Breakfast Risotto

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I grew up not liking risotto…but that’s probably because my Mum didn’t put bacon in it! This Breakfast Risotto is something Marcus and I actually almost never eat for breakfast. We’re breakfast for dinner people, and this hits the mark every time. Marcus is the pancake-maker in our little family (I make the waffles – clear gender roles playing out here). We’ve always enjoyed a good pancake/waffle/omelet/frittata for dinner, and this has been in the rotation every since Deb posted it a couple years ago.

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You could easily omit the bacon for all of you vegetarians out there, or swap another veggie or protein to your liking. I don’t recall cooking with leeks before I first made this dish, but I’m glad I did because I really, really love them. Faintly onion-y, they melt beautifully into this dish.

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Vietnamese Hot Dogs

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So, Marcus and I are in Canmore for another day and this is what the backyard looks like (miserable pup included):

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I’ve convinced Marcus to grill outside 2 nights in a row (good man!), and I think it’s official: I’m in winter denial. I like winter, and I like living in a place with distinct seasons. But there’s something about going from lovely, crisp fall days, to this in mere hours, that really got me down.

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Grilled Chicken Skewers with Mint-Feta Dipping Sauce

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Marcus and I went to Greece in 2012. We ate souvlaki wraps – always with french fries in the wrap, drank Mythos, scampered around ruins, kayaked Santorini, and generally lived it up in lovely Greece. We’ll go again one day, but until then, these juicy, Greek-inspired chicken skewers will keep us going.

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Chicken thighs are so forgiving. It’s really hard to over-cook these on the grill, and the result is tender, luscious meat. A noticeable omission from these skewers is lemon juice, and frankly you won’t miss it. The red-wine vinegar is punchy, acidic, and floral all at the same time. The oregano may seem like too much, and you could cut it back to 3/4 or 1/2 tsp. I like the full amount and the seasoning achieved on the chicken and veggies.

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Admittedly we’ve only actually enjoyed the chicken and veg in a pita once or twice. I prefer the grilled mixture piled on my plate with lots of the feta-mint dipping sauce to slather on. I’ve made these skewers several times for guests. It is super easy to prepare (I’ll do the marinating and threading before anyone arrives), and is always a crowd pleaser. I often make salad and Jim Lahey’s Pizza Bianca to accompany this dish (is it wrong to treat pizza like focaccia??), and the slopping up of juices and sauce  with the “bread” makes for a fabulous casual dinner.

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Turkey Meatballs

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When I think of my favourite meals, three things come to mind: Dad’s veggie burgers, Mom’s eggplant parmesan, and these turkey meatballs. I think it’s pretty normal (hope it’s pretty normal?) to love the meals you grew up with, and the veggie burgers and eggplant parm are no exception. They are fantastic.

Thinking of the meals I love that I make, Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi’s Jerusalem produces the best “burgers” hands down. You will read this recipe and think: “too many herbs, too much onion” (impossible!); “zucchini in a burger? no thanks”; “sumac? cayenne?”. And to all this, I say a simple YES! These babies will be juicy, full of flavour, and completely addictive.

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I’ve doubled the burger part of this recipe, and left the sumac sauce as it was originally intended. Frankly, Marcus and I love these so much a technically-doubled recipe makes for perfect lunches and leftovers. The meatballs are super delicious both hot and at room temperature. Consistent with my experience with most Ottolenghi recipes, I find the sauce bit about double (or triple) what I actually need. Marcus has been known to dip chunks of fococcia or other yummy things into the leftover sauce, so it won’t go wasted if you have extra.

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I’m a big Ottolenghi-Tamimi fan. Their dishes are something different than I would normally try. I find their cookbooks, and Ottolenghi’s solo projects, accessible and inspiring. We love many, many dishes from Plenty, especially the Black Pepper Tofu and Black Bean Quesadillas. Not only am I confident a bland dish out of these two is near impossible, an afternoon would be well spent curled up on the couch poring over the photos and words in their lovely cook books. An investment worth making.

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Sausage and Spinach Baked Pasta

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Marcus is a great cook. His pineapple ribs, pulled pork wraps, pancakes, and sweet potato burritos and to die for. Yet, when I travel for work I still like to make something that Marcus can pull out of the freezer and heat up for a quick meal. Between Pip the pup and his cycling training, I always feel like it would be nice for Marcus to enjoy something home-cooked without the fuss of actually cooking. Baked pasta like this is ideal; it’s delicious, full of flavour, and easy to bake up.

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It’s really not often that I travel for pleasure, without Marcus. I can’t think of a time before this, actually! My girlfriend, Gillian, and I are heading to Portland this Thursday for a girl’s long weekend. We are going to drink Oregon wine, eat Voodoo donuts, go to the market, walk around, and enjoy the Pacific northwest. My Dad worked as a high school teacher in Portland for a year, so I’d love to check out his old address as well. I can’t remember the year, but it must have been 1970-something that he lived there.

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Whether traveling for work or pleasure, the same rules apply and I usually make and freeze something for Marcus. I’ve made this recipe several times since I first saw it on Smitten Kitchen. Anything with sausage is a winner, and I like the ease of throwing it all together and feeding many mouths. The béchamel element is super easy and so much better than a jarred version. I love the crunch of the top, with the creaminess of the centre. This is a really tasty, really straightforward dish. I’ve even made it for company.

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