Cajun Chicken Quinoa Salad

When I’m busy I always forget how much I love cooking.  Since I haven’t done that much dinner preparing this month, I was a little sluggish in making a final decision for this meal.  At first I was uninspired, standing alone atop a chair in my kitchen, gazing into the pantry with a spaced out look on my face.  I was so close to making Kraft Dinner.  Resisting the instinct to eat like a student, I finally decided to base my meal around three key ingredients: red pepper, red onion, and quinoa.

A simple google search informed me that I wasn’t insane in my dinner mission, and that the three ingredients I chose would actually go quite well together.  I’ve had an ungodly craving for chicken lately (bizarre, I know), so decided to throw that in for fun.  I found one recipe on the web that looked good, and decided to use it as a starting point for the dish you see below.

This turned out to be a great meal.  I’m currently studying in the library, deeply regretting my choice to leave my leftovers at home.  Guess what I’m having for dinner?  For students looking for a quick protein and fibre fix to get them through exams, this meal is stellar.  It also only takes about half an hour to prepare, which means you can get back to your work (or Facebook lurking) as quickly as possible.

Man, the thought of leftovers is killing me right now. Thank god Ariel is buying me a muffin. (Update: I just ate my leftovers for supper, I’m so happy right now)

See the recipe after the jump!

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Pasta Experiment v.1.0

Lately, all I’ve been eating is soup and cupcakes.  Now a girl can only live off these two things for so long (luckily it takes far longer to get sick of the latter) before she needs to climb out of her winter-induced food rut.  In the end, both these foods failed to satisfy my number one craving… my insane desire for CARBS.  Hence the creation of this pasta dish.

UPDATE: This is a screenshot of the hilarious/devastatingly upsetting email I got from my mom shortly after she read this post.  My mom is a dietician and doesn’t 100 per cent approve of the cupcake quest aforementioned in this entry.

And yes, I said creation.  Alright, so maybe I was partially inspired by a Canadian Living recipe, but the only thing that was similar about the two recipes were the caramelized red onions and the walnuts.  Nonetheless, here is a 1/10 credit to them for this veggie loaded dish.

But I do feel like I should start making more of my own dishes.  I’ve apparently garnered some sort of reputation for being a foodie, and to live up to this title I need to start experimenting around more with my meals.  Through the creation of different dishes, I’ve discovered that I’m atrociously bad at naming said meals.  As a journalism student, I can’t write headlines, and as a foodie, I can’t name recipes.  Shame on me.  So for lack of any sort of naming talent, I decided to call this one Pasta Experiment v.1.0, in hopes that I can one day change the title to something that vaguely resembles a proper recipe name.

Now that I’m having a petite pity party, I also feel bad about the pictures.  As most of you are aware, the winter has made the days dreadfully short.  This, combined with the fact that I often cook these meals at 9 p.m. when I finally get home from school, all contribute to the re-heated wonder that occurs for almost all my photos.  What this means is that the day after I make this meal, I yank my leftovers out of the fridge and slop them down on a pretty plate during the bright morning hours.  I then photograph this delicious looking meal while drinking my orange pekoe tea, and send my stomach into a series of unhappy gurgling fits until it gets fed a proper lunch.  Such a first-world problem, I apologize.

But enough with my ranting, here are the pictures…

Also, you can find my recipe after this short photographic interlude.

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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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Cheesy Shepherd’s Pie

I AM DONE EXAMS WAHOOOOOOO!  Other than half of a take home exam that I need to finish for tomorrow night, I am now officially on Christmas break.  This means that I finally have time to do things other than sitting in my bed/library studying and eating Costco-sized Toblerone bars.  For the next two weeks, I will have all the time in the world to blog, relax, play Super Mario with my little brother, cook and spend endless amounts of my day watching my new favourite tv show, How I Met Your Mother.

So ANYWAYS…

I realized the other day that I haven’t been testing out many of the recipes that have been in the recent issues of Canadian Living.  For a few months I was on a real roll, and had been trying out nearly half of their recipes from each issue.  Since I am now regularly getting their monthly magazine sent to me at home (thank you cheap student subscription rates!), it should be easier for me to try out their stuff, right?  Well regardless of the answer to that question, I am just going to have to make a conscious effort to review more of their recipes, starting now.

Making this recipe was actually what saved me from complete unhealthiness last week.  With leftover tourtiere in my freezer and this, I was eating somewhat decently for at least one meal a day, something which I am sure my stomach appreciated.

This shepherd’s pie recipe is found in the December issue of the magazine.  For some reason that boggles my mind, the recipe is actually called “cheddar cottage pie.”  The only reason I didn’t call it this in the title was because I really had no idea what a cottage pie was.  After several debates with Britt and our other friend Freya, we came to the conclusion that this name was because the pie was a “warm winter cottage-like food.”  Apparently we were wrong.  Here is what the ever helpful Wikipedia says:

The term cottage pie is known to have been in use in 1791, when potato was being introduced as an edible crop affordable for the poor (“cottage” meaning a modest dwelling for rural workers).

Alright, so we were completely off there.  But we ARE students after all, and “affordable crops” are always a plus.  Thank you again to Wikipedia for the endless bank of wisdom.

So this one was pretty good, but unlike many other Canadian Living recipes, I found this one to actually be a bit bland.  Ever since I started cooking in the summer, my taste buds have somehow gotten super sensitive, meaning I’m always craving some sort of spicy kick.  I think it’s probably just me and my neuroses, but I’d add a little extra thyme, salt and pepper to this one just for safe keeping.

Also, happy first day of winter!  To celebrate, here is a picture of the circumstances that I’m going to have to photograph under until the day I decide to make myself a light box. I get even more weird looks from the neighbours now that I’m dragging a chair out to the front steps…

The final product.  I think my potato level was a little dominating in a “I’m going to crush the life out of your meat layer so it’s not photogenic” sort of way, but so such is life.  The half Irish in me screams that you can never have too much of our little spud friend.


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).