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Basic Marinara Sauce

In order to make the shrimp-stuffed shells, I had to quickly whip up a basic marinara sauce. This works with any kind of dish that would require marinara sauce. Also a great recipe to make and freeze to later use as a base to many recipes! The quantities below yield approximately 3 cups - maybe a little less. Nonetheless, it'll be enough for the shells recipe. Here we go:

  • 1/2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, peeled and chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 small cans of tomato paste
  • 2 tomato paste cans of water
  • 1 1/2 tbsp dry basil
  1. In a small pot, sauté your onion in your olive oil for about 2-3 minutes
  2. Add in your garlic and stir for about a minute or so
  3. Add in your tomato paste and your water, and stir until combined into a thick sauce
  4. Add your basil and stir.
  5. Let it simmer for about 5 minutes or so
That's it! Easy peasy! :)

- CK

Shrimp-Stuffed Shells

Stumble Upon is a great tool to find all kinds of fantastic recipes. Not usually being a full time vegetarian, yet choosing to be vegetarian for the next month and a half, I have to make sure to find filling, nutritious and delicious recipes to fill the void. This adapted shrimp-stuffed shell recipe from Cooking Light was easy and quick to make (minus the shrimp procedure, read on...), and definitely hit the spot!

Ingredients (yield 3 large servings)
  • 20 uncooked jumbo pasta shells (about 8 ounces)
  • 1/2 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic (about 6 cloves)
  • 1/2 cup cottage cheese
  • 1/4 cup skim milk reduced-fat milk
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper
  • 1 pound medium shrimp, peeled, deveined, and coarsely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon corn starch
  • 3 cups basic marinara sauce, divided
  • Grated Mozarella and Parmesan cheese (as much as you want)
  1. Put your frozen shrimp in a bowl of warm water.
  2. Preheat your oven to 400°.
  3. Cook pasta 7 minutes or until almost al dente, omitting salt and fat. Drain well.
  4. While your pasta is cooking, peel your shrimp and coarsely chop them.
  5. Heat a medium non-stick skillet over medium heat. Add oil to pan; swirl to coat.
  6. Add garlic and cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly
  7. Add cottage cheese, milk, and pepper; cook for approximately 3-5 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. 
  8. Sprinkle your shrimp with with corn starch and toss well to coat. Add the cottage cheese mixture to the shrimp shrimp and toss well.
  9. Divide shrimp mixture evenly among pasta shells.
  10. Spread 1 cup marinara over bottom of dish. Arrange shells in prepared dish and top with the remaining 2 cups marinara. Sprinkle shells evenly with your cheese. Bake at 400° for 30 minutes or until shrimp is done. 

- CK

Springy Grapefruit Salad

free your fruit!!...into your belly
Spring is in the air (she said, as it snowed aggressively outside her window)! Or it was this past Family Day weekend anyhoo. A little wishful thinking never hurt, right?

Spring means salad season, and there's nothing I like better than a tasty combo of fruits and veggies, and of course, cheese. Cheese is pretty key.

If you're getting tired of our first spinach/parm salad (but how could you!) - here's a variation on a theme with a little more zing. Also, recent studies have indicated that eating citrus fruits lowers a woman's risk of blood-clot related stroke, so get peeling!

Here's an easy, healthy, tasty salad for 4:

You're going to need:

8oz (250g) of baby salad. Wash it.
Half a cup of Parmesan flakes (shredded or flaked, not ground or whatever...if you have a block of it, use a veggie peeler for speed's sake. You can also buy it flaked, as per the petals in the earlier recipe).
1 grapefruit (I prefer red) peeled and segmented.

Toss (more like mix) these ingredients with you hands in a large bowl for ideal distribution onto 4 plates or into bowls.

Dressing: In a small bowl mix....

Juice of half a lemon (or roughly 1.5-2 tbsp)
2-3 tbsp olive oil
chopped chives to taste (you're going to sprinkle this over the salad, so a large tbsp or two would do, unless you really want to up the chivey-ness)
fresh ground pepper

For a little protein consider toasting some slivered almonds and tossing them in there. Raisins might also be yummy. Flax seeds if you're feeling ambitious, though they would probably be best mixed into your dressing, or else they'll sink to the bottom.

Dress your salad and enjoy!!

DIY Cheese Tortellini

How would you feel if I told you you could make your own cheese tortellini with 4 simple ingredients? With lent season starting today, and my choice on cutting on meat, I have no choice but to start looking for great vegetarian recipes again. This cheese tortellini is definitely going up on my list! The original recipe was for a lobster tortellini, which - you know - I'll HAVE to try out. But in the meantime, let's start small shall we? ;)

Now, I must warn you that this does take a while (i.e. approximately 2 hours) if you don't have a pasta maker (that's definitely on my next wish list!!). In the meantime, get ready to use those muscles, because you're in for a delicious ride! :)

Note: This is a great recipe if you're just starting with pasta making. It definitely put me in the mood to start making all my pasta from scratch!

Step 1. Make the pasta dough

All you need for this pasta dough recipe is flour and water. Yes. That's it. Trust me on this one. So, for about 5 good portions of tortellini, use:
  •  3 cups of all-purpose flour and 1 cup of whole wheat flour (feel free to play around with those, I would suggest keeping the ratio at max a half and half, but that's for you to experiment). To this, add 1/2 a cup of warm water and mix.
  • Add warm water to this mix - one tbsp at a time - until all the dry flour has been absorbed. Knead this ball of dough for about 10 minutes (it should be stiff for you to knead), or until you get a nice smooth ball that's not too sticky, but not too dry either. You'll see what I mean as you do it. Don't be shy and give it a try :)
  • Once that's done, wrap it in plastic and let it rest for at least 1 hour. That'll give time for the glutens to rest so you get a nice elastic dough.
Step 2. Make your cheese filling
  • For the amount of dough you made, you'll need about half a box of ricotta cheese (I picked the traditional kind because I wanted to be on the safe side - I'm not a ricotta expert) and about a tablespoon of fresh cut parsley. C and I are not big fans of parsley's strong taste, but still wanted to add a little something to the cheese. Feel free to add more if you like :)
  • Mix well in a bowl and let it rest in the fridge until your dough is ready.
Step 3. Make the tortellini - yay!

Oook. Now comes the fun part! First tip I'll give you: work with small portions of your dough - it'll be long, but it'll be much less work on your arms. Make sure you leave the rest of your dough wrapped in plastic so it doesn't dry out while you're working your dough.

Honestly, This is a faster - and funner - process if there's two of you: 1 person rolls the dough and 1 person rolls the tortellini, but that's up to you and how much time you have. 

A. Take a piece of your dough and roll it out on a flouered surface. Make sure it's as thin as possible so your pasta doesn't turn out too thick once cooked, making you miss out on the amazing filling.

B. Using a circular cookie cutter (not too big, not too small, depending on the size you want to make your tortellini), cut circles in your rolled out dough. Apologies for not having a picture for this step, but I think you get the gist of it. Make sure to use the scraps with new dough so that it doesn't crumble the next time you use it!

C. Lay out your cut circles and a little over a quarter of a teaspoon of your cheese-parsley mix to the center.

D. Dab the borders of your circle with water and fold in half. Make sure you press close to the cheese to remove the air in there.

E. Press the cheese up toward the border using your thumb.

F. Twist the two corners towards each other and secure. Place your finished product on a cookie sheet. Play around with the twist and see what they look like! Twisting in different directions will make them look different, but they all have the same delicious taste! :)

From this point on, you have two options:
  1. Freeze them for later. If you're going to do that, make sure they're not touching each other on your cookie sheet and freeze them flat for about half an hour, then transfer them into a freezer bag and save for later. Once you're ready to eat, take them out of the freezer and boil for approximately 3-5 minutes, or until they float to the top - about a dozen at a time, depending on the size of your pot.
  2. Make them fresh! How can you resist?? In this case, boil for approximately 2-3 minutes, or until they float to the top - about a dozen at a time, depending on the size of your pot.
We couldn't resist and had to try it out for supper! So we cooked them and made a simple rosé sauce! :) Quite impressed with ourselves I must say. Now, I have to spend a full day making those for the days we just won't feel like cooking!

Not only are they delicous, but they're also cheap to make! Enjoy it to the last bit and have fun with different fillings. Next stop, LOBSTER! :)

- CK

Not feeling so Swell? Foods that can cause and cure inflammation, and one quick and dirty cure for when the going gets rough

Increasingly my friends have been complaining about a wide variety of gastrointestinal discomforts, from things that are disabling as aggressive, but undiagnosable food allergies, to a basic discomfort impacting their ability to enjoy foods. Whether it's part of the process of aging (even just a little), or has something to do with the additives in most commercial foods (probably more than just a little), it's still unpleasant. One of the main complaints I hear from friends, family, and especially my own mouth, is the problem of bloating (which can be particularly painful) or more broadly, inflammation in general. Though everyone's relationship with food is a little bit different, and some foods may cause me instant pain while they don't affect you, here are some of the possible culprits, based on their makeup. Now, though inflammation and bloating aren't always the same thing, I'm going to put it all in one list, because if you suffer from either of these discomforts, you probably want to take all of these things into account.

Baddies for inflammation:
  • Foods high in saturated or trans fats both cause inflammation and can cause that uncomfortable "too full" feeling
  • Processed meats: between the nitrates and the sodium..bad news
  • Deep fried foods, or foods cooked at extremely high temperatures
  • High fructose foods, or foods with high sugar contents
Tip: Limit your omega-6 fatty acids intake by balancing it with omega-3s

Baddies for bloating:
  • naturally gassy foods: broccoli, cauliflower, onions, legumes, cabbage and now you're going WHAT? healthy foods? Yes, in a word. These guys are all huge catalysts for me personally, and I'm a vegetarian, so that's bad news. I've learned that eating these foods more slowly, or in a still-nutritious cooked form, like roasting or steaming, reduces my suffering. The good news is that these foods will help with overall inflammation, but they might cause short term bloating until they've passed through your system. Pay attention to what you're eating around periods of bloating, and deteremine what causes you discomfort. For example, I've determined that only onions and broccoli actually cause me to bloat or feel stomach pain, so I know to be careful around these foods, while the others don't bother me at all. Learn your belly, in short.
  • Foods containing artificial sweeteners (sorbitol, mannitol, and malitol), including protein supplements
  • Carbonated drinks (kind of a no-brainer that one)
  • Starchy foods in too-large quantities or too-fast consumption (pasta, rice, breads) - just eat these guys slowly and in moderation, as you should to control your sugar intake anyways
  • Fatty foods - AGAIN...The lesson here is to focus on taking in healthy helpful fats, and balance out your bad fats with the good ones, which can actually improve the stomach situation.

Good guys, generally: 
  • fruits and veggies (particularly ones high in phytonutrients): some key foods are oranges, grapefruits, watermelons, strawberries and blueberries, lettuce, spinach, broccoli and cauliflower (i know i know...try eating a small serving, a half cup at a time, and avoid the bloat that can come along with huge helping of raw veggies), cucumbers (apparently, a natural diuretic!)
  • Apparently, pineapple is an anti-inflammatory and bloating superfood that deserves independent recognition in this department because it's soooo SUPER
  • increased fiber intake: you should be taking in 25-30 g of fiber a day, and very few people actually do. Take in both soluble and non-soluble fibers, in the forms of whole grains, fruits, veggies, and legumes (beans, etc), but make sure you're not taking in a whole lot of sugar or salt at the same time. One tip is to look for cereals with less than 5g of sugar in them.
  • omega-3 fatty acids...these are good for so many different things, and this is one of them! Get them in supplement form, in fish, etc.
  • walnuts, flax seed, canola oil 
  •  chili peppers, peppermint, ginger, and garlic
  • yogurt - this superfood helps good bacteria grow in your gut, and that good bacteria is a gas-killer. Again, check your labels and choose options with a little bit of fat (no-fat yogurt always has wayyy too much sugar, or artificial sweeteners that are a trigger for gas and inflammation) and a little bit of sugar. I like Astro Biobest for the time being. Personally, going off fat-free yogurt really improved my stomach discomforts.

Inflammation and bloating can be caused by different things in different people, so if limiting and taking in these foods don't improve your situation, you may have to start monitoring your diet even more carefully to find the culprit. Having recently improved my own situation though, let me say that it's really worth it to find what works, or doesn't for you.

Need a quick fix? I tried everything. I used to experience such bad pain that on one occasion I called paramedics because I thought my appendix was bursting (imagine my embarrassment when it turned out to be stomach gas :P). I've improved my diet, and the situation is much improved, but when you really need some help, particularly for stomach gas or rapid bloating up that's causing you serious discomfort, the only thing that ever worked, and continues to work, for me, was Eno, available in your local pharmacy. A la Don Draper, a bi-carbonate of soda can really help (though your fingers might be swollen in the morning ...sodium etc., not necessarily a friend for inflammation sufferers, but amazing for gas and bloating relief, and actually, makes a good antacid as well). It's been around since the 1850s, so you know it's good ;)

Light and Tangy Pasta Salad

There are some things in my fridge that I never finish before they go bad: low fat plain yogurt, whole carrots, cucumbers, and parsley. It's really sad to see these things wilt or mold or do whatever yogurt does (ick) when they were perfectly delicious a few days ago. With that in mind (and with not wanting to venture outside into the -40 with-the-wind-chill out of doors, I set to a little pasta salad experiment. To be fair, this was also motivated by being a bit grossed out by how much mayonnaise we use to make things creamy (feeling a little guilty about my own mayonnaise habit I guess), so I wanted to do it without.

The results were pretty tasty actually, and this dressing would probably be good on roast potatoes or coleslaw.

In a bowl mix together:

½ cup plain yogurt (I used 1% astro brand that went a little watery on me - perfect for this!)
1.5 tbsp whole grain mustard
1.5 tbsp olive oil
3 tbsp minced fresh parsley
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp white vinegar
1 clove minced garlic
1 tsp red pepper flakes
A high protein variation for my workweek! One can
of rinsed black beans, one can of tuna in water, 3 carrots,
6 cups of cooked penne, 3 stalks of celery, 1/2 cup chopped
parsley, and 1/2 cup dressing! Delicious :)

Add about 1.5 tbsp of this dressing to roughly:
3/4 cup cooked cold penne pasta (ideally whole wheat)
1 large carrot, sliced
1/4 cucumber, quartered
optional: 2 tbsp parley, minced (I had some left over from making the dressing, and love parsley...plus it offsets the raw garlic in the dressing, breath-wise)

Season your salad with salt and pepper to taste.

You could easily add any kind of bell pepper, celery, onion, black beans (I suspect this would be delicious), and/or black olives or anything else that's left in your fridge and needs eating. Any other suggestions are very welcome!


Made for Love: A Valentine's Day Special Treat

Do you want to make your Valentine's day extra special? Add some romance with this very simple chocolate body paint. Yes. You read right. Chocolate. Body. Paint. Not only is this paint a great romance enhancer, but you can also use it as skin care (think Friday night face masks with your girl friends). The great thing about this recipe, is that you can have it taste whatever you want! The entire process will take you approximately 20 minutes (including the wrapping).

BONUS: It's nut/peanut free! Use it on your nut/peanut-allergic mates! ;)

What you'll need:

For the Chocolate
  • 1/2 teaspoon of your favorite alcohol (optional - but can make things spicier)
  • 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup of cocoa powder (if you have some fair trade cocoa, the more power to you - if you're in Canada, let me know where you got it)
  • 2 tablespoons of butter
  • 3 tablespoons of water
  • a pinch of salt
  • 1/3 cup of sugar
For the wrapping
  • a small mason jar
  • scrap paper of your choice
  • a love label (feel free to be creative, if your creative juices aren't flowing, feel free to email us and we can send you the psd or the jpg)
  • ribbon of your choice
  • glue
What you'll do:
  1. Combine the water, salt, and sugar into a compact saucepan over medium heat.
  2. Wait for the concoction to boil and reduce the heat to a simmer. Don't stir because the sugar crystals will form and crack the sugar if you do; just wait for all the sugar granules to melt and observe what you're cooking carefully.
  3. Remove from the heat, add your butter, and then stir with a whisk until everything gets a nice and even consistency.
  4. At this point, add your choice of alcohol, vanilla, and cocoa powder together while whisking until they're all incorporated into the mixture.
  5. Pour your smoothened chocolate body paint into the mason jar. You could also use a mug - just make sure it's something that can sustain high heat since your chocolate will be very hot.
  6. Let it cool enough to the touch before using it. You certainly don't want to burn your canvas.
  7. If you're going to use it right away, place it on a heat pad. If not, you can microwave it for about 20-30 seconds in the microwave once you're ready to use it (make sure it's in the fridge in the meantime)
  8. Apply it using a paint brush and enjoy! ;)

V-day Special: Lobster on a Budget

Ahhh. Valentine's day. The day of looooove.

A and I have celebrated Valentine's day in different ways, great restaurants and horseback riding being on the menu. But this year, we both have plans that require saving our money and so this much celebrated event will have to be experienced without having to dish out on expensive bottles of wine and restaurants so fancy that only a connoisseur would know where to find ( A is fancy like that ;) ).

This meal was prepared for a birthday celebration,
but is PERFECT for a romantic dinner :)
I'm sure many of you are in the same situation - want to do something nice and romantic, but don't have the mullah for it. That's why we bring you the Lobster on a Budget meal. This meal will require around 1.5 hours to prepare and will only cost you about a third of what you'd pay in a restaurant (depending on the lobster you get of course). It cost me around 30$ for 2 meals - including the wine.

With this, you can easily get the restaurant experience in the privacy of your home, and without having to take out the only savings you have left to please your mate. Actually, preparing this meal for them (or together) might be more rewarding for the both of you! ;)

This is a perfect pairing with the easy Beets Appetizer! Idea: Prepare a 3 course meal with these great recipes! :)

So, this meal requires 3 steps: the potatoes, the green beans and the lobster.

Note: If you're not the cooking kind, check out our great Valentine's day restaurants post and take your mate out for a nice night on the town!

Before we start, find a warm area where you can keep your finished dishes, or make some room on your counter to let them sit while covered to make sure they stay relatively warm when you serve them.

Step 1: Prepare Rosemary Roasted Potatoes

The Food Network's website has a lot of great recipes to try out and adapt to your liking, this one was definitely one of them.

  • 3 large Russett potatoes, peeled and cut into wedges.  
  • 1/8 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic (3 cloves)
  • 2 tablespoons dry rosemary
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Place the potatoes in a bowl with the olive oil, salt, pepper, garlic and rosemary.
  3. Toss until the potatoes are well coated.
  4. Dump the potatoes on a baking sheet and spread out into 1 layer.
  5. Roast in the oven for at least 1 hour, or until browned and crisp. Flip twice with a spatula during cooking to ensure even browning.
  6. Remove the potatoes from the oven, season to taste, and serve.
Voilà! Easy peasy! Now, while the potatoes are roasting, prepare your green beans.

Step 2: Prepare the Lemon-Butter Green Beans

Gotta love the Food Network!

  • 1/3 pound fresh green beans, ends trimmed, blanched in boiling salted water
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 tablespoon pine nuts (optional, A doesn't like pine nuts)
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • Pinch salt
  • Pinch freshly ground black pepper
  1. Drain green beans well and pat dry.
  2. Heat the butter in a medium skillet over medium heat.
  3. Add the green beans and toss to coat evenly. Cook just enough to warm through, about 1 minute.
  4. Add the lemon juice, salt, and pepper and toss to combine.
  5. Remove from the heat and put those aside
  6. Start prepping your lobster! :)
Step 3: Grill your Lobster

At this point, you have 3 options:
  1. If you own a bbq and it's been sitting through the winter, now's a good time to wake it up a little before the summer.
  2. If you have a grilling pan, that's great because you can just cook it on your stovetop!
  3. I purchased the lobster already cooked, so you may not even have to do anything with the lobster if you can't grill it (although you can always try a nice broiled lobster, but I wanted to try my new pan :))

Now that you've picked your option, on to the cooking. This marinade is fairly simple and gave a great taste to the lobster tail (which is really the only part you can do something with if you're grilling).

  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon white pepper
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 frozen lobsters (size of your choice. I found small-medium lobsters for 6$ each at my local Metro - jumped on those ones) - you can also use lobster tails if you feel it might be easier for you.
  1. Preheat the grill for high heat.
  2. Squeeze the lemon juice into a small bowl, and slowly whisk in the olive oil. Whisk in the salt, white pepper, and garlic.
  3. Rinse you lobster and flip it on it's back. Cut open the "casing" of the tail. Remove the top transparent shell so that the flesh is showing but is still sitting in the bottom shell.
  4. Baste the flesh part of the tail with the marinade.
  5. Lightly oil the grill grate and place the tails, flesh side down, on the preheated grill. (if you're using the grilling pan, it's normal that your lobster doesn't fit in your pan, its upper body might be dangling out a little). 
  6. Cook for 5 minutes, pressing the tail against the grill and basting frequently with the marinade. Discard any remaining marinade.
  7. Do the same with the second lobster.
Serve this deliciousness with some melted garlic butter (We used a chocolate fondue set to keep the butter melted and warm) and some homemade bread with some garlic butter spread.

Wine Pairing: Since this meal is full of butter, pair it with a nice Chardonnay. I know, the picture has red wine, but that's because A doesn't drink white. If you want to go with red, go with a Pinot Noir.

Bonus Step: Setting the Atmosphere

Yay! You've created an epic meal (granted, full of calories and cholesterol, but hey, it's Valentine's day)! Setting the table is key to creating the atmosphere:
  1. Find a white tablecloth and drape it over your table.
  2. Create a centerpiece with candles and empty bottles of wine.
  3. Plate the food so that it looks somewhat appealing (you be the judge). A good tip is to play with levels.
  4. If you don't have the lobster tools, use some nut crackers - we got some for $3 a piece.
  5. Have some jazz music playing in the background.
  6. Crack open that bottle of wine and enjoy your evening!

Roasted HeartBeets Valentines' Day Appetizer

Special occasion dinners are divine, but they can also put a lot of pressure on people who are used to eating out of tupperware to make a multi-course meal on real dinnerware (i.e. me). I'm always on the lookout for fun appetizers that make me look like a better cook than I am, and this year I've happened upon a winning combination. The combination of foods isn't a terribly original one (beets and chevre have a long standing and delicious history), but this is a cute visual twist on a safe taste combination that will dress up a dinner in a heartbeat ;) Though this dish is commonly served as a salad, I think it makes an elegant appetizer. It would pair nicely with the lobster dinner we're recommending, and would also be dressed up prettily by a glass of champagne! A nice bonus: beets are great for, you guessed it, your heart.

You'll want to prep your parts about 1.5 hours before serving: the beets need to cool once roasted, and you want to assemble no more than 30 minutes before you serve, so things don't try out or unravel too dramatically). I actually roasted and cooled my beets a whole day before prepping my dish - slicing mint and spreading chevre takes only a minute, and you only need to spend as long arranging your plates as you actually want to - assembly takes about 5 minutes let's say)

Appetizer for 2


  • 2-3 medium sized beets, peeled
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • Sea Salt
  • 2 sprigs of fresh mint (depending on your servings and your mint...basically you want about 2.5-3 mint leaves per plate)
  • a small pat of chevre (I know that's an incredibly vague measurement designation, so check out the final picture..basically you want to put down a little pillow of chevre to "plant" your heart-shaped beets in, so it's pretty much up to you.)

"Heart-beets" before roasting

-Wear white. These hearts bleed.


-Preheat your oven to 375 (make sure your rack is on the middle rung)

-Notice that your peeled beets are already somewhat heart shaped. Slice the beets top to bottom (preserving this natural shape in the slices) in pieces about 1/4 inch thick.

-Using the preexistent shape, make small cuts to shape your beet slices into hearts

-In a bowl, toss the beets in the olive oil until coated

-Sprinkle the coated beets with a few dashes of sea salt

-Lay them out on a Pyrex (glass type?) baking dish or pan. Try to make enough room so that each beet has a surface on the bottom of the pan

-Roast for 35-40 minutes, checking every 10 minutes or so. Skinnier slices will roast faster, so feel free to take them out early (my littler hearts took more like 15 minutes), thicker ones could take as long as 40 minutes. Stir the beets every 10 minutes. When they're done they'll look glazed, but not crispy.

-When they're done, chill the beets covered in the fridge, for an hour.

Before serving:

-Using a knife, lay down a pat or "pillow" of chevre on a little plate; try to mold the pat into an angle, so the hearts will be supported "up" by the chevre, as in the first picture in this post.

-Using your knife, dig little wedges into the cheese, to place the heart in. The beets will dye the chevre pink where they touch it, so you can get creative with that if you want.

Stirred and delicious final product
-Slice your mint into strips, removing the stems. If you want to make little rosebuds of mint, roll a leaf (or stack of leaves) into a tube and slice across the tube. Pinch the little rolls (little minty cinnamon bun shapes) and plant them in the chevre around the hearts, or strew them like confetti if you prefer. It'll be pretty anyways :)

-Love all serve all!

Romantic Hideaways for V-Day Dins

Valentine's day is nearly upon us, and at StuteKitchen, we're busy prepping recipes for home-cooked dinners that are perfect for feeding the one you love (or were lucky enough to entice into your dining room this V-Day - you lucky dog), even if that one is yourself and a smug I-Hate-Valentines-Day smile (hey, we've all been there). BUT! If the kitchen's not your thing, why not check out one of these sexy Ottawa venues? There are lots of great options for special dinners out that don't involve a 25$ chewy steak and a merlot, so go off the grid a bit this year!

Stella Osteria has all the glamour and cozy somehow whipped up nice and harmoniously...plus the food there is great, and they have an impressive wine list. Check out CK's review here.

Fraser Cafe is located at on Mackay just north of Beechwood
Though you'll want to make your reservation early, New Edinburgh's Fraser Cafe is a great option for diners who want delicious food and awesome service without the added pressure of special-occasion shmantz. Offering a casual friendly atmosphere,  5-star service, and masterful creative powers, the Fraser brothers never fail to provide a dining experience that is both intimate and impressive. Their emphasis on local ingredients and inspired flavor combinations will make you fall in love. Mains usually run between 20-28$, but check out their seasonal menu here. Reserve early: this place will book up fast!
(613) 749-1444

Love Thai food? So do I. One NYE M and I ventured down to The Green Papaya's then-new location on Preston at Gladstone, and it was a perfect little spot for an intimate dinner (...things can get spicy there, if you know what I mean). Warm and inviting, the enticing scents of coconut curry and Jasmine rice will warm your stony heart if you're a V-Day hater. 
256 Preston Street, Ottawa, ON KIR7Y4
(613) 231-8424

Live West of downtown? The Silver Spoon at 1775 Carling is a totally under-celebrated Thai haven. Cheerful and hip, both casual and sparkly, it's teeny interior creates a perfect atmosphere for a night with your coolest special someone. 
Reserve at 613-667-3198

If you're living on the Quebec side, or simply yearning for a little italian fare without the hype of Preston street, try Aylmer's lovely Bistro Ambrosia (100 rue Principale...call 819-682-5333 for reservations). Old Aylmer is really charming at night, and the food at Ambrosia is always worth the trek over. Elegant atmosphere, hearty servings and good company make for a winning combination every time. In the summer, Ambrosia has the advantage of a lovely side patio looking onto what used to be Aylmer's main street, and is a great place for happy hour cocktails. The menu is available online.

Love pizza? Wellington Village's recent culinary explosion has brought us two happening pizza joints in Tennessee Willem's and the Back Lane Cafe. Though I have yet to try a slice of Willem's, I had the distinct pleasure of eating at Back Lane a few weeks back. It's style is a blend of old and new world Italian bistro, and though it's prices range in the high end for bistro fare, Back Lane delivers freshness and creativity that you can't always count on in pizza. Even traditional standbys shine in this adorable cafe. Again, reserve early: the word about Back Lane is getting around!

Whole Wheat Homemade Bread


*DISCLAIMER: This is a perfect recipe for a nice breakfast in bed on Valentine's Day morning! <3*

For quite some time now, C and I have been wanting to make our own bread but were honestly a little too scared to try it out. I knew how time-consuming bread could be and quite frankly didn't want to spend time waiting for dough to rise, or put in the effort to knead the dough. When A suggested that we spend our Sundays cooking though, I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to try it out since I would be spending my day in the kitchen anyways. So I found a very simple recipe, and followed the instructions (with a few changes) to make 3 loaves:

  • 3 cups lukewarm water
  • 1 1/2 (1.5 packs) tablespoons active dry yeast
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons salt
  • 6 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
  1. In a very large bowl, put together your flour, yeast, and salt.
  2. Pour in your water and stir until combined, just a few minutes.
  3. Cover your bowl with plastic wrap and a dry towel for 2-5 hours. (We left it for approximately 5 hours - pretty much all day while we were cooking up our other meals)
  4. Divide your dough into 3 loaves. Cover each loaf with flour and form it into a ball. (If you don't want to make all your loaves at once, wrap 2 of them with plastic wrap and freeze)
  5. Lay the remaining loaf onto a baking sheet or onto a pizza stone sprinkled with cornmeal. Let this dough rest for about 30 or so minutes.
  6. With a sharp knife, slash the top of the loaf into 3 lines or a criss-cross pattern. This helps let out some steam in the dough. If you don’t slash your bread, the bread will most likely make it’s own tear somewhere during cooking.
  7. Preheat your oven to 450 degrees and add a small pan filled with 1 cup of water on a lower rack for a water bath. Bake for 30-35 minutes - until it becomes golden. The water bath is super important, it avoids your bread sticking to your baking sheet!
This might look like a long process, but it's really just the waiting that takes a while. Our bread turned out quite dense and full of wheat flavour, but C and I really enjoyed the result nonetheless! If you want your bread to expand a little bit and so be a little fluffier (and less dense in taste), subsitute 2 cups (or up to half) of the whole wheat flour with all purpose flour.

Don't forget your 2 loaves in the freezer! Once you want to use them, thaw them overnight on the counter in a bowl covered with a dry towel, bake in the morning and wake up to a fresh and healthy breakfast! :)


- CK