Category Archives: cheese

Bison-Stuffed Zucchini Boats

If you’ve been reading this blog for longer than 2 weeks, you will probably have picked up on the fact that I often enjoy the challenge of using up what I already have on hand instead of just constantly buying new food.  So, every few months or so, I get the urge to do a complete pantry, fridge, and freezer inventory whereby I pull everything out, asses, and then either dispose or re-home my findings.  It’s a good way for me to see what I have, what I need, and what needs to be used up relatively quickly.

It’s also a good way for me to procrastinate from doing my laundry or cleaning out my car, both of which need to be done but neither of which you want to hear about.

During my last inventory session, I unearthed a package of ground bison in the freezer and a can of pizza sauce in the pantry.  I knew I could build a meal out of those two ingredients without having to run to the store, which is always a bonus since a certain manager at a local grocery store sees me so often he now calls me “trouble”.

So much for ever being incognito, huh?

I pulled out a few zucchini, some cheese, and an onion from the fridge along with some frozen red peppers, and got cooking.  Since it was almost midnight, I knew I had to work quickly so as to not wake M up.

Using up what you already have and making a quick and delicious meal? A good thing indeed.

Zucchini, red onion, garlic, red peppers, ground bison, cheese, pizza sauce, Italian seasoning

Wash and halve a few zucchini’s lengthwise, like so:

If need be, cut a small slice off of the bottom of each half so that the zucchini sits nicely.  Mine were ok, and I couldn’t be bothered to make them perfect so I didn’t.  Use a spoon to hollow out the zucchini, but leave a 1/4″ border or so for stability, and because zucchini is delicious.

Give the zucchini innards a rough chop, and set them aside.

Next, chop up a red onion, while trying not to cry.

I found a bag of frozen red pepper strips in my freezer, so I chopped up a few handfuls of those too.

Throw all of the veggies into a pan with a drizzle of olive oil, and saute for a few minutes.  Add a few cloves of minced garlic too, for good measure.  If you have any veggies that are knocking on deaths door, this would be a great way to use them up.

Surely I am not the only one that ever has vegetables go bad in their fridge.

When the veggies have started to soften, add the ground bison. If you don’t have any ground bison, try ground beef, or turkey, or chicken, or pork.  This is all about using up what you have, folks!

However, if you aren’t familiar with ground bison and would like a reason to be, you should give it a try – it’s fabulous!  Check out this post where I talk about some of it’s attributes, or just take my word for it.

Since bison is extremely lean, it doesn’t give off much fat (i.e. probably no need to drain the meat).  Open up a can of pizza sauce, or tomato sauce, or diced tomatoes, or whatever you find in your pantry, and add it to the skillet.

Next, a healthy sprinkling of Italian seasoning.  If you don’t have any of that in your posession, give a few good shakes or basil, oregano, rosemary, thyme, or whatever sounds good to you.

Give it a stir, and reduce the heat to low.  Let the meat mixture simmer for about 20 minutes or so to allow the flavours to all blend together in a way that’s just magical.

I heard that said on TV once, although I’m not sure if it’s true or not.

Once the meat has thickened up like this…

…taste it for seasonings, and add more of whatever it needs.  I debated adding some cooked quinoa to the filling, but decided against dirtying another pot.  If you have any leftover grains already cooked in your fridge, now would be a good time to use them up.  It would also stretch the meat a little further, which is never a bad thing.

Grab the zucchini boats and put them on a baking sheet, and then fill with the meat mixture.

Sprinkle liberally with cheese, because cheese makes everything better.

Sing with me now…mozzarella and cheddar!

Up close and personal, just the way I like it:

After about 20 mins at 350-degrees, dinner was served!

And I didn’t care that it was 11:48pm; I dug right in!

Yummm…these bison-stuffed zucchini boats feel both healthy and decadent at the same time, which I will never complain about.  M and I both loved these (“These are fantastic!” he proclaimed the next day) and fought over who could have the last one.

He won, by the way.  I figured it was only fair to let him win since he often puts up with me cooking in the wee hours of the morning.

Please contain your jealousy.

Until next time…





Butternut Squash, Pear, and Caramelized Onion Pizza

Do you ever find yourself trapped in the same rut when it comes to certain foods? Butternut squash is one of those things for me.  I’ll typically pick one up, come home, and make soup a few days later.  Exciting stuff, no?

Change can be good, though.  So when I stood at one of my favourite markets this evening contemplating what to make for dinner, and then caught a glimpse of a butternut squash out of the corner of my eye that could be (and would be) all mine for the low investment of $1.36, I knew what had to be done.

Yes, the squash had to come home with me, but it couldn’t be made into soup.  What then, should I make?

Well you see, the decision was actually rather easy.  Don’t ask me why, but there seems to be something about the end of the week that just screams “pizza”.  It also screams “spa” and “tropical vacation”, but I’m going to try to stay focused on pizza for your sake.

As you may recall, I have a love/hate relationship with pizza.  I don’t make it often, but then every time that I DO make it I wonder why I don’t make it more frequently since I always like it.  I know what you’re thinking – butternut squash on pizza? Have you lost your mind?!?!

Perhaps.  But if I keep making food this easy and tasty, I never want to find it.

Besides, some of us (who shall remain nameless) might be suffering from a sugar overload.  And also, it beats soup.

For tonight anyways.  I reserve the right to change my mind often and without warning.

Butternut squash, pear, red onion, garlic, brie cheese, puff pastry, sweet & spicy BBQ-type sauce.

Before we get started, it has come to my attention that some of you are frustrated with my lack of specificity with certain dishes.  I’m sorry in advance, but there is no real “recipe” for this.  In fact, part of the reason I tend to share more sweet things instead of savory is that 99% of the time I just grab whatever looks good that day and make something without measuring or weighing, but at least with baking I can give you a firmer idea of how to follow along.  I want you to feel more comfortable just trusting your intuition, so if you’re a strict recipe follower, please give this pizza a try – it’s pretty much impossible to mess up and you might even surprise yourself with how good of a cook you are!

To get things started, peel, slice, and seed the squash.

Cut it into cubes, toss with olive oil, and season with salt and pepper.

Yes, this is way more than enough squash for one pizza but I figured I might as well roast it all up – I can figure out what to do with the leftovers tomorrow.

Roast the squash for about 25 minutes at 400-degrees, or until it’s tender and starting to caramelize.

Speaking of caramelization, time to slice the onion!

Slice it rather thin, and then get it going in a pan with a pat of butter, a sprinkling of sugar if you wish, and some salt. Oh, and a clove or two of garlic never hurt anyone!

Low and slow is the name of this game….let the onions do their thing over a low flame for the 20 minutes or so that the squash is roasting.

I usually add a pear to my butternut squash soup, so I figured I might as well throw some on the pizza as well.  Slice it up…and snack on about half of it if you’re hungry.

Now, for the cheese…I used brie cheese because that’s what I had in the fridge, but other kinds of cheese would surely be delightful.  Fontina? Bleu? Asiago? Yes please!

I’m pretty sure you can’t go wrong with cheese.

Except if you put Velveeta on this. Or spray cheese from a can.  Both would be indications that a serious intervention was needed.

Let’s talk about the pizza crust for just a minute. I am on a mission to thin out my freezer, so instead of making pizza dough I just thawed a piece of puff pastry while the squash was roasting.  After being pricked with a fork several times, it was ready to go into the oven – no flour on the floor required.

MAJOR bonus points if you don’t get flour on the floor while making dough.  My housecleaner will be so pleased with me.

Bake the crush for 10 minutes at 400 degrees, or until it is a light golden brown.

Meanwhile, check out the squash!

Is that gorgeous or is that gorgeous?!?!

Gorgeous AND delicious.  I’m pretty sure I ate a good third of it while standing at the oven, waiting for the puff pastry to bake.  So much for leftovers.

I knew this pizza would be pretty sweet with the squash, pears, and caramelized onions, so I wanted to add a bit of heat.  I scrounged around in my fridge, and this is what I came up with:

Cowgirl sweet & hot finishing glaze.  Don’t ask me where I got it, but it was really good.  Something chipotle-esque would also be yummy.

Toss some squash with the sauce – enough to give it a thin coating – and set it aside.

After 10 minutes, remove the pastry from the oven…

Spread the carmelized onions on first…

Then make a pretty design with the pair slices next…

Don’t forget the roasted squash!

And last but not least, the cheese.

Le sigh.

Cheese makes everything better, don’t you think?

After another 5 minutes in the oven…

Let it cool for a few minutes, then cut into slices and serve.

You don’t have to share if you don’t want to, though.

When your better half and gets home and asks what smells so good/what’s for dinner, smile sweetly and say “pizza” while producing a cardboard disc frozen one from the oven.  Hoard the (hypothetical) leftovers in the fridge in an opaque container marked “liver and onions” or something equally unappealing to him or her.

Conversely, if you want to impress your significant other/neighbour/arch nemesis just casually mention that you whipped up a little something for dinner, and then set a slice in front of them. Make up a faux French name for this, use your hands to gesture a lot, and insist that really, there was nothing to it.  They’ll fall in love with you all over again, I promise.

Either way, your secret is safe with me.

Until we meet again…


P.S. You have my permission to add bacon if you’d like.

P.P.S. If you make this and add bacon, can you please invite me to your house for dinner? Pretty please?

Sun-dried Tomato & Zucchini Risotto

I just uploaded 215 pictures off of my camera and realized just how long its been since I’ve blogged.  Oops.  So sorry, friends, please don’t take my silent treatment personally.  It’s not you, it’s me.  Well actually, it’s my schedule but that is a minor technicality.

Sidenote: has anyone heard that commercial on the radio that says “It’s not you, it’s your metabolism!”? Lies, all lies.

Back to the food, since that’s the only reason 99.9% of you read this blog: I had to make the difficult choice on what to tell you about first, since I have pictorial evidence of approximately 7.4 things I have made in the last 2 weeks (Please don’t ask what the 0.4 is; it’s a sore spot and I’m still not over it).  I settled on sun-dried tomato risotto because, if you are anything like me, sometimes you decide what to make based on what you are trying to use up in your fridge.  Keep reading to see what happened as a result of this delicious experiment.

Let’s begin!

Chop up some onion, and remember, you get bonus points if you don’t cry while doing so.  In the game of Kitchen Stadium, this is very important.

Saute the onion in some butter or olive oil, until it is translucent.

Next, add a few cloves of garlic.

I’d like to take the opportunity to discuss with you WHY I didn’t add the onions and garlic to the pan at the same time.  Was it just because I’m too impatient to do a full mise en place? Partially, yes, but even I sometimes think things through. By adding it after the onions have already gotten started, there is less of a chance of it burning and becoming bitter.  See, I DO know what I’m doing! Sometimes, anyways.

While the onion and garlic are sautéing, bring some liquid up to a simmer. I used chicken stock, but if you’re cooking for a vegetarian a vegetable stock would work just fine.  I think that was about 7 c or so…but I didn’t measure. I’m rebellious like that. If you’re even MORE rebellious than me (I know, hard to believe) you could add some white wine too.

Once everything is good and fragrant, throw a few cups (I used about 2) of arborio rice in with the onions and garlic.  Stir it around to get it nice and coated, and let it get toasty – 2 mins over a medium flame should be sufficient.

Since I like colourful food and a clean(er) fridge, I also threw in a big spoonful of sun-dried tomatoes that were packed in oil and taking up way too much space thanks to their Costco-sized proportions.

Here’s where things get a little confusing.  For YEARS I was under the impression that risotto requires constant stirring for the 1 hr it takes to cook.  This may be good and fine for those of us that have helpers or who are trying to avoid doing taxes, but what about the rest of us? Are we EVER going to be able to make risotto without being a slave to our stove? Yes indeed, there is hope at last, and I’m here to offer it to you!

Ladle in a few cups of the hot liquid into the toasted rice/tomato mixture, like so:

Stir it around a few times, and then put the spoon down and WALK AWAY.  Despite what you may have been (erroneously) lead to believe, risotto does not require constant stirring.  At least my version doesn’t, and my version is delicious so you should listen to me.

After taking the opportunity to make your bed and straighten your shoes, follow your nose back into the kitchen and find this:

Lo and behold, all of the stock has been absorbed and no one had to stir it constantly! I sure hope you’re loving this as much as I am.

Add a few more cups of stock…

Give it a stir, and walk away.

I figured zucchini would be good in this risotto, if only for its colour.  Sorry zucchini but I’m using you.  Asparagus would have been good too, but I didn’t have any and wasn’t about to leave the house.

Chop some up and add it in:

Give it a stir:

And then add a few more cups of stock:

So close I can almost taste it!

Confession: I DID taste it and the rice was still a bit al dente, so I kept it going for a few more minutes.

Since we’re almost done, I figured I might as well get some fresh herbs ready. Basil was my herb of choice, but I suppose you could use anything you like.  I would like to have you believe that I walked out to my herb garden and picked this fresh from the bounty that is mine…

…but that would be a lie, and I have a fear that the 3 of you that actually know me in real life would comment on my inability to keep things alive and my image would be shattered.  I’m delicate, ok? I bought this at the grocery store and I’m proud to admit it.  Sort of.

Regardless of where you get your herbs, they can’t go into the risotto whole.  Since I was using basil, I made a chiffonade – i.e. I rolled it up and sliced it into thin ribbons.  I didn’t even attempt to take a picture of this because I just had the knives sharpened and because value my fingers too much.

Let’s go check on the risotto.  Do you think it’s ready yet? I sure hope so – I’m hungry!

Oooh yes – the rice is tender but still has a bite to it, and is super creamy.  We did it!

Never one to lose out on the opportunity to add some cheese to something, I threw in a big handful of parmesan on top of the risotto in addition to the basil.

Stir everything around, and test it for seasonings.  Does it need any salt? pepper? basil? cheese? Please don’t under-season your food; if you do you will break code 18.92.276 and we won’t be able to associate with each other any longer.

This picture doesn’t do the risotto justice.

This one, however, does:

Rich, creamy, hearty, and satisfying.  sun-dried tomato and zucchini risotto is most definitely a good thing, which is why you should make this for your friends, family, and enemies.

Disclaimer: Ok, maybe not the enemies part – it made a lot though, so scale things down if you don’t want to be eating risotto for the next 3 days.  I don’t mind leftovers though…does anyone else see arancini in the near future???

Yogurt Cheese

Sometimes, I do weird things.  Alright, it’s more like often but really, who’s counting (please don’t raise your hands).  Whether its going to heroic lengths to save a $0.59 bunch of cilantro or buying 2 kg of plain yogurt just because I lose all of my rational decision making ability when in Costco, I am sometimes left with more than I can chew…literally.  As a result, amongst my other impulse purchases I’ve had 1.5 tubs of plain yogurt staring pathetically at me every single time I open up my fridge for the past few weeks.  I can only have so many smoothies before getting completely bored, and besides, I am always on the lookout to try something new.

Which brings me to…yogurt cheese! I was going to make a cake with the yogurt, but then I quickly remembered that I need a cake like I need more shoes.  Wait – I DO need more shoes so I guess that was a bad analogy.  Whatever – you get the point.  I’ve known about yogurt cheese for years, but have never actually made it so I figured now was as good of a time as any to give it a whirl.

It’s super easy – here’s what you do:

Put a strainer over a bowl, and line it with cheesecloth:

Dump the yogurt into the bowl:

Cover and refrigerate for 12-24 hours, or until the whey has all drained from the yogurt.

Are you ready for the big reveal?

Once mixed up a bit:

Hmmm…interesting.  Would you like my thoughts on this? Here they are, in no particular order:

– Yogurt cheese is supposed to have the consistency of spreadable cream cheese; mine was more like sour cream after 24 hrs of draining. Fine for a dip, but not for putting on a bagel. False advertising?

– I was surprised at how tart it was – likely because I used fat-free yogurt.  I mixed some salt in and that helped some, but I will have to doctor it up more before its edible.

– This was easy but for the real estate it took up in the fridge, I would probably just buy Greek yogurt or sour cream to make a dip in the future.

Oh well! Twas a fun experiment while it lasted 🙂

What shall we try next?

Cheese Bread

Don’t you just love cheese bread? I do – well, actually, I usually love the IDEA of cheese bread more than the bread itself. How could anything that combines two my favourite ingredients not be a good thing? Well, unfortunately many so-called “cheese breads” are nothing more than a dry bread with barely a smattering of cheese.  Is flavourful cheese bread even possible? Yes, my friends, it is – and here’s how you do it.

Line a loaf pan with some parchment paper, unless you have more faith in your baking pans than I do in mine. Sprinkle some grated parmesan cheese in the bottom of the pan.  You will note that this parmesan does not come out of a green and white can – there is good reason for this.  Please, for the love of good cheese bread everywhere, if you absolutely refuse to shell out and buy a wedge of the good stuff, just skip this step.  We’re making CHEESE bread, remember?!?!

In a large bowl, whisk together some flour, baking powder, cayenne, salt, and pepper. Mix in some cubed extra-sharp cheddar cheese and stir it around until the cheese is coated with the flour. Why not shredded cheese, I hear you ask? Well, shredded cheese will get lost in this bread. We want our cheese bread to actually taste like cheese after all! As an added bonus, cubing cheese is easier than shredding…unless you buy the pre-shredded stuff, but that’s a whole other post.

In a separate bowl, whisk together some milk, melted butter, an egg, and sour cream. Gently fold the wet ingredients into the dry ones until just combined. I told you this was easy!

Scrape the batter into the prepared pan, and then sprinkle some more parmesan on top for good measure.

Bake until the bread is golden brown…45-50 mins @ 350. Cool in the pan on a wire rack for about 5 minutes, and then remove from the pan and allow to cool on the wire rack for about 45 minutes if you can handle it.  The texture of the bread will improve if you let it cool for a bit, so try to resist the incredible temptation of cutting this bread when its piping hot.

Et voila! Cheese bread with luscious, cheesy pockets of goodness…yummmmmmmmmmm.  AND it only took you a few minutes – if this isn’t a good thing, I don’t know what is.