Greek-Style Macaroni and Cheese

Macaroni and cheese (better known in student terms as the beloved Kraft Dinner) is something that most people my age can’t live without.  I am no different, and sometimes experience cheesy pasta cravings so violent that I don’t know what to do with myself.  As much as I love good ol’ KD, I thought I’d expand on the classical student meal of choice and try Canadian Living’s most recent twist on the original.  I made an adaptation of the recipe, the original of which can be found in the January edition of the magazine.  The dish is appropriately located under the “hearty foods to go” section – the perfect section for a busy student who is always on the run and in dire need of a quick and delicious foodie fix.

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Good Morning! Breakfast Strudels

Before I start, let me say HAPPY NEW YEAR everyone!  May your 2011 be filled with delicious recipe discoveries and good health!

Now that I’m back in Ottawa for the winter term, I figured it was time to resume blogging.  For my last days at home I was almost never on my computer, since my parents were worried that I was over-doing my computer usage by watching endless amounts of How I Met Your Mother on my brightly lit macbook (I’ve almost finished four seasons in two weeks, a tv addiction like this hasn’t happened since I fell in love with LOST…).

But back to the food… These are the breakfast strudels that my family and I have every Christmas morning.  They’re rich, tasty and the perfect start to a special day.  My mom has always made these in the past but, just like with my dad’s fruitcake, I decided it was time for me to take up the reins on making this second Duff family tradition. The recipe for these strudels was from an old edition of Canadian Living and has been adapted by my mom to become the recipe that I love today.

The one challenging thing about these strudels is the phyllo pastry.  Phyllo is probably the most delicate item you will ever have to cook or bake with and it becomes a bit of a hassle when you’re a tad impatient like me.  In the process of making my strudels, I wrecked one or two sheets of phyllo simply because I wasn’t careful enough when handling it.  Luckily for me I enjoy eating raw pastry dough (one of those weird Hilary things), and ate the destroyed sheet despite the disapproving look I got from my mom.  Regardless of the initial challenges, these strudels are a foolproof way to make an awesome breakfast!

End note: you know you’re back in a student kitchen when you keep watching the stove while boiling water, waiting for a fire to begin.

End note 2.0: YES, my suitcase just got delivered after it was lost in transit yesterday.  Going to unpack this instant!

See recipe after pictures.  ALSO: Since the directions may be a little confusing, I’ve included a very poorly-photographed/focused (my kitchen is dark, okay?) step-by-step visual guide on how to arrange the phyllo pastry for these.  Hope it helps!

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A French Canadian Feast: Tourtiere and an Apple Brie Tartlet

As the weather gets more and more cold, I begin to crave the warm heartiness that only homemade meals can bring.  To celebrate the (partial) success of vegetarian week, I decided to make an appropriate follow up meal: tourtiere, the traditional French Canadian meat pie (or as I know it, the delicious meal that my mom always used to make in the depth of winter).  Last year my mom sent me home with a meat pie after Thanksgiving and that baby miraculously got consumed within half a week.

This is the perfect thing for students to make during exams/when they don’t have much time on their hands, since any leftovers (of which there are usually loads) can be smushed into a tupperware container and tossed in the freezer for a later day.  Also, I feel like meat pies are rather impressive, so if there is anyone special you’re serving this to then they’re sure to compliment your cooking skills.

Although my mom does have an actual recipe for this one, I decided to go out on an adventurous tangent and sort of improvise a recipe.  A few things I would have improved: add SALT!  I know, I know, everyone has a major issue with sodium these days, but lets face it, everything is better with a bit of salt.  Also, I forgot to add it completely, so even just a 1/2 tsp. added to the meat mixture would be awesome.  One more thing: Somehow find a way to mash up the ground pork.  Maybe this is just a neurotic Hilary thing, but I don’t like how ground meat retains its worm-like tube shape when cooking.  So maybe squish it around in a bowl with some spices?  I really don’t know…

Here is the recipe for the Hilary-style Tourtiere:

Pie crust (recipe adapted from my Better Homes and Garden cookbook)
*Note: this recipe makes enough pie pastry for a double-crust pie, which is what is required for my tourtiere.
– 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
– 1 teaspoon salt
– 1/2 cup shortening
– 1/4 cup butter, cut up
– 2/3 cup ice water
In a large bowl whisk together flour and salt.  Using two steak knives (or a pastry blender if you’re grown up and have one of those), cut in the shortening and butter until pieces are pea sized.  Gradually add water to the mixture, tossing the dough around with a fork with each addition.  Once flour mixture is moistened, gather dough with hands and knead it on a floured surface.  Divide pastry in half, forming halves into balls.  Roll the pastry balls into circles with a 12-inch diameter and carefully transfer pastry into a nine inch pie pan.  Add filling (see recipe below) and place the other half of the dough over top, sealing the edges by pressing them closed with a fork.  Cut any desired slits into the top of the pie with a knife.

Tourtiere filling
– 600 grams ground pork
– 1 potato, grated
– 1 onion, chopped
– 3 cloves of garlic, chopped
– 3/4 teaspoon nutmeg
– 1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary
– 1/2 teaspoon salt
– 1/2 teaspoon pepper

In a non stick pan, fry ground pork until no longer pink.  Transfer to plate and keep warm.  In the same pan, fry onion, garlic, nutmeg, rosemary, salt and pepper.  Once onion is softened, add pork back into pan, combining the ingredients and cooking until warm (about four minutes).  Scoop filling into prepared pie pan and place other half of dough over top of filling.  Cook at 375° for about 45 minutes or until pie crust is golden brown.  Optional: five minutes before the pie is finished, take it out of the oven and brush top with egg white to add a glossy shine.

Note: the cooking temperature and time really depends on your oven.  Since our oven is possessed by the devil, I only had to cook my meat pie at 275° for 30 minutes.  Just keep an eye on it!

ALSO: this may be the best part of this entire post.  Because I had a bit of pie crust left over, I decided to make an apple brie tartlet!  I bought a huge chunk of brie earlier in the week, and quickly inhaled half of it while my meat pie was in the oven.  Since I was fully committed to eating this entire wheel of cheese in one day, I decided to chop up the remaining half and toss it in my pie crust with a diced apple.  Bake until brie is melted at about 200°.  ENJOY!  The two pictures below are literally the only things you need to do to make this AMAZING snack.  God I love brie.

And the finished product…

In the end, this turned out to be my biggest fat day ever (not that I mind).  Throughout the day, I ate an entire block of brie, two pieces of meat pie, part of my roommate Natalie’s lunch, a super chocolate-y hot chocolate and WAY more.  Needless to say I did yoga that night to calm my inner mind (and stomach).

Gruyere and Ham Pasta (Gruyere = the king of all cheese)

The insanity of what is my third year of university has finally begun in full force.  Rushing home from class and work today, Brittany (roomie) and I trekked down to the Byward Market in hunt of leather bracelets (Britt wants to be a rock star) and gruyere cheese.  Unable to find either of these two items (well this is a bit of a lie…the gruyere cheese at the International House of Cheese was, what I thought, super overpriced = not good), we sped off in Britt’s little hatchback and over to the trusty neighbourhood grocery store.

It was at this location that I found out buying a brick of gruyere cheese is nearly as expensive as buying a brick of solid gold.  Apparently the price of gruyere in the Market was actually reasonably priced, and I found myself paying $7.99 for a 195 gram piece of gruyere at the grocery store.  Refusing to accept any sort of cheese alternative for this recipe (although my iPhone tells me a cheaper alternative is emmental), I charged forth with my golden purchase, being sure to appreciate every delicious morsel of that damned cheese brick.

Preparing this Gruyere and Ham Pasta, I was faced with my largest “oh my god I need to cook so quickly” challenge to date.  THANK GOD this recipe was in the “make it in 30 minutes or less” section of my Canadian Living Make it Tonight cookbook.  If I had taken a minute longer to cook this meal, I would have made myself and all of my roommates late fora movie we were seeing.  As is I was forced to pack up my steaming dinner into a tupperware (post-food photographs, obviously) and charge off to the theatre, plastic Ikea fork in hand.  So everyone around me in the theatre could smell onions.. no big deal.

Also, this recipe called for chopped spinach, something I completely forgot to to add in at the last minute.  This being said, everything still tasted great (add lots of pepper though).  Thanks to my forgetful and rushed mind, I can look forward to a delicious baby spinach salad sometime later this week.  Perhaps it will involve strawberries.

Oooo, also this recipe made use of these fun little “Scoobi-doo” noodles, which I was disappointed to see did not resemble the cartoon character whatsoever.  Oh well, life goes on for those of us who are eternally young at heart.

PS: In case you are still rattled by how much I paid for the cheese (yes mom, I’m thinking you), this recipe actually made four servings, making the price for each serving be about $2.50.  Not the best, but not too shabby either.