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Tuesday, September 22, 2015

six SUPER IMPORTANT reasons you need rice paper wraps in your life (chickpea-tuna rice paper wraps)

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 I pondered a little bit before settling on my click-baity title.  I'm not sure the world really needs a listicle about rice paper wraps, but I'm feeling relatively inspired about them, so there you go.  For the uninitiated, you can usually find these wraps in the slightly culturally-appropriative "ethnic" aisle of the grocery store.

chickpea tuna rice paper wraps with sprouts

They come in two sizes, with the largest being destined for cold salad rolls (like these ones I posted a few years ago), and the smallest being typically destined for fried spring rolls.  These are two absolutely excellent uses of rice paper, though I have to confess to being completely terrified of deep-frying (I'm still not over a minor kitchen fire incident that included spontaneous ignition of sesame oil [only a couple of tablespoons] a few years ago).  Make-your-own salad rolls are one of my favourite summer dinners.  The kids love them too!  The grocery stores around me stock the Y&Y brand - it seems to be pretty popular.

chickpea tuna rice paper wraps with sprouts

But they can be so much more than that, if you only let them.  I hope you'll forgive the continued theme of cultural appropriation as I try to convince you of why you need these.

So from least to most important, here are the five SUPER IMPORTANT reasons you need rice paper wraps in your life:

1. Rice paper is inexpensive.  A 400g package of rice paper runs about $3. I haven't actually counted how many are in a package, but the Nutrition Facts Table tells me that 3 wraps are 20g, which my super-awesome math skills extrapolate to 60 wraps per 400g package.  That is a tiny fraction of the price of tortillas.  Can't beat that!

chickpea tuna rice paper wraps with sprouts

2. Rice paper doesn't go bad.  Assuming you seal the package, it will last for ages and ages.  Case in point, the package I used for these beautiful wraps had been hiding in my cupboard for at least a year.

chickpea tuna rice paper wraps with sprouts

3. Rice paper only takes about 15 seconds to soften, taking you from questionably-brittle to supple and sticky in mere moments.  This makes itreally quick to use, and a great pantry staple to keep on hand.

4. You can eat lots of it! The nutrition facts don't lie.  Three rice paper wraps contain 70 calories and 105 mg of sodium.  I certainly wouldn't say these are a nutritional powerhouse, BUT the thing about wraps (for me at least), is that it's the flavourful filling that should be the star.  A large wrap has about 200 calories and 300 mg of sodium, and to be honest, I usually want to eat more than one.  One of the things I love most about rice paper wraps is that I can maximize the calories of the tasty fillings (which are usually more nutritious anyway!) and not waste all my calories on bread.

chickpea tuna rice paper wraps with sprouts

5. The texture of rice paper is fantastic.  I've always loved the slightly squishy, slightly chewy feel of biting into a rice paper wrap.  There's something almost magical about the typical basil-vermicelli-shrimp-peanut sauce combination.  They are well-known and popular for a reason.  If you haven't tried them, I highly recommend it!!!

And last, but most important.....

chickpea tuna rice paper wraps with sprouts

6. You can fill rice paper wraps with anything.  As mentioned in reason five, the traditional ingredients of a salad roll are fantastic, and you can't go wrong.  But I decided to have a little fun with mine.  Go nuts and explore.

I mixed together a quick and easy chickpea-tuna salad, paired it with alfalfa sprouts (and as always, a caveat about sprouts and vulnerable populations.....sprouts are definitely a high-risk food and not appropriate for everyone...but I love them, and still enjoy them from time to time.  I also had this fantastic quick homemade greek yogourt salad dressing, and the creamy tanginess was a perfect contrast with the chickpea-tuna salad and the sprouts.  This was a fantastic (but also quick) lunch.  Even if this salad isn't to your taste, I highly, highly encourage you to grab a pack of rice paper and experiment and see what you can do with it.  :)

chickpea tuna rice paper wraps with sprouts

rice paper wraps with tuna-chickpea salad, sprouts and greek yogourt ranch dressing

chickpea-tuna salad

(inspired from this Eating Well salad)

chickpea tuna rice paper wraps with sprouts  1 15- to 19-ounce can chickpeas
1 can water-packed chunk light tuna, drained and flaked
1 large red bell pepper, finely diced
1/2 cup finely chopped red onion
1 t italian seasoning
4 teaspoons capers, rinsed (chop them if they are large) 
2 T lemon juice
1 T extra-virgin olive oil
1 T grainy dijon mustard
Freshly ground pepper, to taste
Salt, to taste

1. Combine the chickpeas, tuna, pepper, onion, italian seasoning, capers, lemon juice, olive oil and mustard.  Taste, then add salt and pepper until satisfied.

Note: this salad is awesome on its own, or over a bed of greens.

greek yogourt ranch dressing
(lightly modified from Cupcakes and Kale Chips)
this recipe is great because it doesn't require a million fresh herbs, so if you have yogourt and a pantry, you can probably make it.  A nice, much-healthier alternative to store-bought ranch!
chickpea tuna rice paper wraps with sprouts
1 c plain greek yogourt
2 T apple cider vinegar
1 T olive oil
salt (to taste)
1/2 t onion powder
1/4 t garlic powder
1 T dried parsley
1 t dried dill
fresh ground pepper (to taste)

1. Combine all the ingredients.  Ideally, wait for a bit for flavour to develop, but even if you can't, this dip is still fantastic.

To assemble the rolls, there are a lot of tutorials out there already, but here are my tips:

  • Only dip the paper in warm water for a few seconds.  It can still be quite stiff when you take it out of the warm water, because the water that remains on it will continue to soften it.  It's a lot easier to work with slightly stiff paper than super duper sticky squishy paper.

  • When wrapping, fold as you would any wrap (fold the ends in, then roll), but with rice paper, you can have a *little* bit of tension as you roll, and get a nice, tight wrap.  If you pull too hard, it will tear, but the good news is, (as mentioned in number 1 above), they are pretty cheap, so you can try again.  You will get the hang of it.
Above all, enjoy!!!  What are your favourite fillings for rice paper?

chickpea tuna rice paper wraps with sprouts

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

tarte tatin rolls (aka "cinnamon roll goes to France, forgoes cinnamon")

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I LOVE cinnamon rolls.  Since I was a child, a delicious cinnamon roll has been one of my absolute favourite treats.  Our local bakery used to make the most wonderful yeasty, squishy and delicious cinnamon rolls that were just dripping with cinnamon and caramelized sugar.


Before I get you too excited....this is *not* the roll of my childhood.  There are a million cinnamon roll recipes out there already (including on this blog), so I wanted to show you something a bit different.  Something that actually doesn't have a ton of cinnamon, but that does have a ton of rich, caramelized buttery-delicious flavour. And squishy yummy dough.

tarte tatin 'un-cinnamon' rolls

I took my inspiration from the classic French tarte tatin (also a recipe on this blog that you can check out).  Tarte tatin has NO cinnamon, and is made from a delicious combination of caramelized sugar, butter and apples, topped with pastry, then inverted for serving.  It's delicious, but messy to make, and there is always the risk that your inverting goes awry.

tarte tatin 'un-cinnamon' rolls

I had neighbours coming over for coffee, so I wanted something a little less risky, and a little more homey.

I thought the caramelized apple flavour would translate well to cinnamon rolls.  I did include a little bit of cinnamon because I find that a little bit brings out the apple flavour really nicely.  BUT, I didn't go crazy with tons of cinnamon, as I wanted those caramel and butter flavours to come through.  Despite what a lot of recipes will tell you, there is a big difference between a brown sugar flavour and a true caramel flavour.  Caramel that's made from white sugar being brought almost to the point of being burnt just has a more interesting flavour to me (not to say that brown sugar is bad....because it isn't), but I really love a good, bold caramel sauce made from an actual caramelization process.

tarte tatin 'un-cinnamon' rolls

The other aspect of this recipe I wanted to talk about was the dough.  I personally think that a simpler, yeastier dough makes the best cinnamon rolls (no eggs, no butter).  I see a lot of recipes out there that use all sorts of ingredients in the dough, but after trying a bunch of them, I definitely fall in the camp that a more traditional yeast dough is better.  It stretches and squishes rather than flaking like a biscuit dough.  This dough is sweetened, but you could easily omit most of the sugar and use the dough for something else.  I like to use my KitchenAid to mix mine, but a food processor or your hands will also work just as well.

tarte tatin 'un-cinnamon' rolls

I've made this twice now and I'm pretty confident in saying that you'll love it if you try making it too.  This is a longer project to make, and a bit more fussy than typical cinnamon rolls, but I swear it's worth the effort.  You can also make the dough the day before and refrigerate it after the first rise and it will be fine (the batch pictured is made from the refrigerated dough).

A few notes on the making of these rolls.....

1. Bruised apples are fine.  It's a good way to use up apples that maybe aren't quite so beautiful to eat alone. BTW, this is what happens when you let your two year old carry the apples.

tarte tatin 'un-cinnamon' rolls

2. If you are impatient like me, the snow works really well for cooking down hot filling.  There is a small upside to -15C.  Bonus points if you spot me in my fancy jammies in the reflection.  ;)

tarte tatin 'un-cinnamon' rolls

3. In terms of cutting cinnamon rolls, I find it easiest to cut the log in quarters, and then cut each quarter in thirds.

tarte tatin 'un-cinnamon' rolls

4. This is not to say that they end up all the same size (they totally don't).  I'm okay with means variety in serving size for the various members of the family.  ;)  It also means I won't be becoming a pastry chef any time soon.

tarte tatin 'un-cinnamon' rolls

Tarte Tatin Rolls
makes 12 plus one extra dough ball to be use as you see fit

(basically Amish White Bread --> note that this recipe makes twice as much as you need.  It will probably work if you halve it, but I haven't tested that!)
2 c. warm water
2/3 c white sugar
1.5 T quick rise yeast
1.5 t salt
1/4 T neutral vegetable oil (like canola)
1 t vanilla
6 cups all-purpose or bread flour (bread is best, but AP will work just fine)

1. Combine water, sugar, yeast, salt, oil, vanilla and 2-3 c of flour (you can do this in a mixer with a dough hook on speed 2, in a food processor with dough attachment, or in a large bowl with a spoon).

2. 1 cup at a time, add remaining flour.  Keep mixing until all flour is combined, then mix/process/knead for 4-5 minutes.  You want a really nice uniform, stiff dough.

3. Oil a large bowl, place the dough in it, cover it, and let it rise somewhere warm for about 1 hour (I like to use my oven with just the light on, because my house is cool.  Make sure you don't turn the oven on while the dough is still inside....).

4. After first rise, punch down the dough (i.e., squish out the excess air) and divide it in two even-ish pieces.  At this point, you can freeze or refrigerate one of them, or you can double the filling recipe below to make two pans.

(I recommend making this while the dough rises, because then you'll have some time for it to cool, and you won't be forced to put your filling outside in the snow like I was)
3 medium/large apples (I used'll want to use an apple that can hold its shape)
1/3 c butter (if butter is not salted, add a good pinch of sea salt)
1 c white sugar
1 T vanilla
1/4 t cinnamon (yes, you read that right)

1. Peel the apples and chop them pretty finely.  The pieces need to fit easily inside the rolls, so you don't want big chunks of apple.

2. Preheat a large skillet over medium/medium-high heat.  Add sugar, butter and apples and stir to combine.  I started the sugar while I was still chopping my apples, so some of my sugar browned a bit early.

You'll want to keep stirring every minute or two.  I recommend not adding the cinnamon right away, because the cinnamon can mask your ability to figure out when the apples start to caramelize.  What's going to happen now is that your apples will cook, give off water, the sugar will melt and the butter will combine together.  What you need to wait for are those first little wisps of smoke that tell you that the sugar is caramelizing.

So keep stirring every minute or two, stay close, and watch for the magic to happen (will probably take about 10-12 minutes).  There will be a slight bitter aroma once the sugar caramelizes.  As soon as you detect this, give the pan a stir, turn off the heat and remove the pan from the heat.  Stir in the cinnamon.  Then wait a minute or two, then stir in the vanilla (the boiling hot caramel mixture can cause the vanilla to spatter, so let it cool a little bit).

3. Cool the filling down.  If you find that the filling is really thick, you can stir in a little bit of cream to loosen it up.  You don't want it to be super runny though, because you need it to mostly stay *in* the rolls.   The consistency of jam is ideal.

to make rolls:
butter for brushing dough (about 1/4 c)
2 T brown sugar
flour for dusting

1. Prepare your surface with a small dusting of flour, take half of your dough and roll it out in a rectangular-ish shape.  I try to make it as even as I can, but as mentioned, I'm no pastry chef.  I like to cover my work surface with wax paper because it can help with rolling up the dough.  You want the dough to be relatively thin (1/3 inch or so, but don't sweat it too much), and the rectangle should be about 12x20 inches, give or take. TIP: If you find your dough difficult to roll out, take a break.  This will allow the gluten to relax and if you wait 5-10 minutes, you should have an easier time of getting the dough to stretch to the desired size.

2. Brush the dough with melted butter (make sure to reserve some butter for brushing the rolls once they are cut), sprinkle the brown sugar over it.

3. Spread your cooled filling on top of the dough, leaving a 2-inch border on one of the LONG edges.

tarte tatin 'un-cinnamon' rolls

4. Start rolling your dough up from the long edge (where you DIDN'T leave the border) and do your best to pinch the dough closed.  Don't sweat it if doesn't seal perfectly.

5. With your sharpest knife, cut the dough into 12 even-ish parts (see tip above).  Some filling may leak out.  Don't sweat it.  You might also find it a bit difficult to cut through the filling if it is hardening.  Don't sweat it - do your best.  Transfer the rolls as best you can to a greased 9x13 pan.  If they open up a bit, don't worry as they will rise and fill in the gaps.

6. Lightly brush the tops and sides of the rolls with the last of the butter (brushing the sides makes it easier to separate the cooked rolls).

7. If any of the caramel has leaked onto your prep surface, drizzle it on top of the rolls.  Because caramel.

8.  Cover with plastic wrap and let rise for about 30 minutes.  They will get a bit bigger, but don't be alarmed if they are still on the small side.

tarte tatin 'un-cinnamon' rolls

9. Preheat oven to 375F.  Bake rolls for 25-30 minutes (I found 30 was best), until they are golden brown on top.

tarte tatin 'un-cinnamon' rolls

10.  Serve each roll inverted (you could invert the entire tray if you felt ambitious....I didn't).

tarte tatin 'un-cinnamon' rolls

11.  Enjoy the most delicious, caramel, appley, buttery taste you've ever had.

I know the instructions sound ridiculously long - it's really not a difficult thing to make.  They just take a while and are best suited to a lazy weekend afternoon. And seriously. They are SO GOOD.

 tarte tatin 'un-cinnamon' rolls

Thursday, January 01, 2015

Thai red curry red lentil-pumpkin soup

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Thai Red Curry Lentil-Pumpkin Soup

I made this soup a few months ago, and I've been meaning to post it ever since.  This is one of those recipes that came about organically, because I had some extra pumpkin puree to use up (classic result of muffin recipes that use 1 c of pumpkin and cans that hold 3 c of pumpkin).

Thai Red Curry Lentil-Pumpkin Soup

It's a really simple soup, but has great flavour and makes a nice hearty meal.  As always, you can adjust the flavours to suit your palate (2T red curry paste may be a bit spicy for some people).  I really think that the use of fresh herbs elevates the flavour, but it isn't 100% necessary if you don't have them on hand.

thai red curry red lentil-pumpkin soup

Thai Red Curry Lentil-Pumpkin Soup

2T thai red curry paste
1 can coconut milk
1.5 c pumpkin puree (could substitute squash or sweet potato)
1 c red lentils
3 c water/stock
1 package bouillon (if not using stock)
2 T fish sauce
2 T maple syrup
1 T lime juice
3 T fresh basil
3 T cilantro
salt to taste (if needed)

1. In a large pot over medium heat, combine the red curry paste and the coconut milk.

2. Add the pumpkin puree, lentils, water/stock, bouillon (if not using stock) and fish sauce.

3.  Bring to a boil and let it simmer for 15-20 minutes (until lentils are soft).  You may need to add water if it's a bit thick.

4. Add the fresh basil and cilantro, and puree with an immersion blender (or blender or food processor, but IMHO the immersion blender offers the best bang for your buck if you can only have one of these appliances).

5. Taste.  If you love it, don't change it.  I found mine needed a bit of sweetness, so I added some maple syrup (honey or brown sugar would also work), and it needed some acidity (lime juice) and some salt.

This soup is fantastic and is a great way to bring together some relatively inexpensive ingredients into something SUPER delicious.  If you don't have Thai curry paste, you could also use an indian curry powder; no question, it will change the flavour of the soup, but it would still be pretty delicious.

I love freezing my extra soup to have for lazy meals in the future....just make sure to leave some space at the top of your jar, and I would also recommend refrigerating before freezing. I haven't had any issues with jars breaking.

 Thai Red Curry Lentil-Pumpkin Soup

Monday, December 29, 2014

the perfect gift in a jar - curried lentil soup

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mason jar gift - curried lentil soup

Most good bloggers have wonderful editorial schedules where they publish stuff like this at a time when it will actually be useful (i.e., before Christmas).  I am not one of those bloggers.  Like so many people, I spend the weeks leading up to Christmas running errands, gift shopping, gift wrapping labeling (hubs does the wrapping), making food for the umpteen million potlucks and meals, and attending the zillions of Christmas gatherings.  So I focus on doing rather than writing/posting about doing.

Now that things have calmed down a bit, and I have a few minutes, I wanted to share a gift that I've made for friends/family/co-workers for the last two years.  These soups in a jar are great for so many reasons.

mason jar gift - curried lentil soup

I've done gifts in a jar before (these cowgirl cookies at Christmas a few years ago) and while they are cute, I feel like they aren't the greatest gift to give because they are more about making ME look good than doing something nice for the recipient.  Because making cookies in a jar is actually work, and you need to buy more ingredients (i.e., eggs, butter, milk), and do work.  I don't want to make work for busy people.  I want to SAVE them work.

And also, frankly, the last thing people need after Christmas is more sugar-laden baking.

So enter lentil soup.  I came across the initial recipe on the Good Housekeeping website, but the proportions didn't work right for any of my jars, and it was way too salty.  So I adjusted the proportions a bit and have come up with a great adjustment to the recipe that fits perfectly in 500 mL/2 cup mason jars.  You can easily double it for 1L mason jars, but then it makes a lot of soup, and in keeping with the idea where I want to make people's lives easier, I want to give them just enough to enjoy, but not so much they are overwhelmed with a huge amount of leftovers.

This recipe is awesome.  It's very simple, with no super-processed ingredients.  It's suitable for many different dietary needs (it is naturally gluten-free and nut-free, as well as vegan...though I purchase my ingredients at Bulk Barn, so I would not personally guarantee that *MY* jars are nut-free; if allergens are a concern, you should purchase sealed packages of ingredients that are labeled appropriately).

But best of all, the soup is completely easy for the recipient to make and it tastes fantastic.  I made 17 jars last year.  This year I made 39.  Who knows what next year will bring?

I seem to have this terrible habit of unintentionally destroying printers, so I hand-wrote all my labels, and then just decorated the jars with some butcher twine.  It's simple and rustic, and I think it looks nice.  You could go full-Martha on this if you had the time and inclination.

mason jar gift - curried lentil soup

Lentil Soup Mix in a Jar (this will perfectly fill a 500 mL mason jar)
(modified slightly from Good Housekeeping)

6 oz green lentils (just under a cup)
1 T curry powder
3 T dried minced onion
1/2 t garlic powder (I brain-farted and put 1t in all of mine....they are still good!)
1 T dried parsley
1 t kosher salt
5 oz red lentils (just under a cup)
2 T chopped dried apple

 1. Layer ingredients.  I like to put green lentils on the bottom, followed by seasonings, then red lentils, then as much chopped apple as I can fit under the lid.

mason jar gift - curried lentil soup

 2. Cooking instructions - add three jars of water and simmer 30 minutes (this instruction works no matter how you scale the recipe - 6 cups of water for a 500 mL mason jar, or 12 cups for a 1L mason jar).

Some lentils may need to simmer a bit longer, and people may want to puree the soup a bit (or add more water if they want a thinner soup).  But the basic instruction is so simple and requires no extra ingredients and just one pot.

TIP: dried apples rings are a pain in the butt.  I drop mine into a running food processor a few at a time.  If you aren't making a zillion jars, you could just hand chop them, but they are TOUGH.

If curry is not to your liking, here are a few alternate suggestions (omit the curry for all of these):

classic French - 2 t herbes de provence

italian - 1 t italian seasoning (or mix of basil, rosemary and oregano), 2 T chopped sundried tomatoes in lieu of apples

moroccan - 1/2 t cinnamon, 1/4 t cardamom, 1/2 T cumin, dried cilantro in lieu of parsley, dried raisins and apricots in lieu of apples

southwest/mexican - 1 T chili powder, dried cilantro in lieu of parsley.  Omit apples

So better late than never.  Pin this one for next year!  Or just make up a couple of jars for yourself to keep in the pantry for busy nights.

And might I suggest you pair the soup with a quick salad and this fantastic five-minute focaccia for a deliciously satisfying meal.

mason jar gift - curried lentil soup

Monday, October 20, 2014

ghoulish monster pasta - fast and easy hallowe'en dinner

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ghoulish monster pasta

For the last few weeks, I've become more and more interested in the blog and forum surrounding Mr. Money Mustache (I added a link, so you could go check it out).  While I'm unlikely to ever consider myself mustachian (and frankly, probably also too materialistic), I've really found a lot of sense in his advice and commentary about consumer spending.

ghoulish monster pasta

And that in turn has led me to examine my own spending a little more closely.  And I've realized that, just like so many others, that I do a lot of impulsive and completely unnecessary spending (exhibit A, my shoe collection, exhibit B, my dress collection, and exhibit C, my extensive kitchen gadget and serveware collection.

ghoulish monster pasta

So I'm trying to be a lot smarter about expenditures.  I don't have any dreams of retiring at 40 and being financially independent at that point (read the MMM blog for more of that type of inspiration, because you are unlikely to find it here), but I just wanted to talk about some of the smaller decisions I've made lately to reduce impulsive and unnecessary spending.  :)

ghoulish monster pasta

I've been in contact with regarding Hallowe'en related post that mentioned their service, and I was kind of scratching my head as to how to link both (a gift card buy and sell site) and Hallowe'en, and also rationalize this under my newfound frugality.  I'm not sure I'm succeeding, but anway. (As an aside, I will start with a bit of bad news first, for my Canadian readers, is not currently able to process international orders (that said, you can check out the similar Canadian service of

I actually find this idea quite frugal - essentially, if you find yourself with a gift card you can't use, rather than buying something you don't actually need, you can sell it.  Likewise, if you're planning to spend money in a given store, you can acquire a giftcard for that store at a discount (which, combined with whatever other offers you can find for that store, can offer you a pretty great deal, particularly when it's money you planned/needed to spend anyway).  I spot a TON of Home Depot gift cards on the site, and saving an additional few per cent off home improvement materials strikes me as a good deal for sure.

ghoulish monster pasta

Of course, it's not a great deal if you spend money you either don't have or didn't plan on spending.

Anyway, so how exactly do we link this to Hallowe'en??? Well, the thing is, I had some ideas for a fun Hallowe'en dish; one that would be super simple to put together and quick enough to get on the table between getting home from work/school and trick or treating, but that would also offer a little bit of fun.

ghoulish monster pasta

This black monster pasta was a HUGE hit with our entire household.  I happened to have the black pasta on hand already (President's Choice Black Label), but will admit it was a total impulse purchase and quite expensive compared to typical pasta; this dish would work equally well with white or whole grain pasta, though I did find the black noodles especially ghoulish.  I also had some of my favourite pesto from Costco on hand, so I used that up (though again, a tomato sauce or cream or rose sauce would also work just as well).  But you have to admit that the green pesto on the black noodles is great for that extra gruesome touch.

ghoulish monster pasta

The 'magic' of this dish is in the eyes.  And initially, I thought I would just purchase some of that thinly sliced cheese (the type sold for sandwiches) and maybe pick up a cookie cutter of some sort to cut it out.  And this is where I heard the voices of frugality in my head.  Pre-sliced cheese is INSANELY expensive (especially when you look at the cost by weight).  And it's ridiculous to buy a cutter for the sole purpose of making a single dish.

ghoulish monster pasta

So I just used mozzarella I had on hand (it was a bit of a pain to cut, as evidenced by the slightly ragged edges) and I cut it with a round tablespoon measure.  And you know what?  It totally worked, and though my photos are maybe not quite as cute as they otherwise could have been, the kids sure did love this pasta.  Pesto is almost always a hit in our house, and the bit of fun with the eyeballs and mouth completely made them giggle and the kids were super excited to eat it.

ghoulish monster pasta

I think they had the most fun talking about the various expressions of the monsters, and experimenting with the various positions of the red pepper mouth.

ghoulish monster pasta

For balance, I served with a nice green salad.  Because vegetables.

ghoulish monster pasta

monster pasta
serves 4-6 (it served our family of four, plus two generous lunches)
ghoulish monster pasta

1 450-500g package pasta (ideally black, but any kind will work)
olive oil
1/2 c pesto (or other sauce)
white cheese
red pepper

1. Cook pasta according ot package directions.

2. Meanwhile, take thin slices of the cheese, and cut out two circles for each serving.  You want the circles to be about 1" in diameter.  Give or take.  Slice rings from your red pepper, and cut each in half.  I left some of the inner white portion attached because I liked how it gave the monsters character.  I think I may have put too much thought into this.

3. Once you drain the pasta, you can toss it with a touch of olive oil, salt and pepper.  I like to, but it's not necessary.

4. Add the pesto and stir it in.

5. For each serving, top with two circle eyeballs, and then add a caper on top of each.  I made sure that hubs' monster was rolling its eyes. Art imitating life and all that.

6. Add a pepper slice for the mouth.

And you're done.  It's crazy easy.  I know there are much fancier hallowe'eny meals out there, but the beauty of this one is that you actually have the time and ingredients to make it.  Or you can improvise (don't have capers?  Don't buy them just for this.....use olive rings or pickle slices, or anything you can find that gives your monster just that perfect haughty expression.  You could even use tofu instead of cheese, if you wanted).

So all this to say, I'm trying to quiet that little voice in my head that makes me want to go all spendy, and though I made only a couple of small choices regarding this dish, those are the types of small choices that can keep adding up.

ghoulish monster pasta

I think a service like (or for my Canadian readers) is a great way to get money for something you don't need, and also to get a great deal on your planned spending.

I'm also going to go one step farther and recommend you try to find your local Buy Nothing group.  These are great hyper-local gifting communities - so far I've found that it's a fabulous way of getting rid of things I no longer need, but that are not likely to sell, and you never know what you might come across (though I'm still looking to see if anyone's wanting to get rid of an old tortilla press.....I've banned myself from buying additional gadgets that will be infrequently used, but hey, if someone has one gathering dust......).

ghoulish monster pasta

Cheers - happy selling and gifting and trick or treating.  :)

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