcomed to the family this year with lots of noshing, frivolity and overall good times.  By the time the last sweet babe arrived and was ready to be celebrated, we had feasting and festing down to a science!

And last Sunday did not disappoint! In between the games, the chatting and the “ooohing and aaahing” over the gorgeous little Ruby, we indulged in quite the spread.

On the menu:

  • Warm Artichoke and Jalepeno Dip
  • Veggie Platter
  • Assorted squares
  • Noonie’s Butter Tarts
  • Caramelized Onion and Brie Tart
  • Angel Food Cake with Mixed Berry Coulis and Whipped Cream

My contribution was the Caramelized Onion and Brie Tart. The original recipe came from this Simply Recipes blog post. In my version, I used only the brie cheese and I added halved cherry tomatoes for colour. I had difficulty locating fresh herbs, so I had to use dried tarragon in the caramelized onions. Also, in making the onions I used a combination of the Simply Recipes method and a recipe from the Rebar cookbook. I added dried chili peppers and chicken stock but completely forgot the balsamic vinegar. The onions simmered for 90 minutes until they were reduced to a thick consistency.

The tart was a hit and there wasn’t a crumb left behind!

New Year’s Resolutions Worth Breaking

Okay, so I fully realize that a proper posting referring to the New Year and any resolutions, goals, etc. should technically be posted on New Year’s Day or close to it.  But I’m just impressed that I’m getting this posted in the month of January.  It’s the small victories, people!

#1 This year my greatest goal is to do less. Yes, it is to take on less, to volunteer to less, to not start on a million new projects. I am the queen for taking on too much.  I say yes to everything! And then when I realize that I’ve taken on too much, I have an ugly, sobbing, red-faced break down complete with crying on the phone to my mother that life is too much and I have no time to myself, and on and on and on. It’s too much and I’m cutting it out! So I’m not going to volunteer on any committees, or throw 4 baby showers, or crochet a bunch of blankets.

I’m just saying No!

#2 Doing less, allows me to do the most important thing and that is to focus 100% of my energy on my baby and husband, especially after I head back to work at the end of April.

#3 That being said, I want to continue with this blog with a minimum of two posts per month.  And aren’t you all in for a treat! I received a gift certificate for digital photography lessons. Woot woot! My goal is to improve on the food pictures I take. So stayed tuned!

#4 And with continuing with the blog, my goal is to make one recipe from every cookbook I own.  And I own a LOT of cookbooks. This is not to say that every posting is going to be a recipe from a cookbook, but by the end of the year I hope to have made a new recipe from every cookbook in my awesome extensive collection.

#5 Take better care of myself. I feel like everyone has a version of this one. For me, it’s to exercise a bit, eat healthy, and work on stress reduction. I’m going to start running again and complete a 5km race by the end of the year (see I’m already taking on less. In the past I would have signed up for a half marathon. I’m a resolution super star!).

#6 Every year my family makes goals. And every year I include these two and I fail miserably at them: keep my room clean and get organized. Many years ago, my mother said I could have a baby if I could keep my room clean because she feared that I would lose the baby in my bedroom.  Luckily for me, having a clean room is not how babies are made. Even better, I have a loud screamy baby who I can find with ease in any room of the house, regardless of the clutter and piles of paper. But, (sigh) I will aim to work on getting more organized anyways. Keeping my fingers crossed that this is the year!

And thus ends my list of goals aimed at being a better wife and mother, better blogger and a better all around person. I look forward to failing at #6 for the 32nd consecutive year!

Did you make goals/resolutions? Which ones are you looking forward to breaking?

Egg Nog Chai Latte

Chai Tea Latte, Canmore

I have a strict rule regarding Christmas:

  1. The Christmas spirit (decorations, festivities, caroles, egg nog etc.) is relegated to December ONLY.

I can’t stand the “Christmas Creep” that starts just after Halloween.  By the time the holiday actually comes around, I’m sick of the songs, I’m sick of the trees, and I’m sick of the commercials. I am a regular crabby Scrooge.  I’m much more jolly if I can keep Christmas to December, where it’s just long enough to feel all special and shiny and bright.

But this year, I am in trouble. I don’t want Christmas to end. And egg nog is to blame!

I absolutely do not drink egg nog until December 1st and, savour my last cup on January 1st as I put away the Christmas tree.

My husband bought a 2L of egg nog in mid-November to spite my egg nog rule.  That carton of egg nog, which expired on November 29th and which he nor I drank a single glass, sat in the fridge until Boxing Day when we needed room for a large jar of pickles Todd got in his stocking. That is how firm I am with this egg nog business.

That was until I discovered the egg nog chai latte. So sweet. So spicy. So festive. Throughout December I invested a small fortune at a large coffee chain having my daily dose of this amazing drink. Then I got an electric milk frother (love!) from Todd for Christmas and could make my own! It’s quite simple: 1/2 parts chai syrup, 1/2 part egg nog.  Heat both and froth to enjoy the delicious concoction

But I ran out of egg nog yesterday!  This very last carton had been expired for four days and I kept drinking it because the threat of having to wait an entire year to have it again loomed.

Guys, I’m out of egg nog and Christmas is over.