Roasted Potatoes with Garlic Dip

Roasted potatoes

These Roasted Potatoes with Garlic Dip were a big hit at our tapas party and Belle asked me to make it the next day since she didn’t get a chance to try any at the party the night before – that’s how fast they went (and I made two batches!).

I think these potatoes will become a standard in our home just like Classic Thai Rice, Thai Pineapple Rice or Crazy Rice. They are dead simple to make but they do require the roasting time.

Roasted potatoes using new potatoes

For the party I made them with regular white potatoes, cut in half and then quartered, but the next day I decided to use the small round new potatoes (red and white) cut in half – these were, I think better. Try it with any type of potato you like. For the standard white potatoes I peeled them first but for the new potatoes I didn’t, although I gave them a good scrub when I washed them.

The Garlic DipThe Garlic Dip

Belle’s note: These potatoes were simply delicious. Great on their own, of course, but the garlic dip turned them into a dish to rave about. Ward’s been having a great time lately playing around with ingredients and coming up with his own creations, and this one will become one of our own classics, I think!

Roasted Potatoes with Garlic Dip

3 lb potatoes, peeled, halved and quartered or 3 lb new potatoes, halved
2-3 tbsp olive oil
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 tsp sea salt

Garlic Dip
10 cloves of garlic, pressed
1 tbsp olive oil
5 tbsp sour cream
4 tbsp mayonnaise
2 tbsp paprika or more to taste
sea salt to taste

  1. Pre-heat an oven to 400 degrees F. (200 degrees C.)
  2. Place the potato pieces in a large bowl and toss with the olive oil.
  3. Add the garlic and salt and toss to combine.
  4. Coat a large baking pan (or 2 medium pans) with non-stick vegetable spray.
  5. Add the potatoes and roast for approximately 1-1/4 hours. You want them soft on the inside and crisp and light brown on the outside.
  6. Meanwhile the dip: Whisk the garlic, olive oil, sour cream, mayonnaise together.
  7. Add the paprika and adjust the amount to taste.
  8. Add salt to taste.
  9. Cover with plastic wrap and chill until ready to serve.
  10. Transfer potatoes to serving dish.
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Deep-Fried Chilies

Deep Fried Red Chilies

This is a straight forward and very easy recipe. I strongly suggest using a deep fryer rather then a pot of oil on the stove top, because it is safer and far simpler.


For our Tapas Party I made deep-fried green chilies and then the next night I made deep-fried Thai red chilies, Jalapenos and green chilies. They were all delicious.

The following recipe was adapted from Tapas. It’s out of print, but here’s the funny thing – Belle and I own TWO copies of this book. One is a regular sized cookbook, and the other looks like one of those small, chunky cookbooks. Fortunately, we bought both at bargain book prices – they look completely different but have the exact same recipes.

Belle’s note: I didn’t dare brave these deep-fried chilies, but some of the other guests just loved them! I’ve learned that when Ward says, “It’s not that hot,” it means it’s too hot for me. It’s only when he says, “This doesn’t taste spicy at all” that I will brave it, because that means it’s just hot enough for me!

Deep-Fried Chilies

vegetable oil
green chilies, red chilies or jalapenos

Special equipment: Electric deep fryer.

  1. Place the oil in the deep fryer according the manufacturers instructions.
  2. Heat the oil to 360 degrees F.
  3. Place the chilies in the basket and deep fry for 1-2 minutes , depending on the size of the chilies.
  4. Remove and place on paper towels to drain.
  5. Serve.
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Chief Cook and Bottle Washer

Washing up

A while ago I was on Jamie Oliver’s web site and he asked the question, should the person doing all the cooking have to do the cleaning up too?

I thought this was a very interesting question. I love to cook and I love things clean but I don’t like the idea of cleaning up after dinner. I wash my utensils, pots, pans and measuring things as I’m cooking (in case I might need them again) and I always wash my knives myself, too – don’t anyone else even think of touching them!

But after the dinner or meal, I really don’t feel up to cleaning up, put leftovers away or put away the dishes that I have washed.

What do you think? Do you think the cook/chef should have to do the cleaning up too and why?

Belle’s note: In case you’re thinking poor Ward has to do all the washing up, I’ll just add here that I clean up the kitchen after dinner. It’s my audiobook time – wouldn’t want to miss out on that!

Our first Tapas party, but not our last!

We held a Tapas party (Spanish appetizers) for our December Open House dinner and although I was not as prepared as I would have liked, I think everything went really well. It was a drop-in get-together, so people came at different times but we were happy that most people stayed for quite a while. Both Belle and I really enjoyed the company and conversation.

I will get to the actual recipes soon but for now here was the menu:

Steak Bites with Chili Sauce

Little Breads with Bean Purée

Deep-Fried Green Chilies

Roasted Potatoes with Garlic Dip

Deep-Fried Mussels with a Chili Dressing

Tuna with Pimento Stuffed Olives

Spinach and Chickpeas

Sizzling Garlic Shrimp

Cracked Olives in Garlic

Tapas 3

There were quite a few other items I had planned on that I never got around to making. One of our guests brought asparagus wrapped in phylo pastry; very tasty. I had also planned on making a Spanish tortilla but Belle’s mom’s Spanish friend and his wife brought one and it was delicious, so that was one less dish to prepare.

Tapas 2

We also had the opportunity to sample Spanish beer, wines and sherry. All in all, it was a great evening.

Tapas 1

The next night we had more tapas since I had bought all the ingredients for the recipes I didn’t get a chance to make. The roasted potatoes with garlic dip and the steak bites were such heavy favorites the night before, I made them again the following night, too.

Belle’s note: We had a fabulous time, and have decided to style all our future open houses this way: small bites, and drop-in throughout the evening. It’s far easier preparing a few dishes at a time, and with people dropping in throughout the night, the conversation really flowed well. And our dinner the next evening was really nice, too, with some repeats from the night before, and some new dishes that Ward hadn’t had a chance to prepare.

Scallop Ceviche

Scallops Ceviche Scallop Ceviche

Belle was in the mood for scallops the other night, but not the usual grilled or seared way. She wanted a ceviche.

I had made one when we were in Nova Scotia this past summer on holidays but couldn’t remember exactly what was in it. We looked at a picture we took of it back then (thank goodness we had one!) and I figured out what I’d put in it.

The ceviche I made in Nova ScotiaThe ceviche I made in Nova Scotia

When I made it in Nova Scotia, Belle loved the flavours but the scallops were just too big for her. They had been fresh and large. This time I decided to slice the scallops into coins and then marinate them in the lime juice. This met with far more approval.

We thought the recipe I’d made in Nova Scotia had come from Occasions, the Nova Scotia Liquor Store’s magazine but we searched for it on its website and couldn’t find it. I had, unfortunately, lost the copy of the recipe I had used. I searched around online a bit, and found this recipe from Delicious Wisdom, which I then adapted a bit.

The scallops must be marinated overnight so Belle had to wait until the next day for her ceviche.

Belle’s note: This ceviche was delicious, but still not quite the same as the one I had in Nova Scotia. I was very happy that Ward decided to cut the scallops into thinner coins this time around – the flavours really soaked into them and they were very tasty.

Scallop Ceviche

6 large scallops sliced into thin coins
organic lime juice (enough to cover the scallops)
1 red bell pepper, finely chopped
1 small red onion, finely chopped
1 jalapeno pepper, finely chopped
1/3 cup cilantro, chopped
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 tbsp tequila

  1. Place the scallops in a re-sealable freezer bag and cover with lime juice. Refrigerate over night (4 hours minimum).
  2. The next day (or four hours later or any time in between), drain off most of the lime juice. Place the scallops in a medium-sized bowl.
  3. Add pepper, onion,  jalapeno and cilantro and mix.
  4. In a small bowl combine the oil, salt, black pepper and tequila. Pour the oil-tequila mixture over the scallops, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for another hour.
  5. Spoon out the ceviche into a serving bowl or wine glass and serve.
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Spinach and Yogurt Dip with Caramelized Onion

This Spinach and Yogurt Dip with Caramelized Onion is a great and easy appetizer.

This was one of the dishes Belle chose for our November Saturday Open House dinner (okay I think she chose all the menu items). I love to cook but I don’t like deciding what to cook. Tell me beef, poultry, fish, vegetarian, Mexican, Italian, Thai, Japanese – whatever it is you feel like – and I can go from there, but I need an idea to start with.

I adapted this recipe from Small Bites, a nice little book that comes in handy when you’re entertaining. There were no leftovers with this one – and I tripled the recipe! For some reason I have no pictures of this – oh, yes I remember why. I was still cooking while the appetizers were being served.

Belle’s note: It’s too bad we didn’t get a picture of this. It was a very nice dip – different enough but not too different that people didn’t want to give it a try. The original recipe called for just mixing everything together, but we found this much too awkward to work as a dip, so Ward threw everything into the food processor – the result? A very delicious, slightly chunky dip that everyone loved.

Spinach and Yogurt Dip with caramelized onion

350g (12 oz) spinach, chopped
1 tsp sea salt
2 tbsp olive oil
2 large onions, finely sliced
2 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
1 cup full-fat yogurt
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
pita bread, cut into quarters for serving

  1. Place spinach and salt in a covered saucepan over medium-low heat for 2 minutes or until wilted. Drain, rinse with cold water, and squeeze out the water.
  2. Put oil, onions and garlic in a frying pan and sauté for 20 minutes or more, until the onions are caramelized and golden brown. Remove from heat and let cool.
  3. In a large bowl mix the onions, yogurt and spinach. Season with salt and pepper. Place in food processor and process until slightly chunky.
  4. Refrigerate.
  5. Heat pita bread in toaster oven or regular oven.
  6. Serve with the warmed pita bread.
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Mussels and Clams with Lemongrass

Mussels and Clams with Lemongrass

Belle loves mussels and clams. We were trying to figure out what to have for dinner last Monday and I thought, what about Thai food? Belle said, “Great, how about clams?”

I really don’t eat a lot of mussels or clams but I know she really enjoys them so I dug up a recipe with mussels and lemongrass and I added the clams, and made a few other changes too.

We also had a Thai fish curry dish, and vegetables with tofu and spinach (posts to follow soon, I hope). They were all really good.

It was a hectic night, that Monday. My older son had to be driven to do some community hours (high school requirements here in Ontario – you don’t get your high school diploma without having 40 hours of community service). Then I had to do the shopping for dinner and make dinner. And of course Dylan (our 6-1/2 year old) said, “And Daddy, I want homemade pasta tonight”. Arghhhhh.

Still, it was doable. I marinated the fish and pulled everything out that I needed for each part of the meal and set it all up (Mise en Place) so that when I got home all I had to do is cook. All went well and everyone enjoyed their dinner so I was very happy! Recipe is at end of this post.

Cooking up all the fragrant ingredients Cooking up all the fragrant ingredients

Stir-frying the mussels and clams Stir-frying the mussels and clams

Belle’s note: I love that these days, I can say, hmmm, I’d love to have some mussels and voila, Ward whips up a batch for me. He usually does them steamed, with a marvelously garlicky wine sauce, but this lemongrass version was wonderful and went well with the rest of our Thai-themed meal.

The following recipe is adapted from The Food of Thailand.

Mussels and Clams with Lemongrass (Neung Phat Hawy Maleng Phuu Ta-Khrai)

2 lbs clams
2 lbs mussels
1-1/2 tbsp vegetable oil
5 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
3 lemongrass stalks, white part only finely sliced
1″ piece of galangal, sliced (if you can’t find this, use ginger)
2 long green chilles (or red), seeded and finely chopped
1 tbsp fish sauce
1 tbsp organic lime juice
1/2 tsp sugar
1 cup basil leaves (holy basil is the preferred basil), roughly chopped

  1. Scrub the mussels and clams and remove any beards. Discard and open mussels or clams (any that won’t close when tapped).
  2. Rinse them with three or four changes of water to remove any sand or grit from the clams (and mussels). Place them in a large bowl of clean water to soak for 30 minutes. (This will remove any remaining grit and sand from inside the shells.)
  3. Heat the oil in a large skillet or wok. Stir-fry over medium heat the garlic, onion, lemon grass, galangal and chillies for 2-3 minutes.
  4. Add the mussels and clams and stir-fry for 2-3 minutes. Add the fish sauce, lime juice and sugar.
  5. Cover the skillet or wok loosely and cook while shaking until the mussels and clams have opened (about 8-10 minutes).
  6. Discard any unopened shells, add the basil and season to taste.
  7. Serve.
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The Best Chicken and Sweet Leek Pie with Flaky Pastry

Chicken Pot Pie

This is a wonderful dish from Jamie Oliver. I missed seeing him when he was in Toronto (the city beside our small city of Pickering) a couple of weeks ago – I found out he would be here the night before and we couldn’t get a babysitter in such a short time. I didn’t really like the idea of going alone and leaving Belle to stay with Dylan. Anyway, I was disappointed to have missed him but there will be other opportunities, I hope!

You see, we do not have cable or satellite – lots of DVDs and videos but no television otherwise – so I can’t watch the Food Network or any of the cooking shows (unless I can get it on DVD). I gave up cable television about 20 years ago and have not missed it at all, except now that I love cooking I would like to see these cooking shows! When Belle and I first met, I said I really did not want to waste my time or life with TV and she agreed. It has been wonderful. I just wish there were more cooking videos/DVDs out there!

By the way, if someone out there is addicted to cooking shows and likes to tape/copy them and wants to send an occasional Care Package to a Canadian without cable television, please contact me and I will be more then happy to send you blank DVDs or tapes.

Now, back to this post. Belle just loves this Chicken Pot Pie and so do I. It is so easy to make but tastes like you slaved in the kitchen for days (you can always tell them you did and they would believe it!).

I made this two nights ago for Belle and I and then the next night was my dojo’s Adult Christmas Party and I was going to make Jamie Oliver’s “Hunter’s Lasagne” and Belle said why not make the Chicken Pot Pie instead, or both. Since I’m always up to a challenge, I made both after getting home from teaching classes and it was ready just as we left for the party. So, quite easy. And delicious! You couldn’t ask for more, could you? Recipe follows the pictures below!

Cooking up the chicken and vegetables Cooking up the chicken and vegetables

Thickening the sauce Thickening the sauce

The sausage balls The sausage balls

Ready to bake Ready to bake

Ready to eat! Ready to eat!

Belle’s note: This is, indeed, my favorite chicken pot pie recipe. I think it’s the addition of the sausage balls that makes it so delicious. You know how lovely chicken smells sometimes when it’s baking? This pie tastes as good as it smells!

The following recipe is adapted from Jamie’s Dinners.

The Best Chicken and Sweet Leek Pie with Flaky Pastry

2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp butter
2 1/2 lbs free-range boneless & skinless chicken thighs, cut into bite size pieces
2 leeks, trimmed, washed and cut into 1/2″ pieces
3 carrots, peeled, quartered lengthwise and chopped (1/4″) (organic preferably)
3 stalks of celery, quartered lengthwise and then finely sliced (organic preferably)
Handful of fresh thyme
3-4 tbsp all purpose flour
1 cup dry white wine
1 1/4 cups milk
1 cup water
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 lb hot Italian sausage (approx 3)
1-1/2 tbsp olive oil
1 lb package of all-butter puff pastry
1 free-range egg

  1. Preheat oven to 450 degree F.
  2. Heat the oil in a large, deep skillet over medium heat along with the butter.
  3. Add the chicken, leeks, carrots, celery and thyme and cook until the veggies are soft and the chicken is mostly cooked (about 30 minutes).
  4. Add the flour (2 tbsp to start) and turn the heat to high and cook for a couple of minutes.
  5. Add the wine, milk and water and season with salt and pepper.
  6. Cover with a lid and simmer for 30 minutes.Stirring occasionally.
  7. Remove the lid and continue to cook at medium heat until the liquid is thick -add the extra flour at this point if it is still very liquidy (is that a word?).
  8. Pour into a 9×13 (approx) baking dish ( A smaller dish would work better given the size of the puff pastry but this is what I had).
  9. Squeeze the meat out of the sausages and roll into small balls (agate size for those of you who ever played marbles).
  10. Brown the sausage balls in 1-1/2 tbsp olive oil in a large skillet. Place the sausage balls in the chicken mixture and mix together.
  11. Break the egg in a small bowl and whisk. Egg wash the  rim of the baking dish.
  12. Drape the pastry over the baking dish, using a knife cut off the extra. Egg wash the top of the pastry.
  13. Place in the oven for 40 minutes.
  14. Serve and enjoy.
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100% Whole Grain Rosemary Potato Dinner Rolls with a Salt Crust

Rosemary Potato Dinner Rolls Delicious Whole Grain Rosemary Potato Dinner Breads

This recipe is adapted from Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day, by Jeff Hertzberg and Zöe François; this is a wonderful book that really shows you how you can easily bake up delicious and healthy homemade breads. You make up the dough ahead of time, which makes it really easy to make bread every day. My family eats a lot of bread, so when I make all sorts of different and tasty breads, everyone is quite happy around here.

We recently received this book from the publisher for review, and when I opened it up, this was the recipe the book fell open to. Belle took one look, and saw “rosemary” and “potato”, two of her favourite things. The decision as to what to try first from the book was as easy as that!

Loosely covered and rising. Loosely covered and left to rise.

The recipe was for rolls, but I decided to make the rolls bigger than the original recipe suggested, sort of personal breads rather then rolls. I didn’t follow the recipe exactly, as I used dark rye and did not use lukewarm water, a baking stone or a tray of water in the oven, but they still turned out great.

Ready for the oven.Ready for the oven.

I think little personal loaf pans next time might give a better shape but everyone was happy with these little breads.

Belle’s note: These little breads are just delicious, and I really loved the salt crust. The next day, I sliced one of the leftover breads in half, toasted and buttered the pieces, and then added smoked salmon and thin slices of cucumber on top – so delicious!

100% Whole Grain Rosemary Potato Dinner Rolls with a Salt Crust

5 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup dark rye flour
1/4 cup soy flour
1-1/2 tbsp granulated yeast
1 tbsp kosher salt
1/4 cup wheat gluten
2 tbsp fresh rosemary , finely chopped
3 cups hot water
1/4 cup olive oil
3 cups diced raw peeled potatoes (1/4″ dice)
1 tsp sea salt for the top crust
1 tbsp fresh rosemary, chopped for the top crust

  1. Whisk together the flours, yeast, salt, wheat gluten and 2 tbsp rosemary in a stand mixer bowl (5qt size).
  2. Add the liquid ingredients and potatoes and mix  with a paddle attachment on the stand mixer. (You can also mix by hand.)
  3. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap (loosely) and let stand 2 hours at room temperature to rise.
  4. At this point, you can either refrigerate the dough for up to a week in a lidded but not airtight container or use it immediately. (I used half the recipe right away, and half a few days later; both times the rolls were excellent.)
  5. When you’re ready to make the rolls, dump the dough out onto a floured surface and flour the top. Roll into a ball. Cut off pieces about double the size of a golf ball.*
  6. Shape each piece into a smooth ball and place on a baking sheet, cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rest 20 minutes (40 minutes if you’re using the dough after storing it in the fridge).
  7. Pre-heat oven to 450 degrees F. Remove plastic wrap, brush rolls with water and sprinkle tops with salt and chopped rosemary.
  8. Bake for 30-35 minutes. Remove and allow to cool on a wire rack.

* If you prefer smaller rolls, then cut off pieces about the size of a golf ball, and reduce your baking time to 20 minutes.

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Beef and Rice Meatballs in Yogurt-Tomato Sauce (Youvarelakia Yogurt Sauce)

Beef and Rice Meatballs

This was another fun item to make… okay, I know say that in every post. I can’t help it, I just love to cook!

I made this for our November Saturday Open House dinner as part of our Mediterranean theme (in this case Greece), so I doubled this recipe.

I made up the meatballs on Friday and then cooked them on Saturday – easy and delicious. The only thing you need to keep in mind for this one is the additional time required for thickening the yogurt – you’ll need to add in at least 1 hour for this.

The following recipe is not the doubled version; it should make about 40 meatballs. It’s adapted from The Olive and The Caper, by Suzanne Hoffman.

Belle’s note: This was the first dish to disappear during our November open house; everyone loved it. It smells delicious while it’s cooking, too. The sauce is a tangy tomato-y sauce that has a beautiful red colour.

Beef and Rice Meatballs in Yogurt-Tomato Sauce (Youvarelakia Yogurt Sauce)

For the Meatballs
1 lb ground beef (don’t use lean or extra lean, you need the fat for good tasting meatballs)
1 cup cooked rice, at room temperature
1 onion, finely chopped
1 large clove of garlic, pressed
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
1 tbsp fresh mint leaves, chopped
1/8 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 large free-range egg
2 + tbsp olive oil for browning the meatballs

For the Youvarelakia Yogurt Sauce
1/3 cup olive oil
796 ml (28 fl oz) can of San Marzano type tomatoes, chopped
3 large cloves, peeled and finely sliced
1 tsp fresh rosemary needles, finely chopped
1/3 cup capers, drained and rinsed
1 tbsp organic lemon zest, chopped
3/4 cup dry white wine
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 cup thickened yogurt*

Youvarelakia Yogurt Sauce

  1. Heat oil over medium-high heat.
  2. Add tomatoes and garlic and stir for about 1 minute.
  3. Add the rosemary, capers, lemon, wine and salt.
  4. Cook until the tomatoes are soft, about 2-3 minutes.
  5. Stir in the thickened yogurt*.
  6. Place in small serving bowls or ramekins, or in one larger bowl with a ladle for everyone to spoon sauce over their meatballs.

* Directions for thickened yogurt: Use 3 cups full fat yogurt

  1. Place a double layer of cheesecloth over a fine mesh sieve.
  2. Pour yogurt into sieve and let drain at least 1 hour.
  3. Squeeze out any extra moisture form yogurt and retain the yogurt.


  1. Mix all the ingredients except the oil in a large bowl. (Use your hands, it’s the only way to really mix and get involved in the food).
  2. Roll together tablespoon-sized balls and place on a baking sheet or large platter.
  3. Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.
  4. Add the meatballs, but don’t overcrowd or the oil temperature will drop.
  5. Cook in batches for 8-10 minutes each.
  6. Serve the meatballs with the Youvarelakia Yogurt sauce on the side.

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