Tag: home cooking

Foodie Swellness: Gnocchi with bacon, spinach and mushrooms


I find I need new and different tastes all the time.  What can I say, my tastebuds get bored easily. I’ve never understood how people can eat the same exact meals every week (well, of course I have some things I do eat regularly, like what I have for breakfast is pretty consistent).

But I do return to certain recipes a few times a year like this pasta dish, for one, and this frittata recipe will become a regular now. And I get pretty excited when I try making a new dish and it’s so yummy that I know it’ll be added into my annual rotation. Especially when it’s a super simple thing to cook but tastes so damn good. Like this gnocchi recipe.

The other night it was freezing cold out and after a few days of eating turkey, I was craving pasta. And then the idea of gnocchi popped into my brain. I used to rely on packaged gnocchi a lot as a fast meal to prep on nights I didn’t feel like cooking but I’ve fallen out of that habit. Well, hello old habit, you’re back in the rotation! Gnocchi always feels to me a bit fancier than pasta, is it just me or do you feel the same? I’ve never made gnocchi from scratch, but I have made gnudi (which is similar to gnocchi except it’s made with ricotta instead of potato), which was most wonderful!

A few quick searches online and I decided I wanted to use bacon as well since I had some in my fridge. I picked up the gnocchi and the other few items and I was ready to go. I think the stewed tomatoes with olive oil and garlic not only added a lot of flavour, it also helped me skip having to mince garlic, so hurray for even simpler prep! Here’s the recipe.

Gnocchi with bacon, spinach and mushrooms

  • 1 package of gnocchi
  • 5 slices of thick-cut bacon, chopped
  • 1 19-oz can of stewed tomatoes with olive oil and garlic
  • two handfuls of mushrooms, sliced
  • half a bag of spinach
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • ½ teaspoon chili pepper flakes
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • pepper and Parmesan, to taste
  1. Fry bacon to desired crispiness in a large pan. Before bacon is entirely done, add mushrooms so that they’re cooked through.
  2. Stir in tomatoes, sugar, chili pepper flakes and balsamic vinegar and cook for about five minutes until flavours are blended. Season with pepper.
  3. In the meanwhile, cook gnocchi in a pot of boiling salted water until done (the gnocchi will float once cooked through). Add spinach and cook for about 30 seconds until wilted.
  4. Drain gnocchi and spinach and add to the pot with the sauce. Stir to combine.
  5. Grate as much Parmesan as you wish! I used Lupa cheese, which chef Massimo Bruno recommended.

Another great thing about this recipe is all the veggies it includes (I’m always looking for ways to eat more veggies). Plus you can easily swap in your fave veggies or use up the ones you have lurking in your fridge. Not a fan of mushrooms? Toss in some chopped carrots instead!

If you’re not in the mood for bacon, I think you could likely make this vegetarian by simply sautéing a chopped onion in a glug of olive oil instead of frying up the bacon to start the sauce (although that bacon fat likely adds a lot of depth of flavour to the sauce…). I haven’t tried it this way but I did consider adding onion to the dish.

Do you have any fave ways to make a quick meal with packaged gnocchi?

Leave a Comment December 30, 2017

Foodie Swellness: Delicious Olives from Spain

Olives from Spain 1

Although I did not grow up eating olives from Spain (I actually was probably an adult before I tried them for the very first time), but they’re now something I can’t live without. I’ll regularly crave them (coincidentally, one of my cats loves tapenade, she is so much my spirit animal!).

I don’t see how one can’t love olives from Spain. They’re so versatile, for one. A simple bowl of them with your cheese and charcuterie boards. Or add olives from Spain for a brine-y bite to your salads or pasta dishes (pasta puttanesca is a classic favourite!). Baked into a focaccia so that each doughy bite has a bit of olives from Spain. And what about chicken? On it’s own, a pretty bland protein. Incorporate lemon and whichever variety of olives from Spain you can find at your local supermarket into your sauce, though, and you’ve got one mouthwatering, flavourful main course.

The different ways you can enjoy olives are practically endless when you also consider that there are so many wonderful varieties from Spain. I’m not an olive connoisseur but I try to pick up a variety I’m unfamiliar with when I’m shopping at the market.

And did know they’re loaded with antioxidants that research has shown to be anti-cancerous, and they also contain iron and inflammation-reducing oleic acid? So many good reasons to incorporate them into your snacking and cooking repertoire  if you don’t already.

Next time you’re adding olives from Spain to your shopping list, some you might want to try out: hojiblanca, gordal and manzanilla. I feel like most people I know are partial to black olives, and while I do gravitate to them, I do love gordal, too; These large, fleshy green olives from Spain have a great bitter-salty balance, making them great for snacking. The same goes for manzanilla olives when it comes to snacking; they’re nice and round and plump and since its pit is easy to remove, you’ll often find them stuffed (think anchovies, peppers or cheese)—delicious! And hojiblanca? These olives from Spain have a slight fruity and nuttiness to them, which works well for stews and marinades.

Olives from Spain 2

With the versatility of olives from Spain, I started dreaming of Canadian dishes where I could incorporate them, and bannock came to mind. Let’s face it, I dream of carbs so it’s not shocking I thought of bread. I’ve never made bannock before, a bread that comes to us from our First Nations. I did a little research about it and discovered that bannock can be baked or fried, and although traditionally prepared and enjoyed quite simply, modern versions include cinnamon bannock rolls and bannock breakfast sandwiches  Light and fluffy bannock with some chopped olives from Spain warm from the frying pan sounded like it’d be the ultimate savoury treat…and it was! Here’s the recipe:

Fried Bannock with Olives from Spain

  • 2 cups of flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • chopped olives from Spain to taste (I used about a ¼ cup of Hojiblancas)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • ¾ cup water
  • vegetable oil for frying
  1. Whisk together dry ingredients.
  2. Mix in olives (I used Hojiblancas) and olive oil, and add water, until almost combined.
  3. On a lightly floured surface, knead a handful of times but do not overwork.
  4. Divide into 6 balls and flatten with your hands. Fry at medium heat in a frying pan generously oiled on the bottom of the pan until both sides of the bread are golden brown.
  5. Drain on a paper-towel lined plate.
  6. Enjoy warm!

Given the simple ingredients and method, I’m thinking this could be a great bread to make the next time I go camping or for brunch. Although, it’s not camping I’ve got on the brain now, it’s escaping to Spain I’m dreaming of!

For more recipe ideas for olives from Spain, be sure to check out olivesfromspain.ca


1 Comment December 14, 2017

Foodie Swellness: Food styling tips from Ontario Greenhouse Vegetable Growers #SpringIntoFlavour


With sunny weather here, I’m looking forward to eating lots of fresh veggies grown locally and was excited when Ontario Greenhouse Vegetable Growers reached out to me about a food styling session — featuring their delicious veggies, of course, to help me and you #SpringIntoFlavour!

Now, if you like me have never heard of OGVG, it’s a not-for-profit organization all tomato, pepper and cucumber growers in Ontario. So this includes the seedless cucumbers, tomatoes on the vine and red, yellow and orange peppers that I buy regularly and also mini and cocktail cucumbers, specialty peppers, beefsteak and specialty tomatoes. I especially loved to hear that the OGVG farmers are less than a day’s drive from the majority of markets they serve plus that it’s real farm families here in this province who own greenhouses that have been around for several generations.


I know I will have a whole new appreciation going forward for the tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers I buy that are from OGVG. If you need a brief refresher on the health benefits and why you should include more OGVG veggies in your diet:

Tomatoes:Hello, lycopene! This antioxidant can reduce risk of some cancers and the effects of the sun’s UV rays. You’ll also get vitamins A, B6, magnesium and more.

Peppers: You probably think of citrus fruit when it comes to getting your vitamin C but peppers actually have 250 percent more C by weight. They, too, boast some of the same vitamins and minerals as tomatoes and also potassium.

Cucumbers: Hydrate your body with seedless cucumbers — they’re 90 percent water and also an excellent source of vitamin C, magnesium and silica.

Now as for how to style and take better photos of food? You have to start with great looking, unblemished veggies, of course. And a handful of the other tips from the session:


When featuring a recipe, style your photo with ingredients that have been used in the dish. Add in lifestyle elements to help create a mood or tell a story, too.

Blanch or undercook veggies to tender crisp; this little old best in photos.

Using a spray bottle filled with water and glycerin, spritz veggies so they look dewy and super fresh.

In a professional food shoot, they’ll use a stand-in plate as he shot is set up and only swap in the actual plate once they are ready to shoot (so that the best plate isn’t exposed to the lights, etc., until it is go time).

Ultimately, you’re trying to control how the food will look. So pie is amongst the hardest foods to style since it is hard to control how the crust will crumble, or how the fruit will ooze out, for example.

Use tools including inexpensive mirror card (or you can even use foil), black card, white card and even a cheap white shower to help you manipulate and create the lighting you want for your food photo.

If you’ve got a Toronto library card, you’ve got complimentary access the lots of free online photography courses on lynda.com. Yes. Free.

(I hope my friends are ready to hold up some foil the next time we go for dinner so I can get the best lighting for my shot! Just kidding…)

I hope these tips have been helpful to the foodies among you. The pics in this post are of the two dishes I styled while at this session, and I’ll be putting these tips and tricks to use going forward…but not to the point that I’m sacrificing taste or having a good time. I’m not shooting it for a client, after all, and ultimately it comes down to eating the delicious and nutritious tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers and enjoying a great meal with friends and family. I’m already thinking of and craving all of the simple dishes I can make using OGVG veggies such as Greek salad, bruschetta, fajitas, Pimm’s cup, stuffed peppers and more. Bon appetit!

For more about OGVG and to #springintoflavour, visit www.ogvg.com or find them on Facebook at www.facebook.com/ONgreenhouseveg.com.

(This blog post was sponsored by Ontario Greenhouse Vegetable Growers but the opinions are all my own.) 











Leave a Comment May 31, 2016

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