Linguine with a creamy pesto, yogurt and zucchini sauce

Earlier this week I had the most uncontrollable pesto craving.

I don’t know what happened.  I was just sitting in the office one day when it struck me.  It was like tiny pesto gods had inception-ed my mind.

Meanwhile, in a galaxy far, far away, the zucchini gods were plotting a similar plan.

The incident occurred shortly after the pesto episode.  I had no choice.  Zucchini and pesto for supper it was.

The result of my afternoon cravings

As soon as the workday ended, I biked promptly to the nearest grocery store, eager to get these two foods in my stomach as fast as I could.  Pesto and zucchini were purchased and happiness was almost within my grasp.  I was going to buy fresh Parmesan to load on top of my pasta, before realizing that a small block cost approximately one hour’s worth of pay.  One day my cheese purchases will put me in the poorhouse, but that day has not yet come.

Aside: Let me take a quick moment to discuss a very serious health condition.  People with PSGSBS (painfully slow grocery store browsing syndrome) should be avoided at all costs.  Those stricken with this condition tend to come out immediately during post-office work hours and insist on standing in the middle of aisles, in front of the bananas, and in the baking section.  Seriously, I have no patience for grocery store pondering, and dodge the PSGSBS’ as fast as I can.  I still have my helmet on from biking, so if any of them get rabid I can escape unharmed.


Since the grocery store sold out of bowtie pasta (I saw a PSGSBS carrying three bags in her cart…), I settled on making my dish with linguine.  I had a whole pile of it lying around and decided it was time it made its dinner debut.

This was another one of those infamous “Hilary doesn’t really know what she’s doing” meals, hence the inclusion of plain yogurt in the sauce.  It was a miracle that it worked out (to be fair, a quick Google search showed that I wasn’t completely crazy.. apparently pesto and yogurt sauce is a thing).

Dinner ended with an incredibly happy Hilary and a completely satisfied pestocchini craving.  Major omnomnoms.

PS: seriously, this was so good and was so fast to make!!
PPS: I am THE WORST at estimating how much pasta I need.  I made enough pasta to feed an Italian army.  There is still some in the fridge that I have been picking at for snacks.  Yes, I eat cold pasta as a snack.  Resume head shaking.
PPPS: I really love these pictures.

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Sweet potato and black bean burrito bowls

Sadly enough, this is the first time I’ve used a recipe inspired by one of Ottawa’s many fantastic food bloggers.

A few weeks ago Kelly tweeted a picture of the sweet potato and black bean burritos she made on her super fun blog, The Gouda Life.

Her pictures made my mouth water.  I tweeted back at Kelly in excitement of my food discovery, and almost immediately got a reply from my friend Gord over at the Savoury Starving Student.  Apparently he made a dish very similar to this last summer.  Two trusted bloggers endorsing a recipe?  I was sold.

I filed this one away to make for later.  When I found out Matt was coming to visit for the weekend, I decided this was the perfect time to use it.  I always feel bad making such extravagant meals for myself, so I have no choice but to take full advantage of visiting guests.  I don’t think they mind.

Since I have never once succeeded in making a wrap/burrito/taco look photogenic in any of my shots, I decided on an alternative serving method for this meal.

And so, the burrito bowl was born.

After a last-minute, neurotic kitchen breakdown sparked by me trying to bake the small tortillas into bowl form, Matt (my voice of reason, apparently), suggested we broil them.  Of course he was right, and the crisis was averted in mere minutes.

One thing I will say about this meal was that it dirtied a record-breaking amount of bowls (this is an impressive statement coming from a girl who almost always uses every dish in her kitchen to make dinner) and required the carefully timed co-ordination of cooking methods.  With three different meal components: the lime zested black beans, Mexican rice and sweet potato mash, not to mention the creation of the aforementioned tortilla bowls, this was quite the ordeal.

The end result was awesome, though.  Happy porch eating times were achieved.

PS: did you know that cutting jalapeño peppers can burn your fingertips?  Luckily I found this out just as I was about to slice in.  I created tiny thimbles for my fingers using aluminum foil, and thanked google for informing me of such a thing.

"Hmm, I wonder if I could ever make something this awesome?"

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Fresh avocado spring rolls

Rice wraps are so weird.

Seriously, you start off with a thin piece of translucent paper that does not look edible in any way or form.  You soak the rice paper in hot water for about 10 seconds and it becomes sticky and membrane-like.

It still does not look edible.

But alas, if you can overcome the bizarreness and cocoon qualities of the rice wrap, you will be rewarded.

Your reward?  Fresh avocado spring rolls.  As mentioned previously, my new Canadian Living cookbook was to thank for the recipe.

Basic fact: avocado makes everything better.  Including this refreshingly cool summer (or late spring) meal.  These were the second part of the little dinner party Ariel and I had on Sunday night.

Sunday night dinner: a random combination of dishes, but delicious nonetheless

In hindsight, I probably should have chopped one of my spring rolls in half so you could see the innards of my dinner.  Unfortunately I was far too eager to eat and forgot this step, so let me just explain the contents to you: grated cucumber, carrot and vermicelli (you know, those skinny, see through noodles that look like elderly angel hair).

Also contained within was a healthy dose of fresh coriander (I sucked up my hatred for it) and chopped mint leaves.  Using our fingers, we slathered on some sweet chili sauce, courtesy of my roommate Lindsay (a very necessary step requiring no utensils whatsoever).

Et voila!

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Artichoke chicken flatbread

I got a new cookbook!

The show "Best Recipes Ever" is basically a culmination of two of my favourite things: Canadian Living and CBC

You can only sort of tell from the photo, but I have already bookmarked several pages using mining exploration post it notes I found around my home last week.  This is what happens when you grow up in northern Ontario.

The past few months have seen me straying from my Canadian Living roots.  This cookbook represents a partial return to my beginnings, and I was eager to try out some new recipes from the people who helped me fall in love with cooking in the first place.

One of the first recipes to catch my eye was for artichoke chicken flatbread.

With my dear friend Ariel having returned from Europe last week, I decided to cook us a celebratory “summer in Ottawa” meal.

Ariel is a great kitchen assistant and a fantastic food modeler.  As you can see, not much has changed since last October

Part two of our meal (avocado spring rolls!) will be coming up in the next couple of days.

As for this flatbread, I guess it really turned out to be more of a pizza.

My local grocery store apparently finds it unnecessary to carry flatbread of any kind, and I was certainly not up for making it myself, especially considering my newfound lack of bread machine.  So I cheated.  The flatbread is actually a store-bought pizza crust.

Secret’s out.  Whew, glad we got that out of the way.

While the flatbread may have adopted several pizza-like qualities, it was anything but average.  The pureed roasted red peppers added a twist to the base, and crunchy artichokes and red pepper combined blissfully on top.

I chose to make my flatbread/pizza sans olives, because, frankly, who likes olives.  So gross.

In other ingredient news… THIS IS OF CRITICAL IMPORTANCE: the recipe says you can use mozzarella cheese, but you must use goat cheese.  So smooth, so delicious.  Make the right decision.

As it turns out, this meal became a whole little four-person affair out on my porch.  My friend John was walking by, so I invited him up to eat.  Then my roommate Lindsay came home and joined in the festivities.

End of story?  Four fed people and no leftovers.  I was both relieved and heartbroken all at once.

As always, the recipe can be found after the jump.

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Cinco de Mayo, pt. 2: tortilla, ground beef and avocado tower

I can’t help but think that any food with the word “tower” in its name should be the subject of its very own fairy tale.  Originally when I started to write this post, I was going to make up some lame little story to accompany it, before realizing it excruciatingly difficult to write a fairy tale where the protagonist was locked up in a tower made of ground meat.  Kind of kills the romanticism factor, huh?  I guess I’ll leave the fairy tales to Disney.  I’m in it for the food.

Obviously when planning my Cinco de Mayo feast, I realized my meal wouldn’t be complete without some sort of:

a. Tortilla usage
b. Spicy meat
c. Avocado

Since I really wasn’t in the mood to make tacos, and since there was only one of me, I did the next logical thing: created my own dish.

Yeah, I know, it looks pretty simple, but the flavours were actually incredibly effective and satisfying.  This tower of Mexican joy also allowed me to utilize one of the new food rings I bought in Kensington Market a few weeks ago.  Basically, a food ring is a large, well ring, with built-up sides.  It kind of looks like a really clean piece of pipe.  The point of a food ring is to be able to stack your food nicely and compress it in such a way that it doesn’t become a crumbled mess (partial failure on my part, yes).  It also allows you to achieve the presentation seen on all your favourite cooking shows – including TOP CHEF CANADA, which I am now completely obsessed with.

To go along with your food ring, you’re technically supposed to have this flat piece that fits exactly inside the ring.  This piece is meant to press down everything you have inside.  Despite the urgings of the store clerk that this compressor piece was absolutely and completely key, I, of course, did not buy said item.  Come on, it was an extra $13.  I insisted on using a spoon.

It sort of worked, and I consider myself the winner of this food compressor debate.  Take that Mr. Kensington Market Vendor.

As you’ll see below in the recipe, I got to make some more homemade tortilla chip-like things, something I love doing.  Slice up the tortillas (while snacking on one), pan fry them with salt and chili powder and life is grand.

Super easy and semi-impressive looking for a summer night out on the porch.  I ate this on my stairs as the dog walkers and scooter enthusiasts passed by in (what I assumed to be) sheer envy.

PS: THE BEST part of my Cinco de Mayo dinner is coming up next.  I know, it is now the 11th of May.  Shame on me.

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