World’s Best Apple Pie

Claudia's Cookbook - The Best Apple Pie cover

 Oh kitchen and blog, how I’ve missed you. I am back from our 3-week honeymoon vacation in England and Italy. I must say, I didn’t miss much. Let’s be honest here,  does anyone really look forward to coming home after a wonderful vacation? Sure, I missed my bed, my cats (who probably laid mostly on my bed), and such luxuries as clean clothes from my closet. But I wasn’t ready to come back to reality so soon. I was, however, excited to share some fun things I was able to do on my trip. It is all pretty much food related (duh)!  

I had the awesome opportunity one day while we were in Tuscany to learn how to make traditional Tuscan eggless pasta from scratch. Here’s me with my lovely teacher, who was both patient and amazing. She even said I was a natural at dough rolling. I told them it was years of perogy making practice! 

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I also had some of the most amazing food at the villa where we stayed in Tuscany.

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This was the lunch that greeted us upon arrival. So incredible! 

And I cannot mention my trip to Italy without showing you the PIZZA! 

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 This one had homemade buffalo mozzarella and spicy caramelized salami.

It was probably the spiciest pizza I’ve ever had!

It was delicious. And it made me chug my Italian beer. 

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Like, c’mon! 

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Carapina was my favourite gelato place in Florence and Rome.

They make all their gelato fresh every morning and have a dozen flavours at one time.

My favourite was the dark chocolate, hazelnut and marsala wine flavours shown above!

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Truffles and mushrooms were in season while we were in Italy. They were everywhere and so delectable! 

Pasta with truffles – get outta here! SO good. 

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The open air meat, seafood and produce markets were also total eye candy. I wanted to buy everything.

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 You know that place that served me that spicy pizza? Oh yeah, it’s also a mozzarella bar!

Here is mild, strong and smoked mozzarella, made fresh (of course).

Let’s all go back immediately! 

  As much as I loved dining out at a different restaurant for 3 weeks, I did miss my kitchen and making (healthy) food for ourselves. I also missed the food blogger community. And, of course, I missed my Mom :)

Claudia and I actually got together a few days before I left for Europe to make this apple pie. It was then that I deemed it “World’s Best Apple Pie”. Because it is. I mean, I might be biased? But I’m also a pretty good judge of food character (humble brag). The crust is so flaky and light, and the apple filling is warm, sweet and comforting. We made this particular apple pie with locally-grown apples from Claudia’s friend’s yard! Ah, the beauty of summer…which is slowly fading away. I recommend you try this apple pie immediately, and capture some of summer back into your lives. 

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Creamy Greek Yogurt Mac & Cheese with Cajun Chicken

Claudia's Cookbook - Creamy Greek Yogurt Mac and Cheese with Cajun Chicken 15

Every time I hear the word “carbo load”, I always think of Michael Scott from The Office. You know, that time where he thought carbo loading meant that you eat a huge bowl of Fettuccine Alfredo immediately before running in the office 5K ‘Race for the Cure for Rabies. Yeah, things didn’t turn out so well for dear Michael. Made me laugh though. So much, I bought the run shirt!

I’m trying to find this balance between working out and eating healthy (yet not starve). It’s tough. When you increase your workouts, you also increase your appetite. With increased appetite, I also find I have increased cravings for all things delicious and terrible for me. Case in point, I decided to do a 2 hour workout this week, and the first thing I wanted to do after I completed it was sit down and have a beer. I’m quite the athlete. Don’t even get me started on my chocolate cravings after dinner. They are off the chart.

Pasta is one of those foods that tends to get a pretty bad rap. For the most part, it’s pretty terrible for you. That is unless you are a little creative and come up with healthy ingredient alternatives that are not only nutritious and full of protein and energy, but also taste great too. That is why I absolutely LOVE this recipe. The only thing terrible for you in it is the cheese – and even then you can use light cheese, or argue (like me most days) that it’s dairy, and dairy is a food group and if it’s a food group, I should eat it. The Greek yogurt is full of protein and creates a nice creamy texture. The key that I want to also mention is that you need to use 2% or full fat Greek Yogurt. I know, I know – fat free is healthier. Sure, maybe. But you still get all the protein with the full fat yogurt and a way better taste. Fat free Greek yogurt tastes very tangy and sour. The full fat version does not. Trust me on this. I also use a higher fibre macaroni (Catelli Smart Pasta) as well. It actually has all the same nutritional content as whole wheat pasta, but has a white pasta texture and taste. It’s pretty fantastic (and no, they are not paying me for this product placement shout-out – but I seriously think they should!)

To add a bit more protein, I threw in some flavorful Cajun Chicken. I find added protein is important for me on hockey game days. You even have some veggies (spinach) in this dish. This is truly an absolutely delicious and guilt-free Mac & Cheese recipe. You really cannot go wrong. Well, unless you are Michael Scott and eat this dish 10 minutes before running your first 5K.

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Slow Cooker Lasagne

Claudia's Cookbook - Slow Cooker Lasagne 11

Ah, November. It’s a time where I find myself “getting real”. Summer is long gone, Thanksgiving is over (at least here in Canada), and the excitement of Halloween and candy everywhere is slowly fading like my sugar coma. I now start to pay attention to all those Christmas displays that have been slowly popping up since September. Now they are in full force – the holiday season is only a mere 52 days away you know. I get more used to the task of warming up my car and scraping the frost off my windshield every morning, wearing mitts, a scarf, and reluctantly, a winter coat. I find the older I get, the less patient and tolerant I am with winter here. To tell you the truth, it’s a pain in the ass. Shovelling, plugging in my car (for real, we do that here), and layering my clothing so much that at times I feel like the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man. Winter can be very unattractive and depressing to a lot of people – myself included.

I recall as a kid absolutely loving winter. There was no day too cold, no snow bank too high to climb and no ice rink without kids on it to play a game of hockey. Claudia would spend her days pulling me and my brother in a sled down our back lane to the park on the corner of our street. She would bundle us both up in our ski pants, parka, toque, mitts, scarf and boots – probably a 30 minute ordeal in itself. She would then bundle herself up and pull us both in one sled. We absolutely loved it! It was such a short trek to the park, probably a block in distance. But it felt like forever because it was such an adventure to us. I look back and have no idea how Claudia did it…trek two hyper kids in the freezing cold to go jump into snow piles. She actually probably just wanted us to wear ourselves out so we could crash in the afternoon and she’d have some well-deserved “me” time. But no matter how cold it was outside, I never felt it as a kid. My home was always filled with such warmth and wonder.

I try to recreate that feeling of comfort and warmth that my parents gave to me when I was a kid in a couple different ways. In the plush blankets that I keep close to the couch, to the mugs of hot tea I drink on a nightly basis, to the savoury scented candles I light, and to the comfort food I cook in my kitchen (like this delicious Lasagne dish!). All these things help me get through those tough cold days and allow me to feel more like an adventurous, protected (and spoiled) kid.

How do you create comfort and warmth in your house?

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The Best Mac and Cheese

Claudia's Cookbook - Mac and Cheese 21A couple years ago I was on the hunt for a really great mac and cheese recipe. The first thing I did was do what most people do, search Google. It brought up a lot of recipes that touted “the best mac and cheese recipe ever” title. I didn’t know where to begin. All of them looked great and I couldn’t narrow the search results down far enough to the point where I wouldn’t be making and eating mac and cheese for weeks. I then surveyed my former coworkers. That’s where I was introduced to this beauty of a dish. After scanning the ingredients and seeing that it used 3 different cheese, crunchy panko breadcrumbs and penne pasta (my absolute fav!), I knew this would be a serious contender. My former coworker was right – this is by far the best mac and cheese I’ve ever had. I’ve made it three or four times since discovering, and it’s a big crowd pleaser. I’m confident you will feel the same way.

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Hearty Casserole (AKA: The Best Casserole in the Entire World)

Claudia's Cookbook - Hearty Casserole 17

It’s been extremely cold here in Winnipeg over the past 4 days. Like, seriously cold. I’m talking -40 degrees celsius cold! We had our car not start and require boosting twice in two days. We might now be on a first name basis with Dr. Hook Towing (thanks guys!). I completely admire people who can continue to eat healthy when it’s freezing outside. I totally crave comfort food, such as soups, chilli and this amazing casserole. Okay, so I not only crave comfort food when the weather is terrible. I also crave it when I am sick – like last week when I hurt my back and managed to eat my body weight in chicken fingers and fries. Don’t judge me – you’ve totally done this too.

I completely fell in love with this casserole a couple years ago when my fianc√© made it for me on one random weekend. It’s the best casserole in the entire world. At least, in my humble opinion it is. I convinced him to make it again, only this time for the purposes of teaching me (and my loyal blog followers) the secret to its deliciousness. Needless to say, I soon realized this recipe is extremely simple, which is perfect on days when all you want to do is hide under the covers and hibernate.

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