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Sweet Potato Pie with Quinoa Crust

I LOVED pumpkin pie when I was younger. The spices, the consistency, the crust, it was everything for me! As I’ve grown older it’s taken me quite some time to find that perfect flavour and I never would have thought it wouldn’t have had pumpkin at all. This sweet potato pie checks a number of boxes for me, gluten free, vegan, and nut free! 

Ingredients

1 1/2 cups Organic White Royal Quinoa, cooked and cooled to room temperature
1⁄2 cup Brown Rice Flour
2 heaping tablespoons Ground Flax
4 tablespoons Vegan Butter, room temperature
4 tablespoons Maple Syrup
3 1/2 cups Sweet Potato (approx 2 medium sweet potatoes)
3/4 cup Vanilla Soy Milk
3⁄4 cup Cane Sugar
1 1/4 teaspoon Cinnamon
1⁄4 teaspoon Ground Cloves
1⁄4 teaspoon Ground Ginger
Flax Eggs (2 Tbsp ground flax + 6 Tbsp warm water)

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 400F (do this well before you plan on baking to ensure a consistent heat).
  2. In a large bowl, stir together quinoa, brown rice flour, flax and maple syrup.
  3. Using a fork, fold in the butter and combine evenly.
  4. Then, use a fork to fold in the room-temperature butter. Be sure to combine evenly.
  5. Grease a pie plate with coconut oil or cooking spray and press the quinoa mixture into the plate to form the crust.
  6. Bake the empty crust for 10 minutes.
  7. Peel, chop and boil the sweet potatoes to soften them for about 20-25 minutes.
  8. Drain the water from the potatoes and put the softened potatoes into a medium mixing bowl.
  9. Add the soy milk and use an immersion blender to make smooth and then add in the remaining ingredients.
  10. Pour the mixture into the pre-baked crust- do not overfill, the filling will rise when baking but set when it is nearly done.
  11. Bake for 60-70 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean from the centre.

Note: Keep an eye on the crust while baking, if it starts to brown too quickly, add aluminum foil around the edges to keep it from burning.

Let me know if you make this and make sure to tag me @JackDHarding if you do!

How to Make Homemade Biscuits

There is something really fulfilling about making your own bread. Watching your creation go from a bunch of flour and sugar and salt to rising in the oven, and finally something delightfully warm and delicious you can have for breakfast, lunch or dinner is amazing.  However, the thought of spending a day of your time to *hopefully* have a loaf of bread turn out is something most people aren’t ready for (I mean, honestly, I’m not ready for that most of the time and I LOVE baking).

So what’s the next best thing? Homemade biscuits! No yeast needed, simple and easy to make, and devour-able for a few days with jams, jellies and spreads.

Ingredients:
3 cups All Purpose Flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 tablespoon sugar
6 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
1  cups cold milk (plus up to 3 Tbsp) (whole milk while make your biscuits more tender, I made mine with skim milk which made them  a bit more dense)

Instructions:

  1. Preheat your oven to 425°F with a rack in the upper portion. Get out a baking sheet and line with parchment paper.
  2. Measure your flour by adding it spoonful by spoonful into a measuring cup and adding to a large bowl.
  3. Mix together the flour, salt, baking powder, and sugar.
  4. Add the butter to the flour mixture using a food processor (you can use a fork or pastry blender as well, but I find the even consistency from the food processor is best) until has a bread crumb like consistency.
  5. Start to add the milk, table spoon by table spoon, over the flour mixture. You’ll want to do this quickly for about 10-15 seconds until a dough has formed. If the texture is dry and won’t come together, keep working it (and add up to the other 2 Tbsp of milk if it needs it to be cohesive).
  6. Place the dough on a lightly floured work surface. Pat it into a rough rectangle about 3/4″ thick. Fold it into thirds like a letter and roll gently with a floured rolling pin until the dough is 3/4″ thick again.
  7. Using a biscuit cutter, or the rim of a glass, cut the dough into circles (I like round biscuits) or if you’re scared of waste, cut the dough into squares with a sharp knife.
  8. Place the biscuits with the bottom side up onto the baking sheet and brush them with a bit of milk to help them brown nicely in the oven.
  9. Bake for 15-20 minutes (keep an eye out, they’ll go from lightly browned to burnt fairly quickly).
  10. These will keep for 2-3 days if wrapped and stored at room temperature. You can also freeze for longer periods of time.
  11. Bake the biscuits for 15 to 20 minutes, until they’re lightly browned. Remove them from the oven, and serve warm.

I hope you enjoy these! If you decide to make them, feel free to tag me at @JackDHarding and let me know how they turned out!

Baking with Goat Butter

I have always liked experimenting with my baking. Taking old family recipes and making them new or taking cookies I’ve found in a cookbook and turning them into something entirely different and one hundred percent my own is something I love to do. I’ve switched up spices (Chinese Five Spice Holiday Bars for example) and even created better fillings for pastry desserts (Powdered peanut butter and jam pop tarts)! So when I got the opportunity to try baking with goat butter, I was excited to say the least. Woolwich Dairy sent me some of their Mornington Goat Butter to bake with and I’m excited to share what I was able to come up with!

Zucchini Bread

This is a favourite of mine and is a recipe I’ve made multiple times in the last few weeks. You can whip this entire thing up in about an hour and 15 minutes (including baking time) and you have a fragrant, delicious loaf to have at home, or to bring with you to friends and family. This recipe will give you enough for (2) loaves in a regular loaf pan.

Ingredients:
12cups sugar (cane or regular)
eggs (at room temperature)
cups all purpose flour
teaspoons vanilla
cup softened Unsalted Goat Butter
cups zucchini, grated
1teaspoon salt
teaspoon baking soda
1teaspoon baking powder
teaspoons cinnamon
1 heaping teaspoon nutmeg
1 heaping teaspoon ginger
3/4 tsp cloves

Instructions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Combine all ingredients
Pour into two greased loaf pans
Bake for one hour
Remove from heat and let sit for 5-10 minutes and bang pan against counter to loosen loaf before removing from pan

Campfire S’Mores Cookies

What’s better than a day spent camping? Well, honestly, a lot of things if you’re asking me. (Why lay on the ground when you can lay in your bed, right?) If you’re like me and prefer the luxuries of living in your day-to-day home, these cookies will give you the camping feel with none of the mosquitoes.

Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted goat butter, cold
1/3 cup granulated sugar (plus more for rolling)
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 egg (cold)
2 Tablespoons milk (cold)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
12 large marshmallows (cut in half)
24 chocolate squares or chocolate drops

Instructions:

In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

In a large bowl, beat together the butter and both sugars until light and creamy, about 2-3 minutes (shorter if you’re using a stand mixer with the paddle attachment.

Beat in the egg, milk, and vanilla. Gradually add in flour mixture. Refrigerate for 1 hour or until firm. (This is important or the cookies will spread extremely thin when baking).

Preheat oven to 375F degrees. Line 2-4 baking sheets with parchment paper.

Pour some sugar into a small bowl. Shape the dough into 1-inch balls, roll them in the sugar, then place them on the trays. Bake 8-10 minutes or until lightly browned. Once removed from oven, place the half marshmallow cut-side down into the centre of each cookie (not hard enough to make the cookie spread though). After 5 minutes, move to a cooling rack.

Turn the oven to broil. Place the cookies back onto the cookie sheets and broil until toasted. (Be careful, most ovens don’t have consistent heat so you may need to turn your tray). Otherwise, you can use a kitchen torch to toast each marshmallow). Once toasted place the chocolate on top and serve!

 

I hope you’ve enjoyed these! Thanks again to Woolwich Dairy for sending me their amazing products!

 

The Ultimate Summer Party Menu

I love to host parties- there’s something really satisfying about hosting a good get together at my home. Whether it be a birthday party (mine or otherwise) a New Year’s Eve bash, or something as simple as a dinner on a weeknight with friends. Having my place be the gathering place has always been important to me. It’s why I’ve always made sure to be prepared for a guest or two to stop over, and more importantly, it’s made me know how to put together a menu for when I’ve invited people over.

This week I had a few friends over to celebrate the beautiful weather and more importantly- just get together! Knowing I wanted to put together a menu that would be tasty, would sit out well, and would be fairly easy to make (who wants to be slaving in the kitchen while you’ve got people over, right)? What made this fun was I got to work with Woolwich Dairy to help put together this summer feast and share my menu for the Ultimate Summer Party.

Here is the menu I put together and the food I served on the day:

Appetizer: Oven Roasted Corn with Chilli Lime Butter and Woolwich Dairy Chevrai Soft Unripened Goat Cheese Crumbles
Main: Hot Italian Sausages with Woolwich Dairy Chevrai Soft Unripened Goat Cheese Crumbles, Pickled Hot Peppers and Fresh Greens
Dessert: Woolwich Dairy Triple Creme Goat Brie and Cranberry Jelly Pops

Now before I start listing the ways to make these, you may be wondering- why only goat cheeses? I, along with many of my friends, are becoming increasingly picky about what we want to put in our bodies. It is important that we not only know where our food is coming from, but that we’re making the best choices to help fuel our body and keep us healthy. I personally prefer Goat Cheese for a lot of my meals using cheese because it has less naturally occurring sugars and contains more potassium, calcium, magnesium, Vitamin B6, Vitamin C and Iron. It’s also higher in protein and most importantly, has lower lactose levels than normal milk. That last one is a big deal for me- I’m very sensitive to lactose, and whereas I may not feel as great after eating traditional dairy products, I don’t notice the same feeling after goat milk products! Always an added bonus! Now, onto the menu!

Oven Roasted Corn with Chilli Lime Butter and Woolwich Dairy Chevrai Soft Unripened Goat Cheese Crumbles

Corn on cutting board

Nothing says summer better than corn on the cob! Super sweet, can be dressed savoury and always a crowd favourite. This is a go-to recipe of mine and I make it every year. I play around with the amount of spices and seasonings (it’s not an exact science to say the least). So have fun with these and see what works for you!

Ingredients: 

Ingredients: 

Heat a grill to medium-high heat. Grill the corn in their husks until the husks start to blacken, about 3 minutes per side. (If you don’t have a grill, or you bought your corn without husks, you can simply bake these on a roasting pan for about 20 minutes at 400F.

Mix together the butter, chilli powder, cayenne pepper, lime juice and some salt and black pepper in a bowl until incorporated.

Peel back the corn husks or remove entirely. (If pre-husked, ignore)

Rub the chilli-lime butter all over the corn. Garnish with the goat cheese.

Hot Italian Sausages with Woolwich Dairy Chevrai Soft Unripened Goat Cheese Crumbles, Pickled Hot Peppers and Fresh Greens

Ingredients:

To serve: ketchup, mustard, relish, etc…

Instructions

Cook your sausages according to the instruction when you buy (typically around 350F for 25-30 minutes).

While your sausages are cooking, on a grill or grill pan, heat to hot, and place your buns inside faced down until lightly toasted.

Once your buns are toasted, prep your condiments (cut olives in half, put everything into bowls, etc..)

Once the sausages are cooking, start with a bed of greens in your buns, top with the sausage, and add your condiments, finishing with the goat cheese.

Woolwich Dairy Triple Creme Goat Brie and Cranberry Jelly Pops

Ingredients:

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350F

On a lightly floured surface, roll out your first sheet of puff pastry to about 1/4″ thick. Using a sharp knife or pizza cutter, divide into 6 equal sized squares. Place aside and do same with second sheet.

With the first set of pastry squares, place ~2 tbsp of jelly in the middle of the square and place your brie in the middle of the jelly. Skewer the brie with your popsicle or lollipop stick and then repeat for all 6 squares.

In a bowl, whisk your egg and water together and brush the egg wash around the edges of the of the pastry square you have the brie and jelly in, and top with the second set up pastry squares (this will help them stick) and then use a fork to seal the edges by crimping around the whole square (being extra careful to seal around the stick).

Brush the egg wash over the top of each square and bake on a baking sheet with parchment paper for 12-15 minutes (depending on your oven, mine took 13).

Cool for 5 minutes and serve!

I hope that you enjoyed this summer party menu and are able to use some of these for your next get together! It’s an easy, stress free way to have a feast for your friends and family! Thanks again to Woolwich Dairy for sending me great product and being just as excited to work with me on this.

Chocolate Chewy Vegan Bites

A few weeks ago a friend was asking me what kind of healthy “cheat” snacks I could make that were vegan. I thought about this- I mean, you could go with a potato based anything, and a lot of candies and junk foods are vegan, but I wanted something that could be easily made at home and be picked at for a few days. I tried out a few variations of these bites and are thrilled to say these are the winners! My chocolate chewy vegan bites!

Ingredients

1 Cup Cooked White Quinoa
¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
¼ cup agave nectar (or maple syrup)
¼ cup naturally sweetened peanut butter (with cane or coconut sugar)
1 tablespoon chia seeds
½  teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Pinch of fine grain sea salt
¼ cup unsweetened coconut flakes (divided into 2)

Instructions

  1. Line a small baking sheet or any flat surface with wax or parchment paper.
  2. Add all ingredients to a medium sized mixing bowl. Stir well to combine.
  3. Scoop tiny bite-sized spoonfuls onto the baking sheet (about 12 total). With the remaining coconut, sprinkle over the bites. Place baking sheet into the freezer and allow to set for 3 hours until bites are fully hardened.
  4. Enjoy straight out of the freezer. The fudgy bites will start to soften at room temperature after about 7-10 minutes.

How to Make Empanadas

There a lot of different types of empanadas. The way I view it is that a lot of countries have their own sandwiches, and this is no different. Many countries and different cultures have different types of empanadas. Some made with white flour, some with cornmeal, some fried, some baked. My favourite to date would have to be Colombian empanadas. I love the flavour of the dough made with yellow cornmeal, and the pork and beef fillings are always so perfectly spiced that you want a lot more than one (and in fairness, these are small, so it’s not terrible to have 3 or 4, at least that’s what I’m going to tell myself). I’ve played around a lot with this recipe, so I hope you enjoy it!

Ingredients: 

Dough:
1-1/2 cups precooked yellow cornmeal
2 cups water
1 Tbsp Vegetable Oil
1/4 Tsp Garlic Powder
1/4 Tsp Cumin
1/2 Tsp Salt

Filling:
1 3/4 Cups peeled and diced white potatoes
1 Chicken Bouillon Cube (reduced sodium)
1 Tbsp Olive Oil
1/4 Cup Chopped White Onion
1/4 Cup Chopped Green Onion
1/2 Cup chopped tomatoes
2 chopped garlic cloves
1/2 Tsp Salt
2 Tbsp Chopped Chives
2 Tbsp Jalapeno
1/2 Tsp Black Pepper
1/4lb ground pork
1/4lb ground beef

Instructions:

  1. To make the dough, place the cornmeal in a large bowl. Add the cumin, garlic powder and salt and mix. Add water and oil and mix together to form the dough. Pat it into a ball and knead it for about 2-3 minutes (make sure it is nice and smooth). Cover with plastic wrap and let sit for 20-30 minutes while you work on the filling.
  2. Cook the potatoes in a pot with water and the bouillon cube for 20 minutes (or until the potatoes are tender). Drain and very gently mash the potatoes and set them to the side.
  3. Heat 1 Tbsp of olive oil in a heavy bottom skillet. Add the white and green onion and cook on medium low for about 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes, jalapenos, chives, garlic salt and pepper and cook for about 15 minutes.
  4. Add in the ground pork and beef and cook. Break up the meat into smaller pieces with a wooden spoon. It should take about 15-20 minutes to cook the meat (it should be dry).
  5. Add the meat mixture to the bowl with the mashed potatoes and mix well to combine them all together.
  6. Breaking off about 1- 1 1/2 Tbsp sized pieces of dough, form them into balls and place them between two pieces of plastic wrap and roll them until they form a very thin circle. Remove the plastic off the top and place 1 Tbsp of the filling in the centre of each. Using the plastic on the bottom side, fold the dough (carefully, and this will take a few tries on your first time making these) enclose the filling, forming a crescent. Seal the edges with a fork.
  7. In a heavy bottom cast iron pan, add vegetable oil (about 1″ deep) and heat to about 350-360F. ( I suggest using a thermometer for this).
  8. Place a few empanada in the oil, flipping as the bottom side starts to crisp up. This will take ~1 minute per side.
  9. Carefully remove them from the oil and place on a plate lined with paper towels to absorb the oil. Serve with lime and aji and you’ve got the perfect snack!

 

I hope you like these as much as I do, and if you try your hand at them, please tag me and let me know if you made any changes!

Homemade Peanut Butter and Jam “Poptarts”

I used to LOVE Poptarts as a kid. There wasn’t really a flavour that I didn’t like. Sprinkles? Great. Raspberry? Perfect. Chocolate? Even better. Now, even though I haven’t had one in years (not really something you pick up at the grocery store in between your frozen greens and chicken breasts) when I started seeing a lot of people trying their hand at making their own, I was like “I can do that!” Challenged by a friend of mine via DM to make some different flavoured ones, I came up with these- Peanut Butter and Jam PopTarts.

Ingredients:
Pastry:
2 Cups All Purpose Flour
1 Tbsp granulated sugar
1 tsp salt
1 Cup unsalted butter, cold, cubed
1 Egg
2 Tbsp Milk

Filling:
3/4 cup raspberry jam (roughly one medium sized jar)
1 Tbsp Cornstarch
1 Tbsp Water
2-3 Tbsp Powdered Peanut Butter

Glaze: 
1 Cup Powdered Sugar
1.5 Tbsp Milk
1/4 Tsp vanilla extract

Instructions:

Filling: 

  1. In a small bowl, whisk together the cornstarch and water, and then combine with the jam in a small saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil and simmer for 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Remove from the heat and let cool. Once this has cooled, add in your powdered peanut butter 1Tbsp at a time. Taste as you go, and that will determine how much you’ll want to add.

Pastry:

  1. In a large bowl (trust me, you’ll want the room) whisk together flour, sugar and salt. Using a pastry blender (or a fork) cut in the butter until it is the size of peas and when you squeeze the mixture it holds together. (A good trick for this is to cut the butter into small enough cubes and mix them in slow so you get the thorough mix). In a smaller bowl, mix together the egg and milk and then add it to your dough. Combine with a fork until everything is evenly mixed and moist. On a floured countered, knead it briefly until the dough is perfectly together.
  2. Divide the dough in half (if you’d like, you can wrap these in plastic and store in fridge for 2-3 days) and roll out one of these pieces to about 1/8″ thick and about 9″x 12″ (think like a big piece of paper). Using a very sharp knife or pastry wheel,  trim the edges and then divide the dough into 3×4 rectangles. Transfer these (with a spatula, you want to avoid introducing them to your body heat) to a lined baking sheet.
  3. Brush an egg wash (egg and milk) on each of the rectangles and spoon a tablespoon or so of filling into the centre of each rectangle (make sure there is a border of about 1/2″ around the edges).
  4. Roll out and cut your second piece of dough just like you did the first and place a second rectangle of dough onto each of the already assembled ones. Using your fingers to press around the edges to seal then, Use a fork to then crimp the edges and poke small holes in the top to allow air to escape.
  5. Refrigerate the pan with the pastries (you don’t need to cover them) for 30-45 minutes (You want them to get hard).
  6. Preheat the oven to 350F.
  7. Bake the pastries for 25 to 30 minutes, or until lightly browned. If you’re not planning on using the icing, you can eat them fairly warm (just be careful not to burn yourself). If you’re using the glaze, I toss these into the fridge for 30 minutes to cool down. Once cooled, combine all the glaze ingredients in a bowl. Drizzle the glaze over the poptarts (sitting them on a wire rack and doing it this way gives them a really pretty glaze).

I hope you enjoy these! The peanut butter was a lucky surprise when I was making these and I hope you’ll come to love them as much as I do.

Dry Rub Flank Steak with Corn and Jalapeño Salsa

When you live in a condo (unless you’re willing to rent out one of the BBQs in the common area) it’s pretty rare that you’re going to BBQ anything. Now, I never grew up at the grill, but always loved a great flame broiled burger, steak, or well, anything really. So when it comes to summer steak and hosting, I always felt I was going to be limited. That was until I learned you can get almost a perfect match using a cast iron grill pan, a stove top and a piping hot oven. (I use a Le Creuset and a Staub cast iron grill pan because I know they can take the heat, but always make sure your cookware is made for high temperature and stove to oven use). This is one of my favourite summer time treats and hopefully it will be yours too!

Ingredients:

Dry Rub:
2 heaping tablespoons brown sugar
1.5 tablespoon ancho chile powder
1.5 tablespoon paprika
2.5 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
1.5 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1.5 teaspoon granulated garlic
1 heaping teaspoon mustard powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon thyme

Steak and Salsa:
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for grill
3 cups corn
1/4 large red onion,finely chopped
2 jalapeño finely chopped (I keep the seeds)
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
1 cup fresh cilantro, coarsely chopped
2 limes
freshly ground pepper
1 medium sized flank steak (about 1.5lbs- ask your butcher to get you the right size).

Instructions:

Dry rub:
Combine brown sugar, chile powder, paprika, salt, pepper, cayenne, granulated garlic, mustard powder, thyme and cumin in a small bowl.

Salsa:
Add your corn and jalapeño to a medium sized skillet on medium high heat. Cook for 5-10 minutes (closer to 10 if frozen corn). This will get everything hot and release some flavour from the pepper. Remove from heat and add in your onion, tomatoes, cilantro and juice the limes. Add in pepper and stir until well mixed. Set aside (or put in the fridge covered if you’re making your steak later)

The Rest:
Take your spice mix, and rub into each side of the steak (I lay it all out in a tray, and drag the steak through it, and then I packed the spices it didn’t catch and rub it into the steak by hand until it no longer falls off. Add a bit of olive oil to each side to keep everything on. Pre-heat your grill or grill pan until very hot. You only need about 4 minutes per side if you want medium rare (a bit longer if you have a thicker or bigger cut). Once cooked to your liking, remove from heat. DO NOT CUT RIGHT AWAY. Leave it for 10 minutes so the juices seal in. Once that’s done, I put it in the broiler on high for 1 minute or so. Serve by cutting against the grain and top with the salsa.

Homemade Butter Chicken

I LOVE buttered chicken. What I don’t like is the fact it’s often one of the most sodium riddled foods you can get as takeaway. I try to watch my salt and overall food intake each day, and when you want a treat, you don’t necessarily want to have 3 days worth of sodium and 2000 calories for buttered chicken and rice. This recipe you’ll notice is a much lighter approach to buttered chicken. You still feel warm and cozy, but you don’t get the “salt sweats” as I call them.

Ingredients:
4 Boneless skinless chicken breasts (appr. 2lb)
4 Tbsp butter
1 Large White Onion, Finely chopped
5 Cloves roughly chopped garlic
1/3 Cup Plain Greek Yogurt
Fresh Cilantro

Spice Mixture:
2 Tsp Curry Powder
2 Tsp Garam Masala
2 Tsp Curry Paste
1.5 Tbsp Ginger
Pinch of Black Pepper

Wet Ingredients:
5.5 oz Can Tomato Paste
1 Cup Coconut milk
1 Cup 35% Cream
1.5 Tbsp Honey

Instructions:

  1. In a bowl, combine all the spices.
  2. In another bowl, combine all the wet ingredients.
  3. In a pan, heat 1 tablespoon of butter and soften the onion for 10 minutes. Add the salt, garlic, and spices and cook for 2–3 more minutes.
  4. In a food processor, process the onion and Greek yogurt until smooth. Season with pepper.
  5. In a pan, melt the rest of the butter.
  6. Add the onion mixture and the liquid ingredients. Mix well and bring to a boil for 2 minutes.
  7. Reduce heat, add the chicken, and simmer for 1.5–2 hours. Adjust the seasoning if necessary. (Your chicken may cook quicker depending on size of cubes. Test after 1.5 hours).
  8. Serve over rice, naan, or eat on its own. This also tastes great cold straight out of the container.

I love when you try your hands at what I’ve put together! Feel free to share your comments, suggestions, and what you did below, and if you made it, tag me on Instagram at @JackDHarding

Easy Spiced Carrot Recipe

When you’re growing up, you don’t understand nor appreciate what goes into mealtime. Breakfast. Lunch. Dinner. They’re all just what you’re waiting for when you’re hungry. As you eventually move out, you realize (quite fast) that there is a lot more than goes into mealtime than simply saying “I’m hungry.”

The groceries, the time spent thinking what you’re going to make, and inevitably, the making. I would make the argument that when you’re young (whether that be a child, or to living on your own for the first time) you’ll always think of eating out as the best option. When you’re a kid it’s because “Yay Chicken Fingers!” When you’re an adult it’s, “Yay Chicken Fingers I Don’t Have to Make!” As time goes on though, the thought of going out for a meal you could make better at home just doesn’t cut it anymore. You want a quiet night in with a great bottle of wine and a warm cooked meal. It’s for this reason I learned how to cook.

What I also learned through cooking and eating at home, was that you can create some spectacular bonds over food. Going to a restaurant your conversations can be overshadowed by the noise and bustle of the place you’re eating. You may not want to share intimate details at your local diner either. When you’re in someone’s home though, you feel a lot more comfortable. It’s for this reason I started to host and invested in a dining table to squeeze into my small, one bedroom condo. It started with the regular holiday dinners like Thanksgiving and Christmas, where I would have friends over who didn’t have somewhere to go, and we’d share a beautiful home cooked dinner over wine, music all night, and stories that I can still tell you today. It has since evolved into brunches, “no reason” dinners, and celebrations! The amount of people I have gone from being acquaintances to, or barely knowing, to having a much deeper understanding and respect for as a result of these meals is countless.

It also brings me to my next point: When you go out for dinner you’ll likely forget your meal. When you host or are hosted, you’ll likely remember that night and have those memories forever. I’ve had guests who have told me months later how they still think about certain dishes I’ve made. I can also tell you about meals I’ve had made for me that changed the way I’ve viewed certain foods. Can I tell you about my last meal out? Not really. There are a few standout dinners, but they lack in comparison to the memories, stories, and unforgettable evenings I have had in with those I love. If you can, do your best to have people over this year. It will change your outlook, and give you a newfound respect for the art of a home cooked meal.

Speaking of things that friends have talked to me about months after making them, my roasted carrots have become somewhat of a signature of mine. Spiced to perfection and roasted until they’re perfect- you’ll definitely want this on your table for your next dinner in.

Ingredients:
2lb sliced, crinkle, or baby carrots
3tsp cinammon
3 tsp black pepper
3 tsp hot paprika
3 tsp chilli powder
3 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp cayenne pepper
2 tsp sesame oil
2 Tbsp olive oil

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 F
  2. In a large freezer bag, combine all spices, olive oil and sesame oil
  3. Pour carrots into bag and seal
  4. Shake bag until carrots are well coated
  5. Spread carrots on baking sheet with parchment paper
  6. Bake for 20-30 minutes or until they’ve begun to crisp
  7. Enjoy!

I love when you try your hands at what I’ve put together! Feel free to share your comments, suggestions, and what you did below, and if you made it, tag me on Instagram at @JackDHarding