Pasta with Friends (at a safe distance)

I’m not the biggest fan of pasta, but when I saw this recipe slide across my Insta stories, I thought it looked pretty delicious, and super easy.

When I hear of a creamy, cheesy pasta…I instantly think heavy but comforting. This one is definitely comforting, but light and delicious.

After taking one bite, K instantly asked what our friends were doing for dinner, and if they’d like to come join. In a time where we have been self isolating and social distancing for thirteen days, this sounded like a dream world — but we did manage to bring a little bowl of it to our friends while on our after-dinner walk around campus.


Sausage and Pea Pasta

Recipe adapted from A Life from Scratch.

  • 1 pound pasta (any short pasta type you’d prefer)
  • 1 pound mild Italian sausage
  • 1 cup half and half cream, or milk
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1 cup Parmesan cheese
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp lemon pepper
  • 1 cup peas
  • Fresh basil
  • Zest of one lemon

In a pot of water, cook the pasta according to the package’s directions.

In a sauté pan, brown the sausage until fully cooked. Remove the sausage rom the pan and set aside.

In the same pan, combine the cream, chicken stock, Parmesan, garlic powder and lemon pepper. Bring it to a soft boil, and cook the liquid for approximately 10 minutes until slightly thickened.

Once thickened a little, add the peas and lemon zest, and continue to stir until peas as warmed through. Add half a cup of the pasta water to thin out the sauce – and toss the sauce with the cooked pasta.

Top with more Parmesan, fresh basil, and more lemon zest.

Update: A great way to heat up the leftover pasta (without the pasta getting mushy, and leaving the peas still with a pop) is to put the pasta mixture in an oven-sage dish and cover with tin foil. Put the dish in a cold oven and turn the oven on to 350°F, the pasta will be perfectly heated in about half an hour!

A Perfectly Festive Treat

One of the best ways to spend an evening with twenty girls is to celebrate a birthday. From the massive card they create (with the loveliest of words shared), to the Brazilian tradition of cutting cakes from the bottom up for good luck, to the hearty singing that erupts from our common room—celebrating birthdays is a special, and wonderful time.

Another tradition in Memorial House is that each girl chooses her favourite treat to share with the house on her special day.

On this day, the birthday girl shared her favourite birthday treat is “ice cream! (cookie dough / birthday cake)”… so I combined it and created these delicious ice cream sandwiches with a funfetti blondie and cookie dough ice cream.

After a raucous rendition of Happy Birthday, silence washed over the room as the girls devoured these treats!



Funfetti Birthday Ice Cream Sandwiches

Recipe adapted from Country Cleaver

  • 1 cup butter, melted
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 cup flour
  • 1 cup vanilla cake mix
  • 1 cup sprinkles (jimmies)
  • 1 container cookie dough ice cream, softened

Preheat oven to 350ºF. Butter two rimmed baking sheets, then line each with parchment paper (not wax paper) and leave 2 inches of parchment paper hanging over the short edges of the pans, this helps with lifting the blondies out of the pan. Butter parchment paper as well.

In a large bowl, whisk together melted butter and sugar. Whisk in eggs and salt, followed by the flour and yellow cake mix until just smooth. Spread into a thin layer all over to the edges of the pan. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until the blondies begin to pull away from the sides of the pan.

Remove from oven and let cool in the pan for 5 minutes. Using the overhanging paper, gently remove the blondies from the pan and allow to cool completely on a wire rack.

When completely cooled, spread the softened ice cream and top with other cooled blondie. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and freeze for about two hours, until set. Cut into 20 sandwiches. Wrap each sandwich with parchment paper for storage and place in an air tight container.

An Early Taste of Fall

It has been a crazy week in the residence…a crazy week of food. Five days, five snacks (three of which were birthday snacks).

“If you really want to make a friend, go to someone’s house and eat with him… The people who give you their food give you their heart.” -Cesar Chavez

Coming together in the evenings for a celebration and a snack has allowed the girls an extra moment in the day to bond, chat, ask questions, get to know each other more, and most importantly, just be with each other.

It is so easy for teenagers today to retreat to their rooms, throw in a movie on their computer and just disconnect from the world. These evening moments bring the girls together and just let them enjoy being themselves, surrounded by supportive and loving friends.

Tonight’s mini autumn cheesecakes are the perfect combination of silky smoothie cheesecake with a warm vanilla taste, and topped with season-perfect stewed apples with cinnamon and brown sugar.


Mini Autumn Cheesecake

Recipe adapted from Life, Love and Sugar

Crust

  • 1 cup graham cracker crumbs
  • 2 tablespoons white sugar
  • 4 tablespoons butter, melted

Filling

  • 12 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs

Topping

  • Apples, peeled
  • Butter
  • Brown sugar
  • Cinnamon

Preheat oven to 325°F. Add cupcake liners to a regular-sizes cupcake pan (not mini).

Combine the graham cracker crumbs, sugar and melted butter. Divide the mixture between the cupcake liners (about 2 tablespoons per cup) and press into the bottoms.

Bake the crusts for 5 minutes then remove from oven. Allow to cool while you make the filling.

Reduce oven to 300°F.

In a large bowl (or in your stand mixer with the paddle attachment) mix the cream cheese, sugar, and flour until just combined (use low speed to keep less air from getting into the batter, which can cause cracks). Scrape down the sides of the bowl.

Add the sour cream and vanilla extract. Beat on low speed until well combined.

Add the eggs one at a time, beating slowly and scraping the sides of the bowl after each addition.

Divide the filling between the cheesecake cups until the cups are mostly full.

Bake the cheesecakes for 15 minutes, then turn off the oven and leave the door closed for another 10 minutes.

Crack the oven door and allow cheesecakes to cool for 15-20 minutes, then put in the fridge to finish cooling.

To prepare apple topping, chop apples into half-inch pieces. Add apples to melted butter, and add cinnamon and brown sugar. Stew apples until they are soft and golden brown.

Cool, and top the cheesecakes with the apple mixture.

Lemon, Ricotta, Mint Pasta—A Fresh Summer Dinner

K is off at summer camp, and I’ve been thinking all day about if she’s making friends, is she having fun, did she sleep well, is she liking the food? Of course I’m sure all the answers are yes, but I can’t help but wonder. After putting together a care package for her (and of course the girls in her cabin), it was time to decide what to make for dinner…

A craving for pasta came across me…and when that craving comes on one of the hottest days of the year, this lemon, ricotta, mint pasta turned out to be the perfect fresh summer dinner.

I prefer to use spaghettoni noodles as they’re slightly thicker than the usual spaghetti noodles, and tend to grab a lot of the (super easy) sauce. Add together mint from the garden, creamy ricotta, peas that pop in your mouth, fresh lemon and spicy lemon pepper, and you get the perfect summer-fresh dinner.


Lemon, Ricotta, Mint Pasta

  • Spaghettoni, or your preferred long-noodle pasta—cooked as directed, reserving 1/4 cup water when draining
  • Peas—add to the pasta for the final two minutes of cooking to warm through
  • Ricotta—a couple of spoonfuls, enough to coat the pasta
  • Mint—roughly chopped
  • Lemon—zest and juice of one lemon
  • Lemon Pepper, my favourite is from Trader Joe’s—add a healthy amount to add a nice, spicy flavour to the pasta

Combine the ingredient together and top with more mint, lemon zest and lemon pepper. Serve warm.

Lunch and Learn

I am aware that as K grows older, there will be more difficult things to deal with — but one of the worst things right now, aged 10, is making lunches. It’s the on-going, never-ending process of making what she wants, what is nutritious and what is quick as inevitably she ‘never has time to finish!’.

This morning, after we finished our traditional Sunday breakfast…K shredded the cheese, cut the ham and mixed the 6 eggs with oat milk (our new fave!), and then I finished by pouring the mixture into mini tart shells. 15 minutes later (at 375ºF), we had two-bite quiches… and they are kid approved! This last week of school lunches are going to be a breeze!

We celebrate the end of June when school lunches end…but wait, there are lunches to be made for day camps. Today, I think we made real progress with the lunch trifecta—yummy, nutritious, and quick!

Organization Isn’t About Perfection…

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Everyone has a “junk drawer” in their kitchen…right? Well, I don’t. The closest I had was a disorganized corner in my main utensil drawer. And while it was only a small corner—and nearly everything was useful—it brought my stress every time I opened the drawer for a knife or spoon.

This weekend I bought a few connecting containers and after about 20 minutes this drawer now brings me some joy.

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I find it is always easier to keep things organized if you have a simple system to follow, but when does it go from being organized to being over organized? A system that improves your life is okay, but when it takes more time to use your organizational system than if it weren’t there—you may be over organizing.

The containers in my drawer allow each item to have a home, and it now takes very little thought when putting away cutlery, or when finding something to use.

The seconds of lifting other items to get at the ones beneath have been shaved off…and while seconds aren’t huge, the extra thought, the extra movement, the extra…stuff…all adds up.


“Organization isn’t about perfection; it’s about efficiency, reducing stress and clutter, saving time and money and improving your overall quality of life.” -Christina Scalise

When you’re green, your growing

The weather is turning colder, and there is nothing better than a house full of delicious smelling foods.

Baking on the weekend always makes me feel more settled and ready to take on the week—knowing that we have a something homemade and yummy to add to K’s lunch, or an easy snack after school,

As I scooped the batter into the muffin tins, K walked over took a look and said “Those look deeeeeelishi—wait, what’s that green stuff?” I quickly told her the muffins were packed full of vanilla, cinnamon and best of all – chocolate chips. She skeptically said okay, and waited for them to be ready.

The delightful smell filled the house, and before the muffins could even cool off, K was diving into them. She seemed to have completely forgotten about “green stuff,” dove right into them, and through a full mouth managed to say “these are the most delicious muffins…ever.” Our favourite lunchbox muffins have been banana—and while we still love banana muffins, these ones aren’t as sweet and have a bonus hint of vegetables!

Another batch will be made very soon—these will definitely not last all week!



Zucchini Chocolate Chip Muffins
Recipe from A Life From Scratch.

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup milk (I used unsweetened vanilla almond milk)
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup shredded zucchini
  • 1/2 cup miniature semisweet chocolate chips

In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt. In a separate bowl, mix the egg, oil, milk, lemon juice, and vanilla extract together. Stir the wet mixture into the dry ingredients until batter is formed—fold in zucchini and chocolate chips. Fill greased muffin cups two-thirds full.

Bake in a 350ºF oven until lightly browned on top, 12 – 14 minutes.