Creamy Ricotta, Mint, and Garlic Pasta with Peas: In the Woods

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This particular dish, from The Camping Cookbook, is supposed to be served hot, but I thought it would make a nice cold lunch for us to eat after setting up camp on the first day.  So I ended up making all of this ahead of time, at home (which means that technically I didn’t make it in the woods).

Ricotta Pasta and Garlic Bread in the Woods 1

Start by boiling up about 150g of your favourite short pasta. The original recipe calls for ziti, but I love fusili so that’s what I used. Cook it according to the package directions, and drain it and return it to the pot when it’s ready.

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While that’s cooking, cut yourself about 1 tablespoon fresh mint and chop that up.

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Thaw about 1/2 cup frozen peas (or fresh, if you’ve got ’em). I added this element to the recipe for the sake of vitamins. Don’t want to get scurvy while camping.

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Mash up as well some roasted garlic (I roasted a few heads of this the week before and it pretty much went into everything).

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While the cooked pasta is still hot, stir in 1/3 cup ricotta cheese and 1/3 cup heavy cream (I wimped out here and used half and half).

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Add in your mint, peas, and garlic and season with salt and pepper to taste.

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We served this cold with a nice toasted garlic bread I prepared in advance: slice up a small baguette so that you have individual pieces but they’re still stuck together at the bottom.

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Chop up some fresh herbs: parsley, basil, and oregano (dried is also fine).

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Mush up some roasted garlic.

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Smush those all together with some pepper.

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Add softened (this is too softened) butter and mix.

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Insert the butter between the slices and wrap in tin foil until you’re ready to eat.

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You can toast the bread directly on your camp stove, or you can put it in an Outback Oven, or you can roast it directly over the campfire.

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Either way, it’s excellent.

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A Dilly Dish

Dilly Dish 3

I’m sure you experience this, same as the rest of us: you don’t want to create a fancy side for your weekday meal but you want something slightly more interesting than the merely steamed vegetables sitting on your plate.  Well here is your solution.

One evening I was preparing our evening meal, spiced chicken thighs with frozen corn, frozen peas, and basmati rice on the side.  Rather than serve all those vegetables and grains separate, I had an idea.  Just steps from my parents’ front door are several tall dill plants.

Dilly Dish 4

I cut off some of the leaves, which kind of resemble fennell, and brought them inside.

Dilly Dish 6

I combined the rice, peas, and corn, added some butter and salt and pepper, and stirred in the dill, chopped, and served it hot.  It made a nice little base for the chicken and a slight refresher on what could have been a ho-hum meal.

Dilly Dish 2

Chicken Orzo Salad

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The Pie’s parents, Mrs. Nice and Papa John, are in town on a visit for the Pie’s graduation (B.Sc. Honours in Geography and Computer Science, booyah), so I get a good number of opportunities to cook new things that I think might appeal to them.  This one I made with Mrs. Nice in mind, and reminds me somewhat of that amazing orzo salad we had at Ferryland a few years ago.

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Chicken Orzo Salad 2

Prep your vegetables.  Dice up half a large red onion, 1 red pepper, and half a large cucumber (I cut out the seeds).  I also halved 250g grape tomatoes and defrosted 1 cup each frozen corn and frozen peas.

Chicken Orzo Salad 3

Prep your dressing.  In a small jar (or other container with a lid), dump 1 tablespoon minced garlic, 2 teaspoons dried savoury (or basil, or oregano, or whatever you want), 2 tablespoons lemon juice, 2 tablespoons honey, 3 tablespoons rice vinegar, and 3 tablespoons vegetable oil.

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Close the lid tightly and give that a shake.  Let it sit for a while.

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Fill a large saucepan with about 4L of water and salt it generously.  Put it on to boil.  When it’s boiling, remove the lid, turn the heat down a bit, and pour in 450g orzo pasta.

Chicken Orzo Salad 6

While that’s on the go, cut up about 3 boneless skinless chicken breasts into small cubes and  pitch those in a frying pan or skillet with a bit of vegetable oil.

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Sauté those until fully cooked and browned on the outside.  Remove from the heat.

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Drain your orzo and plop it in a big bowl. This bowl was not big enough.

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My peas and corn were still a little frozen so I added them to the still-hot chicken pan to let them thaw properly.

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Then I chucked in the rest of the vegetables and stirred that around.

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Then you just add your veg to your pasta.  Give that a good stir.

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Give your dressing another shake and toss that with all the rest of your salad (don’t worry about the amount — it will be absorbed into the pasta) and serve warm or cold.

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Wingin’ it Wednesday: Oliver’s Stew

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Sometimes things don’t always work out exactly how you want them to.  But that’s okay, because you can learn from what you’ve done and move on.  So while this recipe was a little bland for my liking, I’m sure with the right combination of spices it would make a great mid-winter slow-cooker bowl of comfort.  I called it “Oliver’s Stew” because it has a gruel-like consistency that reminded me so much of the musical based on Charles Dickens’ novel Oliver Twist, specifically, this song. Nonetheless, I know some of you out there like your stews to be on the mushy side, so maybe this one is for you.

I started with some chicken thighs, and pulled the skin off them. There are only a few people in the world I will handle raw chicken for. The Pie is lucky to be one of them.

Oliver's Stew 1

Then I quickly browned them in a cast iron skillet.

Oliver's Stew 2

Cut up an onion and some garlic.

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And gathered some herbs: mustard, rosemary, and savoury.

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A red pepper.

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Some chick peas.

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Some rice.

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And some chicken broth.

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I hucked that all in the slow cooker with some salt and pepper and let ‘er rip. I ended up adding more liquid later on as it all got sucked into the rice.

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Shortly before serving I added some frozen corn and peas for colour.

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And there you have it — the chicken has fallen off the bone and lays in these lovely strips and the peas and corn and pepper add a nice pop of colour.

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Russian Potato Salad

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One day, way back in December, it was brisk and sunny in St. John’s, and then by the afternoon it looked like this:

Russian Potato Salad 1

Fortunately, a few days after that, we had a rare sunny day, where the light poured into my kitchen even into the afternoon (which, considering my windows face north and east, is amazing).

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But BAM.  It was that alluvasudden-it’s-winter phenomenon that seems to happen to many Canadian cities.  I was preparing for a pre-holiday potluck and Kª had just informed me (online from tropical Kansas) that Kº had gotten a job in Russia and that they were moving back there in February, and taking Il Principe and the Incredibly Little Hulk with them (not like they would have left them behind, of course).

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Having recently read Sasha’s recipe for Russian Potato Salad (or Olivier Salad) over at Global Table Adventure, I thought that it would be fitting for me to make this easy and cheerful salad for our holiday potluck (and I definitely left a substantial chunk of it with Kº when we left for Ottawa).  So this one’s for you, the Russians-who-formerly-lived-downstairs.  Прощайте и удачи.  Have a safe trip!

First, we boil.

Plop 4 large eggs into a pot of water, bring that to boil, then turn the heat off and let that sit with the lid on for about 20 minutes.  In another pot, boil up 3 large carrots and 2lbs potatoes.  Boil them until they’re just tender, not mushy.  Rinse them with cold water to cool them down and then peel them.  It may sound tricky, but it’s actually easier.

Then, we chop. Gren helped/cleaned the floor.

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Chop up those eggs quite fine.

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As well as 3-4 large dill pickles.  Make those into tiny cubes.

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In fact, cube everything, your potatoes, your carrots, as well as 1lb cooked ham.  You’ll also want about 2 cups peas (I used frozen), but you don’t need to chop those.  That would end badly.  I also chopped up those green onions I’d been saving.

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Mix all that cheery goodness together and season with salt and pepper.

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I also decided that potato salad isn’t potato salad without some paprika.  This is a sweet smoked variety from Spain.

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Then you slather on the mayonnaise, about 1 cup to 1 1/2 cups, depending on your preference.  Only dress the salad you plan to eat, as it will get soggy after a while.

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Tasty!

Cottage Pie

Cottage Pie

This is what we commonly refer to in our house as shepherd’s pie.  However, due to this usage, the Pie is convinced that traditional shepherd’s pie is made with ground beef, regardless of the fact that shepherds are generally focused on sheep, not cows.  There have been several arguments over the years.  He won’t even take Wikipedia as a definitive answer.

So.  Cottage pie.  A good way to use up leftover meat of any kind, and to encourage people to eat lovely potatoes.  This one we’re making with ground beef, and adding a few sweet potatoes to the mix.  The amounts I’ve used below are approximate, but make two good-sized dishes of the pie.

Start with 4 or 5 sweet potatoes.  Peel them, chop them up, and then boil them until they’re soft and mashable.

Cottage Pie

Then of course mash them, with a bit of butter.

Cottage Pie

While that’s on the go, you can finely chop 2 or 3 small onions and toss them into a large saucepan with some minced garlic and cook that until the onions are tender and translucent.

Cottage Pie

Add in about 1lb lean ground beef and stir that around until it’s cooked through.

Cottage Pie

Now, what I’m doing here is sprinkling about 1/4 cup flour onto my beef mixture.  For a gluten-free version, use corn starch.

Cottage Pie

Then use that same cup to scoop some of the cooking water out of your boiling sweet potatoes and add it to moisten the mix.

Cottage Pie

Chop up a few small carrots.

Cottage Pie

Add them, together with some frozen corn and frozen peas, to the meat mixture and stir around until they’re all separated and thawed.

Cottage Pie

Add some rosemary if you’ve got it.

Cottage Pie

Now you’re ready for assembly.  Gren seems to think that he is a viable receptacle for cottage pie.  He could be right. If it wasn’t for the corn and the wheat flour, and the fact that he is allergic to beef.

Cottage Pie

Spoon the meat and vegetables into the bottoms of your casserole dishes, filling about 3/4 of the way up. Then take your mashed sweet potato and smooth that over the tops.

Cottage Pie

Everything in there is cooked, so you will just need to heat it thoroughly when you cook it.  Using a glass casserole makes it easy to see if the mixture is bubbly.  These ones I froze for our parents to eat later.

Cottage Pie

Farmer’s Market Potato Salad

Farmer's Market Potato Salad

This recipe comes from Potato Salad: 65 Recipes from Classic to Cool.  At one point in this book the authors note that potato salad is as American as apple pie.  Thankfully they leave it at that.  Because I am a sports researcher, it drives me absolutely bonkers when I read somewhere that something is “as American as baseball and apple pie.”  In case you didn’t know (and on the slight off-chance that you actually care), baseball actually originated in Canada.  So while it may be the great American pastime (and gridiron football will start hemming and hawing to be noticed at this point), it ain’t American.

I don’t, on the other hand, know anything about the origins of potato salad.  Sorry ’bout that.  I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that potato salad came from wherever it is that potatoes are indigenous.

Okay enough blather.  You want a recipe.  Of course I left the recipe book at home and I’m at school so I’m guessing on the measurements from my photographs.  It’s not like potato salad is an exact science.

Start with 2 pounds new potatoes.  Plop those babies in a pot, cover them with water, and boil them until they are nice and yielding when you stab them with a sharp knife.  Not that most squishy things don’t yield when you stab them with a sharp knife.  And I don’t really like the turn this post is taking … So on that note, drain the cooked potatoes and let them cool until you can handle them without burning yourself.

Farmer's Market Potato Salad

Chop the potatoes up into halves or quarters or thirds (whatever works for the size of your potato) and plop those in a bowl.

Farmer's Market Potato Salad

Take 1 stalk celery, with all the objectionable bits cut off, and chop that up for the bowl.

Farmer's Market Potato Salad

Then take a TINY onion.  You can see the scale.  I have tiny munchkin/carnie hands, so objects in photo are smaller than they appear.

Farmer's Market Potato Salad

Because the recipe calls for only 1/4 cup chopped onion and that’s a very small amount.    Stick that in the bowl as well.

Farmer's Market Potato Salad

You’re going to need 1/2 cup green peas.  I thawed these from the freezer.  So much for market fresh!

Farmer's Market Potato Salad

You’re going to need 1 hardboiled egg, as well.  I don’t care how you get it, but once you have it, peel it and chop it up and add the bits to the bowl.

Farmer's Market Potato Salad

Chop up some fresh herbs, about 1 tablespoon chives and 2 tablespoons parsley.

Farmer's Market Potato Salad

How I love chopping herbs!  Well except thyme.  That sucker’s a real pain.

Farmer's Market Potato Salad

So that’s all the bits, in the bowl.  Except the herbs.

Farmer's Market Potato Salad

Now the dressing is something unnecessarily confabulated, like 1/2 cup sour cream, 2 tablespoons mayonnaise, 1 tablespoon greek yogurt, 2 teaspoons lemon juice, and 1/2 teaspoon each salt and pepper.  Or whatever the stuff in that wee bowl looks like to you.

Farmer's Market Potato Salad

Now, toss everything together and store in an airtight container in the fridge for a few hours   (or overnight) to let the flavours blend.  Then eat your face off!

Farmer's Market Potato Salad