Category Archives: casseroles

Dog-Induced Sabbatical and Veggie Pot Pie

My husband and I have been talking about getting a dog for a while now and we finally did it!  In fact, the dog in question is curled up right beside me as I type this post.

We welcomed Coco into our home almost three weeks ago and she is fitting in great.  We found this cute 10 month old Cocker Spaniel at the Edmonton Humane Society and could not resist her.  We are loving every minute of it, but it has not been without its challenges.  She is very timid and scared around men, so EPC has had to work extra hard to win her affections and day-by-day walls are being broken down as she warms to up him.  We have had to do a bit of work on potty-training.  And although the worst is over,(or perhaps I am getting used to it) potty training seems to be a work in progress.  Furthermore, we have to keep an eye on her every second to make sure she isn’t into something (recycling bag, laundry basket) or chewing something (furniture) that she shouldn’t be.  Of course we both love the extra exercise we are getting taking Coco out for walks, but hope the weather will warm up soon! I think Coco feels the same way.

Needless to say I have been busy, hence the absence of posts last month, and Coco, not cooking, has been the center of my attention.  Between take out from Famoso and Padmanadi, Amy’s brand frozen pizzas and our favourite bottled sauces from the Italian grocer over pasta, cooking meals from scratch has been on the back burner.  That being said we have relied on a few quick and easy favourites of Lorna Sass’s in the pressure cooker, but I have not gotten very adventurous in the kitchen.

Since EPC and I had a relaxing weekend with Coco,  I felt inspired to try a new recipe.  I have been thinking about making a vegetarian savoury pie for a few weeks now and I was able to track down a recipe for  Pot Pie in my Vegetarian Times Cookbook, so I decided to give it try.

I was wonderful and I loved the biscuit crust!  The sauce thickened up nicely and wrapped the tender veggies and chickpeas in delicious blanket of flavour. EPC had two large helpings and Coco loved the slices of raw carrot that ricocheted off the counter as I chopped them up for the stew.

It was a  perfect meal on a windy, snowy day.  Yes, despite a respite a couple of weeks ago, it seems that winter will never leave us.

PS: It comes together quite quickly so do not be intimidated by the long list of ingredients.

Vegetarian Pot Pie

2 1/2 cups of vegetable stock
1 medium onion, diced
3 celery stalks, sliced
1 large carrot, sliced
1 small red pepper, diced
2/3 cup frozen green  beans
1/3 cup frozen peas
1 19-oz can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1/3 cup whole wheat flour (Try brown rice flour to make it gluten-free)
1 cup skim milk (use soy or rice milk to make the recipe vegan)
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, minced
1 teaspoon low sodium soy sauce (use salt to make it gluten-free)
1/4 teaspoon dried sage
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon pepper, freshly ground
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 3/4 cups whole wheat flour (or gluten-free all-purpose flour mix)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons butter
3/4 cup skim milk or soy milk
2 teaspoons maple syrup or honey

Heat ½ cup of vegetable broth in a large pot. Add the onions and cook for 3 minutes stirring occasionally.  Add the celery, carrots, red pepper, peas, green beans and chickpeas.  Stir and cook for 5 minutes.

Sprinkle flour over vegetables and stir to coat.  Slowly add the milk and vegetable broth stirring constantly to get rid of any lumps.  Add the parsley, soy sauce, sage, thyme, pepper and cayenne.  Stir constantly until the sauce thickens.

Remove from heat.

In a large bowl blend the flour, baking powder, and salt.  Add the 2 tablespoons of butter and blend in using a pastry knife (I like to use a large fork) until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.  I found I needed to add a tablespoon or two of olive oil for the coarse crumbs to develop to my liking.  Add milk and maple syrup and stir to combine.  If the dough is too dry add a touch more milk.  Knead the dough until it is no longer sticky and roll it out on a lightly floured surface in roughly the same shape as your casserole.

Pour the vegetable filling into a lightly greased 2 quart casserole and lay the biscuit topping on top.  Do not seal the edges.

Put into the oven a bake for 25 minutes.  Remove from heat and let stand for 5 minutes

Serve and enjoy.

Click to print


Vegetarian Shepherd’s Pie from the new Canadian Living Vegetarian Cookbook

I love flipping through Canadian Living Magazine!

They have the best recipes.

In fact, my mother-in-law gave me a whole stack of last year’s magazines to peruse and seek out new vegetarian recipes.  Now Canadian Living has made searching for their vegetarian recipes easier by including a selection of delicious sounding meals in their newest “tested til perfect” cookbook  The Vegetarian Collection.  Even though I have secured a copy of this cookbook  that doesn’t mean I won’t continue to flip through the old magazine editions!  Plus, this cookbook does not feature any deserts, so those old magazines will come in handy.

I had been eyeing this cookbook for a few weeks in Coles bookstore downtown.

Should I pick up, or shouldn’t I?

Then one day while looking through cookbooks in Winners I found a copy of the coveted cookbook for only $14.99.  Well, that settled it.

It was tough for me to decide on the first recipe that I would make from my newest acquisition. Would it be Rustic Spinach and Feta Galette, Squash Couscous, or Smoked Cheese Risotto?  Instead I decided on an adaptation of the Canadian Living version of vegetarian shepherd’s pie.

With a mix of yam and potato for the topping and a stew of lentils and veggie ground round beneath this shepherd’s pie was absolutely delicious.  I must confess it beat the pants off of a shepherd’s pie recipe that I posted previously. This one takes a bit longer to make, so if you have time to spare give it a try. Though you could use canned lentils instead of dried one to speed things up.

I think the mix of yam and potato with the grated cheese on top is what makes this shepherd’s pie so fantastic !

Vegetarian Shepherd’s Pie

2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 large onion, diced
1 stalk celery, diced
1 carrot, peeled and diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup dried brown lentils, soaked overnight then rinsed and drained (or one can of lentils)
1 340g package of Yves Veggie Ground Round
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 -28 ounce can of crushed tomatoes
1 cup of water
2 zucchini diced

4 (1 kg) russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 2 inch dice
4 (1 kg) yams, peeled and cut into 2 inch dice
1/3 cup of milk
3 tablespoons plain yogurt
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 1/2 cups grated cheddar cheese

  • In a large pot heat the oil over medium heat and add the onions, celery, carrot and garlic.  Cook until softened, about 6 minutes.
  • Add lentils, cumin, and oregano and cook for 3 minutes
  • Stir in tomatoes and water and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat and simmer, covered, for 20 minutes.
  • Add the zucchini and cook for 30 minutes more until the lentils are tender.  If you are using canned lentils cut the cooking time at this point to 10 minutes.
  • Add the Veggie Ground Round and stir to mix.
  • While the mixture is cooking  add the potatoes and yams to a large pot of boiling water and cook until tender, about 20 minutes.
  • Preheat the oven to 375°C
  • Drain the potatoes and yams and rinse the pot.  Return the potatoes and yams to the pot and mash with milk, yogurt, salt and pepper.
  • Add 1/2 cup of grated cheese to the potato-yam mash
  • Scoop lentil mixture into a 9 x 13 baking dish and spread the potato-yam mash on top.  Top with the remaining cheese and bake at 375°C for 30 minutes

Click to print

Feeling like Carmella Soprano: Baked Ziti with Tomatoes, Basil and Mozzarella

I was first introduced to ziti while watching The Sopranos.

In Season Two Carmella brings an aluminum pan of baked ziti to her daughter Meadow’s dorm room.  I wondered, what in the world is ziti.  I had never heard of it and I recalled that the dish had been mentioned a few times in Season One.  At first I thought it was an Italian dish, which it is, but I found out the name of the dish is based on the pasta shape.  As you all know, something not uncommon in Italian Cuisine.

EPC and I always eat whole wheat pasta, so I was delighted when I went to the Italian grocery store last month and found whole wheat ziti (they had whole wheat orzo and cavatappi too!).  I knew that my fabulous Jack Bishop Complete Italian Vegetarian Cookbook had a recipe for Baked Ziti with Tomatoes, Basil and Mozzarella, so I decided to pick up a few boxes of ziti and give it a try.

It is had to believe how the shape of pasta can affect the way tastes.  For example, I really dislike whole wheat penne, but quite enjoyed the ziti, and cavatappi is my favourite pasta of all time.  Perhaps it not just texture and shape that affects the taste, but also the appearance.

Regardless what it is about pasta and its shapes, EPC and I enjoy pasta in its various forms about once a week.  This particular dish is a keeper and the quick tomato basil sauce of Bishop’s is a nice departure from canned or bottled sauces.

Baked Ziti with Tomatoes, Basil and Mozzarella

3 tablespoons of olive oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 28 ounce can crushed tomatoes
2 tablespoons of fresh basil leaves, minced
250 grams of mozzarella cheese, grated
4 cups (450 g) of uncooked whole wheat ziti
1/4 cup of parmesan, freshly grated
Freshly ground pepper to taste

  • Set large pot of water on high heat.
  • Then start the sauce: Heat the oil over medium heat and saute the garlic until lightly browned
  • Add the crushed tomatoes, basil and pepper to taste
  • Simmer over low heat for 10 minutes.
  • Remove from heat and let stand until pasta is ready.
  • Oil a 9X13 glass baking dish and preheat the oven to 400°C
  • When the water is boiling cook the ziti 2 minutes less than suggested.  It will complete cooking in the oven.
  • Stir the ziti into the pot with the tomato sauce and stir to coat
  • Pour half the sauce and pasta mixture into the baking dish.
  • Top with half the mozzarella and half of the parmesan.  Add the remaining pasta and  top with the rest of the cheeses.
  • Bake until the cheese browns – about 20 minutes.

Click to print

Easy Chipotle Macaroni and Cheese

When I woke up this morning it was +8°C!  I could not believe how cool it was out.   I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but cool mornings (and macaroni and cheese cravings) are a sure sign that fall is just around the corner.

I should have called it Chipotle Cavatappi and Cheese, but macaroni noodles will work just as well.  I got the idea to include chipotle chilis in this familiar dish from my last visit to The Keg.  We took EPC’s father there for Father’s Day and ordered their Chipotle Macaroni and Cheese as an appetizer.  We were all blown away. The smoky chipotle taste and spice added a delicious layer to this familiar comfort food.

This dish is really easy.  No need to bother with a white sauce.  You just layer the sauce coated pasta with cheese, top with bread crumbs and bake.  If you prefer a gluten-free version omit the bread crumbs and try substituting corn macaroni for the wheat.  I think corn pasta would go extremely well with the smoky flavour of this dish.  Just be sure not to  over cook it (corn pasta can get mushy).

If the end of summer is getting you down, just remember that Easy Chipotle Macaroni and Cheese  is sure to make the approaching cool weather a bit easier to bear.

Easy Chipotle Macaroni and Cheese

1 375 g package of vegetable cavatappi, cooked for the minimum cooking time indicated on the package
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 28 ounce can of diced tomatoes
1 1/2 teaspoons chipotle chili powder
2 cups of grated old cheddar cheese
1 cup of grated parmesan
1/4 cup of bread crumbs

  • Preheat oven to 375°C
  • Bring water to boil in large pot, add pasta, return to boil and cook for the minimum time indicated on the package
  • Meanwhile, heat oil in a medium saucepan and saute onions and garlic until translucent
  • Add canned diced tomatoes and simmer for about 10 minutes.
  • Stir in chipotle chili powder  and simmer 5 minutes more.
  • When pasta finishes cooking, drain and mix with tomato sauce.
  • Add 1/3 of the pasta sauce mix to the bottom of a prepared 2 quart casserole dish.  Top with a third of the cheddar and a third of the parmesan.
  • Add another layer of pasta and cheese and repeat topping the final layer of cheese with the bread crumbs and few spritzes of olive oil.
  • Cook at 375°C for 20-25 minutes until the bread crumbs are brown and the pasta is bubbling.

Click to Print

Layered Vegetable and Polenta Casserole

It took me a while to get into polenta.

I love things with cornmeal, but seeing a log of polenta at the grocery store made it look very unappetizing.  Polenta was one cornmeal specialty that I needed to warm up to.

This weekend, I decided to throw away my polenta reservations and concoct a Layered Vegetable Polenta Casserole in response to a suggestion at the bottom of a  basic polenta recipe in one of my cookbooks.  I was feeling pretty lazy, so instead of making my own polenta I  picked up a 1 pound log of polenta from the grocery store.  Not that polenta is difficult to make, but slicing the polenta into rounds for my casserole would be even easier!

I decided to go with a tomato marinara type sauce and went with zucchini, eggplant and yellow pepper with a bit of feta cheese.  Eggplant really brings a nice texture to baked vegetable dishes, a contrast to the crunch of the pepper and zucchini.

The feta cheese added a nice salty tang to the dish, but looked rather uninspiring.  The goat’s milk feta that I bought neither crumbled or melted well.  Next time, I will use a blend of Italian cheeses.

Aside from that, it turned out wonderful and EPC even stated that he felt the polenta was the best part.  I would have to agree, I savoured each bite and went back for seconds.

With my polenta apprehension a thing of the past, I think you will be seeing a lot more of it at Cookbook Cooks.

Layered Vegetable and Polenta Casserole

1 medium onion, diced
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 Japanese eggplant, chopped
1 medium zucchini, chopped
1 yellow pepper, chopped
28 ounce can diced tomato
3 tablespoons tomato paste
1 teaspoon basil
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1/4 teaspoon crushed red chili peppers
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
1/2-3/4 pound of polenta (sold in 1 pound round)
175 g of crumbled feta cheese, or a generous 1 cup of shredded cheese of your choice

  • Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat.  Add onion and saute for 3-5 minutes.
  • Add garlic and continue to saute for 3 minutes, stirring often so the garlic does not stick.
  • Add zucchini, eggplant and pepper and continue to cook for 5 minutes.
  • Add crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, basil, oregano and chilies.
  • Simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Preheat the oven to 350°C
  • Slice the polenta into 1/2 inch rounds
  • Cover the bottom of a 2 quart casserole dish with a thin layer of sauce (be careful  not to use more than 1/3). Top with a layer of polenta.  Top with half the remaining sauce and half the cheese.  Top with another layer of polenta, sauce and cheese.
  • Bake at 350°C for 20-25 minutes, until sauce is bubbling and cheese is melted.

Click to print

Vefa’s Chickpea and Eggplant Casserole

Our friend is in town for a few weeks visiting family and friends before he is off to meet his wife in Africa.  She is doing development work there, so the two of them will make the African country of Botswana their home for the next year.  He will also be working during his time there, so it looks like a very exciting time for the both of them!  It was great  to hear about their plans over dinner and I hope they are diligent in keeping Facebook updated with photos and other tidbits (Hint, hint, nudge, nudge).

I have mentioned this couple before in a earlier post. They gave EPC and I the fabulous Vefa’s Kitchen  for a wedding gift, and since one good turn deserves another I decided it would be fitting to cook him a wonderful meal from this cookbook.

In the spirit of their  wedding gift, I will share with you an excerpt from the passage they inscribed in the front of the book: 

We feel that a loving relationship begins with, and is sustained through food.

I do not think I would come across any disagreements about the truth of this passage from my readers.  In fact, EPC and I had our first date over dinner and he did mention how he loves my cooking during his wedding speech last summer.  It makes me think  of the old cliché: “The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach.”  I know that I certainly feel warmth and love when EPC prepares a delicious meal for me, so I guess that makes it true for women as well.  Our guest mentioned how he and his wife love cooking and eating together too.  It will be wonderful when they are reunited next month and they can experiment in the kitchen by cooking vegetarian meals with locally available ingredients. 

Once again, Vefa’a Kitchen did not disappoint.  The dish turned out great.  Everyone enjoyed it and the majority went for seconds.  Both Erin and I will be enjoying leftovers in our lunch on Monday. 

I will confess I  had a bit of trouble getting all the eggplant fried up in a timely fashion, so if you try this dish keep that in mind and give yourself enough time.  It certainly won’t matter if you assemble the casserole with room temperature eggplant.  I decided to make Vefa’s Cashew Wild Rice Pilaf as a side dish.  It  turned out fabulous and was a nice accompaniment to the eggplant and chickpeas.  With great food, old friends and conversation it was nice way to end off the weekend.


Vefa’s Chickpea and Eggplant Casserole

1 1/3 cups dried chickpeas soaked overnight in cold water
3/4 cup olive oil
1 large onion, sliced
4 garlic cloves thinly sliced
400 g canned diced tomatoes
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1 tsp paprika
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano, plus extra for topping
salt and pepper
2-3 large eggplants, cut into 1/4 inch thick slices
2 large tomatoes, thinly sliced

  • Drain and rise the chickpeas, place in a pot with enough water to cover and bring to boil.  Simmer for 30 minutes – skimming off any scum that rises to the top.  Rinse and drain the chickpeas
  • Heat 4 tablespoons of oil in a large pot and add the onion and garlic.  Cook over low heat until softened – about 5 minutes.
  • To the onions and garlic, add the canned tomatoes, allspice, paprika, oregano, chickpeas and enough water to cover.  Bring to a boil and simmer for 1 hour more – until the chickpeas are tender.
  • While the chickpeas are cooking sprinkle the eggplant slices with salt and let drain in a colander for 1 hour.  Rinse drain and squeeze out the excess moisture.
  • Heat the remaining oil in pan and cook the eggplant slices for about 8 minutes, turning frequently.  You will need to do this in batches.  I found that I cooked the eggplant in considerably less oil.  If I felt oil was lacking I used my olive oil mister to spritz them as they cooked.
  • Preheat oven to 350°C
  • Remove the eggplant and blot on paper towels.
  • Arrange half the eggplant slice on the base of a casserole dish.  Spread the chickpea mixture over top and cover with the remaining eggplant.  Cover with tomato slices, sprinkle with oregano and drizzle with olive oil.
  • Bake for 50 minutes at 350°C .  Serve hot or at room temperature

Click to print

Butternut Squash Macaroni and Cheese

I have had my eye on this macaroni and cheese recipe for a couple of months now.  I think my cravings for macaroni and cheese started when a co-worker’s 11-year-old daughter was trying out a new macaroni and cheese recipe every weekend.  Her Mom would come to work with the leftovers every Monday for lunch.

I would watch her eat her lunch with envy.

Whenever I decide to make  macaroni and cheese I always balk at the amount of cheese and fat in the recipe and end up scrimping on the cheese, full-fat milk, or butter and basically ruining the recipe.  When I came across this recipe for Butternut Squash Macaroni and Cheese I was very excited!  It looked like the perfect recipe to feed my macaroni and cheese craving.

The creamy yellow butternut squash complements the 2 cups of cheese and 2 cups of skim milk.  It adds fibre, colour, and a smooth texture without upping the fat.  I also used whole wheat macaroni and whole wheat bread crumbs to further increase the fibre.  Next time I make this, EPC suggested that I mix in some tomatoes  with the macaroni before baking to add some colour and texture to the dish.

I got this great recipe from The Way the Cookie Crumbles.  I followed the recipe exactly, so I won’t bother reposting it here.

Let me know what you think.