Sunday Funday

The cherry blossoms have bloomed in Victoria, lining the streets in all their glorious beauty! I could not be more ecstatic. Cherry blossoms are my all-time favourite part about Spring in BC! Yay!

Now, today’s post is ALL about food, because I went on a manic day-long cooking spree and am desperate to show off my recipes and pics! It was a wonderful day for indoor fun. Not only was the weather pretty miserable, but I was out late last night (work until 7, dinner out after at The Pink Bicycle – YUM!, drinks later at Smiths Pub, and then watched a movie at home) and didn’t get a full nights sleep, so I was tired. On top of that, I just wasn’t really feeling 100% today, so I skipped my training. Sometimes your body needs a rest unexpectedly, and I’ve learned that it’s important to accept and respect those demands. Today, my body said, “Jenn, take it easy, you can pick right back up where you left off tomorrow, but today, I need a break.” And so, I nixed my plans to run a practice 5K race, and instead I cooked. And baked. And ate.

My grandparents, who have been in Victoria, visiting from London, Ontario, for almost a month now, are heading back home in five days. They are the absolute cutest, sweetest, most adorable grandparents you ever did see. I just love ’em! And they always spoil me with dinners out and little gifts and goodies of all sorts. So, I thought it would be nice if I could do something for them for a chance, and so last week I offered to cook them dinner at their hotel sometime. We worked out that Sunday was the best for the both of us, and I was off planning the menu immediately. My grandpa, who I call “Noots” (not really sure of the origin of that one) is of an Italian background. So, naturally, he LOVES pasta – all’arrabbiata in particular (In case you’re unfamiliar with the dish, it’s a spicy tomato sauce that directly translates to “angry style”). I absolutely love to make pasta and I definitely share my grandpa’s love of angry sauce, so I decided it was a great fit.

Off I went this morning, first baking up a storm before beginning on the pasta. I obviously wasn’t about to show up without a dessert prepared – I am, after all, a soon-to-be pastry student. And, let’s be honest, dessert is a must at any dinner party, no matter the occasion.

Gooey Caramel Butter Bars. Must I even go on? Seriously though, this is a dessert sent from the heavens. Simple, elegant, luscious and, most importantly, unbelievably and undeniably delectable. The recipe came from the cookbook, Sticky, Chewy, Messy, Gooey. It’s full of scrumptious desserts of all kinds and has adorable pictures!

These were so easy to make. All it was, was a simple melted caramel-pecan filling, sandwiched between a chewy, lovely vanilla shortbread crust and a buttery, crumbly topping. So. friggin. good.

After I finished up those puppies, it was on to the pasta. And let me tell you, I love love love the process of making pasta from scratch. Gnocchi, ravioli, macaroni, tortellini. You name it, I adore making it. Today, I stuck to a simple linguine, using a recipe from The Joy of Cooking for a Basic Egg Pasta Dough. This is my favourite recipe for fresh pasta, and it can be used for just about any type or shape.

Basic Egg Pasta Dough

3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
5 large eggs
1 tsp salt
water, as needed

Make a mound with the flour, on a clean, dry surface. Create a well in the centre of the mound for the eggs. Crack the eggs into the well. Add the salt.

Using a fork, lightly beat the eggs, while slowly incorporating the flour as you go. As the dough begins to come together, begin using your hands, adding water as needed.

Once it has all come together and formed a smooth dough ball, begin kneading. Knead until the dough becomes silky and very elastic (about 8 minutes).

Cover with a clean dish towel and let rest for about 30 minutes. Now, you’re ready to roll!

I served the pasta for dinner tonight with my FAV arrabbiata recipe (courtesy of my lovely mother). Super simple and spectacular, this sauce is so easy to whip up. It’s traditionally served on Penne, but I really really enjoyed it on the fresh linguine.

Spicy Tomato Sauce

Serves 6

3-4 Tbsp olive oil
4 cloves garlic
1/2 tsp hot red pepper flakes
1 28-oz can crushed italian tomatoes
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp fresh ground pepper
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
1/2 cup fresh grated parmesan cheese
1 lb (500g) pasta

Heat the oil in a large pan on medium heat. Add garlic and pepper flakes. Cook only for about 1 minute. DO NOT BROWN. Stir in tomatoes, salt and pepper. Simmer for about 10-15 minute, until thickened.

Stir in 1/2 the parsley.

Meanwhile, boil a large pot of water, adding a generous amount of salt when it begins to bubble vigorously. Then, add the pasta and cook to al dente. Drain and add to the sauce. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese and mix well.

Top each serving with the remaining parsley and more freshly grated parmesan. Enjoy!

We sat and enjoyed our dinner with a gorgeous view, just as the sun was beginning to set. Wonderful.

Now, although that very likely could have been the end of this post, and evidence of an intense day of kitchen adventures, I did in fact, do more baking after I finished the pasta dough, before heading over to make dinner for my grandparents, because, well, what the heck else would I rather be filling my spare time doing?

I made one of my other breakfast obsessions (along with muffins and pancakes) – fresh, homemade granola. Om nom! This is my very own recipe, developed from scratch!

Cinnamon-Ginger Molasses Granola

3 cups rolled oats
1 cup wheat germ
1/4 cup ground flaxseed
2 tsp ginger
2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup unsweetened apple sauce
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup honey
2 Tbsp molasses
2 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Combine the oats, wheat germ, flaxseed, spices and salt in a large bowl.

In a small bowl, mix together the applesauce, vegetable oil, honey, molasses and vanilla.

Add the wet mix to the dry mix and mix well.

Spread the mixture out onto a parchment paper lined baking sheet.

Bake 30 minutes, flipping the granola once half-way through. Remove from the oven and cool completely.

Voila- Cinnamon-Ginger Molasses Granola! Store in an airtight container.

What a spectacular day of cooking. In fact, it was a delightful weekend all round. Lets keep our fingers crossed for some surprise nice weather and a solid week ahead!