ham + cheese + spinach + leek hand pies

ham and cheese hand pie

I made a seven pound ham for us last weekend.

needless to say, that was a bit too much ham for two people, even if I’ve been nibbling at the leftovers by eating scalloped potatoes with ham bits for breakfast (best. breakfast. ever.)

I made these hand pies today to deal with some of the leftovers. I’ll be making a broccoli/ham pottage with the rest, so stay tuned for that recipe.

makes 8 pies that are great for carry-away breakfasts/lunches or snacks to share with a friend. not light. this is not diet food.

what you need:

  • 1.5 c cooked smoked ham, diced
  • 1.5 c leek greens, chopped
  • 4 cups spinach, chopped
  • 4 cups cheese, grated (my recommendations are cheddar, Monterrey jack, Swiss, Gouda, some combination thereof)
  • 1 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 tsp ground black pepper
  • 2 pkg puff pastry

what you do:

  1. mix all of the above, except the puff pastry, in a large bowl.
  2. preheat oven to 400.
  3. line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
  4. roll out puff pastry into 10 x 10 inch sheets (1 package should give you two sheets).
  5. cut sheets in half, so they’re 5 x 10 inches.
  6. place a good handful of the ham/cheese/leek/spinach mixture on half of a strip.
  7. fold the “nude” part of the strip over to cover the filling and seal the side edges.
  8. add a little more filling through the unsealed edge.
  9. seal the edge that has not yet been sealed.
  10. place on parchment-lined baking sheet.
  11. repeat seven more times until you have 8 pies.
  12. bake for 20-25 minutes until golden brown.
  13. let rest a good 10 minutes before serving.



spicy carrot potage

in case you’re wondering, a potage is basically made by tossing a bunch of stuff into a pot with water and boiling it until it becomes some kind of (hopefully) tasty glop. straight-up medieval peasant food, yo. it’s perfect pantry-bustin’ fare.

at the weekend I found some carrots and celery that were on their way out, so it gave me the perfect excuse to make a nice potage that highlights the earthy sweetness of the carrots with a nice bump of warmth from a toasted cumin-and-chili-infused oil that gets tossed in at the end.

I like to add milk to mine for a little creaminess, but you could replace that with water or almond milk to make it vegan.

makes about 12 app OR 6 meal-sized servings

what you need:

  • 2 medium-sized red potatoes, washed and quartered (no need to peel these puppies, unless you really want to)
  • 5 large carrots, washed and quartered
  • 2 stalks of celery, washed and quartered
  • 1 medium-sized yellow onion, peeled and quartered
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 inch chunk of fresh ginger, peeled and quartered
  • water to cover
  • 2 cups of broth
  • 1 cup of milk (this is totally optional and can be substituted for water or almond milk)
  • a pinch each of salt & pepper
  • additional hot water, as necessary
  • 3 tbsp vegetable or mustard oil
  • 1 tbsp whole cumin seeds
  • 1 tbsp chili flakes
  • 1 tsp ground nutmeg
  • another medium-sized yellow onion, minced

what you do:

  1. to a large pot (I use a spaghetti pot or dutch oven) add the first onion, potatoes, carrots, bay leaves, ginger, salt, pepper and enough water to cover it all.
  2. bring the pot to a boil over high heat.
  3. reduce the heat to medium and let simmer for about 45 minutes or until all of the vegetables are fork tender. the carrots will take the longest.
  4. add the stock and milk.
  5. use an immersion blender or food processor to purée the lot of it until smooth, adding hot water as necessary to get the desired consistency. I like my carrot soup to be…well…loose…soupy. some believe it should be chunkier and thicker. “desired consistency” is really up to you.
  6. if necessary, return to the pot and heat over medium-high.
  7. lightly crush the cumin and chili flakes using a mortar and pestle or the back of a spoon and a bowl.
  8. in a small saucepan, toast the spices over medium-low heat until fragrant.
  9. add 1 tbsp of the oil and the minced onion.
  10. stir these until the onion is a deep brown colour.
  11. add the remaining 2 tbsp of oil and heat for another minute.
  12. stir the spice/onion/oil mixture into the soup.
  13. serve hot with a some freshly ground pepper and croutons or breadsticks.


bread sticks

bread sticks

to say I’m a soup fiend is a bit of an understatement. those around me know that, if I haven’t made a soup, or at least a stock, each week, they have good reason to doubt my mental health.

bread things go hand-in-hand with soup things, but oddly enough, I’m not much of a bread person and soup-making days are typically those when I really can’t be arsed to go out and hunt down a good loaf of bread. nevermind the fact that said loaf of bread would just go bad before we ate it all. that’s where this recipe comes in; it goes together quickly enough and is a small batch (though easily doubled for snacking purposes – people WILL snack on these) so I’m not fretting about lost foods, plus one can dress these guys up or down as desired.

below this basic recipe, I’ve provided instructions for making the cheesy-herby-garlicky bread sticks shown above along with some other notes on variations you might try.

makes 12-16 sticks

what you need:

  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 1 cup warm (warmer than luke, but not hot) water
  • 1 tbsp dry, active yeast
  • 2.5 cups of all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp olive oil

what you do:

  1. stir the honey and water together in a large bowl.
  2. sprinkle the yeast on top.
  3. let sit for 10 minutes.
  4. add the flour, salt, and olive oil
  5. mix with a wooden spoon until combined.
  6. coat hands in flour, then knead for one minute.
  7. form into a ball.
  8. let rise until doubled (approximately half an hour).
  9. preheat oven to 425.
  10. punch the dough down and knead for one minute.
  11. split the dough into two balls.
  12. roll each ball out into a (approximately) 8″x 8″ rectangle.
  13. NOTE: If you want to dress your bread sticks up, now is the time to do it. see notes below for detail.
  14. using a pizza cutter or very sharp knife, cut the dough into one inch strips.
  15. give each strip 4 twists and transfer to a parchment-lined baking sheet with a good half inch between each stick. you’ll need two baking sheets for this.
  16. don’t worry about uniformity.
  17. reduce oven temp to 375 and place baking sheets in the oven.
  18. bake for 12 minutes.
  19. NOTE: If there is a cheese-adding step to fancying up your breadsticks, this is when you’ll do it.
  20. brush each stick with oil.
  21. bake for another 3-5 minutes.
  22. remove from oven and let rest for at least 5 minutes.
  23. MANGEZ!

Italian-esque cheese and herb (great with black bean and tomato or meatball soup)

what you need:

  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp oregano or Italian seasoning
  • 2 tsp garlic powder or 3 cloves of fresh garlic, crushed
  • pepper to taste
  • 3 cups mozzarella cheese (or provolone or marble or some other melty cheese), grated

what you do:

  1. in a bowl, mix together all but the cheese.
  2. once you’ve rolled the dough balls out into (kinda) rectangles (step 12), spread this mixture on top of each before cutting.
  3. twist and place on parchment-lined baking sheets, and bake for 12 minutes.
  4. push the bread sticks close together, all snug-like, and sprinkle with the grated cheese.
  5. bake for another 3-5 minutes until cheese is bubbling and browning.

other variations:

  • for bread sticks that goes better with a milder soup, like a cream of- or potage (or just for munching), skip the garlic, use tarragon, thyme, or basil and switch up the mozzarella for a Gruyère or Swiss cheese.
  • make a sweet version using 1/4 cup of melted, unsalted butter, 1/4 cup of brown sugar, 1 tsp of cinnamon, and a pinch of ground clove. still top it with mozzarella or provolone, or mix the lot of the seasoning with 1/4 cup of cream cheese and spread that on, if you’re daring.
  • make it tex-mex style using 1 tbsp chili powder, 1 tbsp thyme, 2 minced jalepenos and monterey jack cheese.






black bean & tomato soup

This is probably the easiest meal we put together in our kitchen on a fairly regular basis.  Its roots are found in the CPHA‘s publication, The Basic Shelf Cookbook, which is something I feel every household should have a copy of.  I don’t actually own the book right now (and before you call me a hypocrite you should know that I’ve owned the book and given it away at least 7 times.)  The contents are brilliant on a fundamental level: simple meals comprised largely of ingredients with long shelf lives which focus on maintaining nutritional integrity.  It can be ordered here for CDN $7.50.

My recipe differs from the original by a couple of steps and ingredients but still maintains the inherent simplicity while stepping up the flavour quotient a couple of notches.  Oh, and it’s entirely vegan if you omit the cheese or replace it with a soy based cheese.

What you need:

1tbsp olive oil

1 tsp. coriander, ground

1 tsp. cumin, ground

1 medium sized cooking onion, finely chopped (vidalias and reds are my favourites for this soup)

4 cloves of garlic, crushed

2 cans of diced tomatoes (or jars if you do your own)

1 can of black beans (or soak the dried kind if you want to)

1 can of sweet or baby corn (or use leftovers if you’ve got ’em)

2 cups of vegetable broth (or dissolve 2 cubes/packets of bouillon-esque stuff in your 2 cups of boiling water)

1 tbsp dried or 1/4 cup fresh oregano

1 tbsp dried or 1/4 cup fresh basil

A pretty, fresh herb and some cheese for garnish (I’ve got cilantro and cheddar in the pic above but parsley &/or basil are great alternatives to the cilantro if you don’t have any on hand.

Toast the spices in a large pot over medium-high heat until fragrant.  Turn the heat down to medium-low and add the tablespoon of olive oil.  Once the oil is hot, sweat the onions and garlic in it for 3-4 minutes or until translucent.  Add the tomatoes, corn, beans & stock.  Up the heat again to medium-high and keep it there, stirring constantly, until the mixture reaches a low boil.  Stir in the herbs.  Move to large bowls and garnish.

samosas for Todd

No picture of this as I haven’t had the opportunity to do the frozen versus fresh trial I wanted to as ‘plain yoghurt’ means ‘vanilla-flavoured yoghurt’ in the minds and hearts of my yoghurt buyers. I shall post my recipe for the wonderful nibblies things anyway.

The dough recipe I use comes out of a cookbook called Peterborough Peoples’ Potluck Picks. This amazingly alliterative oeuvre was purchased through a local fundraiser for Canadian Crossroads International back in 1993 and contains simply the tastiest & most forgiving, recipe for samosa dough ever.

What you need for the dough:

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 tsp. salt

2 tbsp. butter, margarine or ghee

3/4 cup plain (not vanilla) yoghurt (I prefer balkan style for this but anything from fat-free to homemade will work)

Lightly mix the flour and salt in a large bowl then cut in the butter/margarine with a fork or a pastry cutter until the mixture looks all coarse like breadcrumbs. Stir in the yoghurt then mix it all together with your hands. Dough hooks and other gadgets really don’t work well with this dough as part of the pliability of it leans on body heat – avoiding getting your hands dirty will not result in a good dough. You don’t need to knead it, just mix with the hands forming it into a ball as you go. Once that’s done you can set it in the fridge while preparing the samosa guts.

What you need for the innards:

1/2 cup of chopped onion – I like sweet & nutty flavour of vidalias for samosas

3 cloves chopped garlic

3 large potatoes diced – I prefer reds as they wash up quickly and the skins can be left on but usually use 4-5 of these as they don’t really come in large size russets (which is an effective alternative) or other white-skinned varieties do around here

1 cup of fresh or frozen peas – alternatively, that frozen vegie mix comprised of carrots, peas, corn & beans works really well too and allows me to get samosas past people who say they don’t like peas

2 tbsp. margarine, butter or ghee

juice of 2 limes

salt to taste

spices (I’ll get into that in a bit)

Heat a skillet over medium-high heat then melt the butter/margarine/ghee in it. Add the onions, garlic, potatoes and salt and allow everything to brown just a bit. Once slightly browned, reduce the heat to low-medium and continue to cook until the potatoes are fork tender (about ten minutes.) Up the heat to high, add the salt and peas and cook over high heat for another 2-3 minutes. Then it’s time to remove the filling from the heat source and talk about spices.

As you’ve probably been able to deduce, samomas are pretty versatile creatures. As such, there are infinite possibilities for dealing with their spiciness. One could create their own amalgam of spices, toss in a pre-made garam masala or curry paste or keep them minimal and somewhat pirogie-like. If I’m feeling lazy I’ll toss in 1 tbsp of Sybil’s Jerk Seasoning or her Kick Ass Curry Paste (I’m sorry for those of you who don’t live in the area and don’t have access to her wonderfully spicey bounty of deliciousness) but I almost never use a pre-fab curry powder. So when I’m feeling less lazy I mix up a concoction of equal parts cumin, coriander, allspice, nutmeg, tumeric & ground chilies…which I often have on hand as I also almost always make up too much of this concoction. This can all be ground together in a coffee grinder, small food processor or with a mortar & pestle.  The important part is to season your filling to taste and mix it well.  After that’s done the lime juice can be added and mixed in as well.

The filling should be allowed to chill at least an hour or two before using it with the dough otherwise it could make the samosas fall apart.  When you’re ready to fill them, get out the ball of dough and divide it in half, then divide those in half again and so on until you’ve got 32 little balls.  Then just roll those little balls out into circles as thinly as you can, add about 2 tbsp of filling, fold the dough over the filling and press the dough edges together with a fork.  I always need to experiment with the first couple I make.  The beauty of this dough is that it’s very stretchy, the downside to that is that I end up overestimating it’s stretchiness.  I’m an overstuffer.  Some people are understuffers, and the downside to that is you end up with really doughy samosas.

I like to get at least one other person in on the rolling and stuffing part of the samosa-making process.  This allows me to get them cooking as we go which prevents them from sitting and sweating on a surface which doesn’t allow them to breathe and making them more breakable.  That generally plays out as me being in charge of the hot oil for deep frying, 1 kid rolling and 1 kid stuffing.  If I don’t have an extra set of hands around to help me out I can get around the sweat issue by preheating the oven to 425 degrees, moving the stuffed samosas directly to a lightly greased baking sheet then moving the full-of-stuffed-samosas baking sheets directly to the oven to cook for about 5 minutes (just long enough to dry the dough, but not to brown it) then moving the samosas onto cooling racks.  The advantage of going that route rather than directly to deep fry is that they’re easier to store as they can be tossed into freezer bags and then into the freezer then brought out and deep fried at a later date.  One could also finish them in the oven and bypass deep frying altogether, but let’s face it, part of the appeal is the crispy, goldenness of these tasty treats.

So there you go.  It’s not a complicated process but it definitely can be a long one.  I like to justify it by making a double or triple batch so there are some to enjoy immediately and others to be put away for entertaining later.


Someone suggested having a crepe-themed wine (or ‘let’s eat ’til we burst’) night with our regular motley crew and Friday that plan finally came together. They’re really not the mystery one might have you believe them to be and they make for a nice, decadent, incredibly versatile treat once every 5 years or so. You may as well try to make them.

What you need for savoury crepes:

2 large eggs
3/4 cup milk
1/2 cup water
1 cup flour
1/4 cup melted butter
1/2teaspoon salt
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

What you need for dessert crepes:

2 large eggs
3/4 cup milk
1/2 cup water
1 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup melted butter
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons of amaretto

Butter or cooking spray (which I don’t normally endorse the use of but I’ve score a lifetime supply of it and need to use it for something) for greasing the pan(s).

In the bowl of a large (10-12 cup) food processor mix together all of the ingredients (except the butter or cooking spray for the pan) and pulse together 10 times for 2 seconds each. If you feel the need for more batter just double the batches but mix them separately for a smoother batter. That’s it, that’s all. Well, until you’re ready to cook them and you won’t be for a good hour or so as it’s best to refrigerate the batter for at least an hour to quell the bubbles which cause crepe breakage during and after cooking. I also like to allow the batter to sit at room temperature for a good 15 minutes before cooking as it helps the butter get back in with the rest of the batter family after it’s resolidification time in the frigo.

As far as cooking crepes goes I tend to prefer a heavy bottomed skillet over the thin, low lipped crepe pans. the reason for this is that I can get a good flip out of a larger pan and can control the heat in them better. The good flip means less handling which means less breakage which makes for happy crepes. The temperature control means less burning which means I can have two pans on the go at once without compromising the integrity of the crepes. So 2 heavy skillets over medium high heat with a wee bit of butter rubbed on them or cooking spray sprayed in them for lube will get you going – just remember to start them one at a time and if you don’t feel like doing two at a time, don’t.

It always takes me at least three crepes to gage how much batter to use when experimenting with new equipment (and I was as I wasn’t at home.) I eyeball how much goes in; I start with about a quarter of a cup of batter in the pan and swirl it around until the bottom is lightly coated in batter. If my crepe is not translucent enough to see the bottom of the pan I know I’ve got too much batter. If there are holes through the crepe I know I’ve got too little. I adjust accordingly either way with subsequent crepes until I get it right.

Crepes can be filled with just about anything. Friday night we had each guest bring a selection of fillings for both sweet and savoury crepes so our selection consisted of roasted chicken breasts, asparagus, sauteed mushrooms and spinach, cheese curds, old cheddar cheese, butter chicken sauce, mushroom wine sauce, bechamel, prosciutto, tomato butter, shrimp & potatoes. For the dessert crepes (sorry;no pictures of those – I blame the wine) we saw amaretto cream cheese whipped cream, amaretto stewed fruits (do you sense a theme here?) raspberry compote, fresh strawberries and blackberries, and probably a bunch of other stuff I can’t remember. It was all wonderfully yummy and incredibly filling but kept up with the wine nicely.

Meatballs and noodles in lemon-dill sauce

No picture today as the camera is on a business trip in Montreal (it leads such a jet-set lifestyle, that camera) but I wanted to share the spring-inspired dish we enjoyed for dinner tonight with you all the same.

What you need:

1 lb lean ground chicken, pork, turkey or lamb – or any combination of those

3/4 cup breadcrumbs

3 eggs

4 cloves of minced garlic

4 tbsp dill

1 tsp salt

pepper to taste

1 tbsp olive oil

1 cup water

2 tbsp butter

1/2 cup lemon juice

1 12 oz. package of egg noodles

Start by putting the water for the noodles on to boil. In a large bowl combine ground meat, breadcrumbs, 1 egg, 2 cloves of garlic, 2 tablespoons of dill, salt and pepper. Mix well and roll into balls about 1.5 inches in diameter each. Heat the olive oil to medium-high in a heavy skillet then add the meatballs to brown.

Turn the heat down to medium and cook for another 3- 4 minutes. At this point the noodle water is likely boiling so go ahead and put the noodles in to cook according to the directions on the package. Once the noodles are in add the lemon juice to the water and add that mixture to the skillet a little at a time, using it to deglaze the pan as you go until all of the water/lemon mix is in the pan.

Let that come to a simmer, still over medium heat and add the butter. Beat the eggs in a medium sized bowl while waiting. Once the stuff in the skillet has reached a simmer add some of it to the bowl with the eggs a little at a time, stirring constantly. I like to use a turkey baster for that job as gives greater control over how much is added and is easy to use with only one free hand.

You’ll want to mix in at least half of the hot mixture in order to prevent the eggs from cooking once returning the sauce to the pan. Add it back to the pan, a little at a time, stirring all the while again (I know, I’m so demanding) until everything is thoroughly mixed together and uniform. Bring it back up to a simmer – still stirring or the eggs might go wonky and toss in the remaining dill and garlic once there. Then it’s all ready to go over the noodles.

I like to serve this in bowls with loads and loads of freshly ground pepper and a light salad drizzled in nothing but lemon juice on the side…or peas. It’s really good with peas too.