Early Valentine’s Day 2017…

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This year we decided to celebrate Valentine’s Day at home. Since my husband also has to go out of town on the 14th (and may or may not be able to make it back the evening of the 14th) we decided to celebrate a day early. So, today, I decided I was going to cook a special meal. After some research online, I decided on a simple pasta with a southwestern twist. It turned out to be delicious and makes me want to try out more recipes as it also seemed fairly healthy. I also put together a yummy dessert which is popular in Western Canada and the Pacific Northwest. It took quite a bit of time but was also very delicious (the leftovers are totally going with me to work tomorrow so I do not end up eating them all!).

Happy V-day!!!! Inspired by Mexico where tortugas (turtles) were a big deal.

We did not plan to do gifts but I did buy my husband some heart shaped chocolate from Lindt which he gobbled up pretty quickly. My husband also knew I have been a bit disappointed that our quick trip to the vineyards (where I planned to stock up on some wine) was cancelled earlier this month due to bad weather. But today, he produced several bottles of wine as a gift from the region that he had picked up when his work took him near the vineyards. I was definitely surprised and delighted-especially since wine has been on my mind lately.

Anyway, here are the recipes for what I cooked today (plus some notes for myself so I can easily replicate them):

Southwestern Pasta:

Ingredients: 6 Servings- Was way too much! Next time cut everything in half. Would make again as it seemed healthy and filling. 

  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1green bell pepper, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder -I increased this a bit. 
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin –I increased this a bit. 
  • 1 (28 ounce) can diced tomatoes with juice
  • 1 (15 ounce) can chickpeas
  • 1 (10 ounce) package frozen corn kernels, thawed
  • 1 (12 ounce) package uncooked elbow macaroni-I used tri-colour vegetable pasta instead. 
  • 1cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese
  • I had to add garlic salt, onion powder, and black pepper to taste as it was a bit too bland for me. 

Directions:

  1. Heat oil in a large, deep skillet. Saute onion, green pepper, garlic, chili powder and cumin.
  2. Stir in tomatoes, chickpeas and corn. Reduce heat to low and simmer 15 to 20 minutes, or until thickened and heated through.
  3. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add macaroni and cook for 8 to 10 minutes or until al dente; drain.
  4. Combine pasta and sauce.
  5. Sprinkle each serving with Monterey Jack cheese.

Nanaimo Bars -Total pain to make but it was a special occasion and was created on the West Coast! 

Ingredients:

Bottom Layer:
½ cup (125 mL) unsalted butter (preferably European-style cultured butter)
5 Tbsp (75 mL) cocoa powder -Had the good Dutch stuff! 
¼ cup (50 mL) granulated sugar
1 egg, beaten
1 ¾ cups (425 mL) graham wafer crumbs
1 cup (250 mL) shredded coconut -I love coconut in desserts. 
½ cup (125 mL) almonds, finely chopped-Thank goodness for machines that do this kind of chopping! 

Middle Layer
½ cup (125 mL) unsalted butter, softened
2 tbsp + 2 tsp (40 mL) whipping or heavy cream
2 Tbsp (30 mL) vanilla custard powder
2 cups (500 mL) icing sugar

Topping
4 oz (115 g) semi-sweet chocolate
2 Tbsp (30 mL) unsalted butter – I only had salted left at this point but it seemed okay. 

Forgot to take a pic of the pasta...and am too lazy to go snap a pic of the dessert but here it is from the internet and much better looking than mine!

Forgot to take a pic of the pasta…and am too lazy to go snap a pic of the dessert but here it is from the internet and much better looking than mine!

Directions:

Bottom Layer:

1. Pour 2 cups (500 mL) water into bottom of double boiler. Place on stove over medium heat and bring water to simmer.

2. In top of double boiler; combine butter, cocoa and sugar; place over simmering water. Heat, stirring, until butter has melted and mixture is smooth.

3. Add beaten egg; stir until thick. Remove top of double boiler from heat. Stir in graham wafer crumbs, coconut and almonds.

4. Scrape into parchment paper-lined 8-inch (2 L) square baking dish. Press firmly to create even bottom layer. They do not mention that you should leave it to cool for a half hour or so before adding the next layer. 

5. Tip: If you don’t have a double boiler, half-fill a saucepan with water and heat over medium heat until water begins to simmer. Then, place a metal or glass bowl over the simmering water and proceed as directed.

Middle Layer:

1. In bowl, cream together butter, cream and custard powder. Gradually add icing sugar; beat until light and fluffy. Scrape over bottom layer, smoothing top with spatula or palette knife. Again let it settle in the fridge for a bit before doing the last layer. 

Topping:

1. In clean double boiler, melt chocolate and butter together. Remove from heat; let cool slightly. When cool, but still liquid, pour over custard layer. Double boilers are wonderful and horrible things all at once! The chocolate layer did not look super smooth like the online photos but was still good. 

2. Cover and refrigerate until cold.

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