Stovetop Lasagna from Thug Kitchen 101

Tuesday is one of my days to make dinner so I did my usual and turned to my favourite cookbook, Thug Kitchen 101. And today’s meal? Yep, stovetop lasagna.

Stovetop Lasagna

The recipe calls for some of their caramelized onion-tomato sauce so while a pot of water heated to cook the lasagna noodles I got a smaller pot heated up. Into that pot I slid an onion I had sliced very thin. I let the onions dance around in the heat until they were all wilty and translucent looking.

Stovetop Lasagna

To that pot I added a tablespoon of tomato paste. In hindsight, I wish I had let the onions brown a little more so they would have had a stronger flavour. Oh well. Next time.

The recipe called for a 28 ounce can of diced tomatoes, but seeing as I did not have any, and I did have crushed tomatoes – substitution time. The caramelized onion sauce thickened up beautifully then!

Stovetop Lasagna

Of course my pot of water had started boiling so the chunks of lasagna noodles were tossed in there. I broke the pieces of lasagna into approximately three inch long chunks and let them cook. I wasn’t paying attention but you know how to cook lasagna noodles – 6-8 minutes?

I drained the cooked noodles and left them in the colander/strainer while I put the pot back on the stove. I added a couple tablespoons of olive oil and then put the fresh spinach in the pot.

Within a couple of minutes the spinach was cooked down into a wilted mess so I added the lasagna noodles to the pot of spinach. A good stir, and it was all mixed together.

Right after the spinach was wilted down I added the slices of tempeh into the pot. Stir around.

Now here is where I really wish I had followed the Thug Kitchen 101 directions for their stovetop lasagna; it said to also add the caramelized onion tomato sauce to the pot of noodles and spinach. Oh no, I am too smart for that…

Instead I took a baking dish, ladled in some noodle/spinach mix, and then dolloped some ricotta cheese on top of the noodles before ladling on a layer of tomato sauce.

Stovetop Lasagna

Repeat. Another layer of noodles, another couple dollops of ricotta, more tomato sauce.

Seeing as I had dinner ready before the hungry hordes got home, I took another lefthand turn with the dish of stovetop lasagna – I slid the dish into the oven at 250 degrees to keep it warm.

Stovetop Lasagna

I really enjoyed my Thug Kitchen 101 inspired stovetop lasagna. The kids? What’s that saying? Two out of three ain’t bad…the third refused to eat it because there was green in the dish. The other two loved it.  And I have a bowl of it for my lunch!

Boston Pizza for Lunch 

I went for a lovely lunch at the Metrotown location of Boston  Pizza today with my mother and my sister.

I had a plate of fettuccine noodles with a wonderfully complex Mediterranean pasta sauce.

The sauce was loaded with grilled red peppers, red onions, spinach, and artichoke hearts, feta cheese, and more. Quite a complex and enjoyable flavoured pasta and sauce.

For dessert we shared the New York style cheesecake which was drenched in a deliciously rich berry sauce and a slice of Chocolate Explosion.

The Chocolate Explosion was incredibly rich and very filling.

I would definitely order these desserts again. Very good lunch choices today.

My Return to Trattoria Burnaby

Friday afternoon I went for an early dinner to Trattoria Burnaby. I had recently been to Trattoria Burnaby for a business meeting but I wanted to go with some family to sample a wider variety of items from the menu.

I don’t often mention restaurant servers (some of the hardest working people in the restaurant business) but Jennifer, our server at Trattoria Burnaby deserves a special mention. Shortly after being seated Jennifer arrived and began to answer our countless questions about the menu.

She willingly answered our endless questions with a smile and a “sure, we can do that!” attitude and never said, “Umm, you are ordering enough food for three tables!”

Antipasti Plate
Antipasti Plate

Once we had studied the Trattoria Burnaby menu, we ordered a couple of antipasti plates to share at our table. The above photo is the Burrata & Prosciutto plate for $16.95.

The burrata and prosciutto were both beautiful. The ultra creamy burrata was great!

Both of the plates were very generous portions and we were more than impressed with the amount of food on each antipasti plate as well as the quality of the food.

Antipasti Plate
Antipasti Plate

The second plate we had was the prosciutto di parma, pesto, marinated tomatoes, and forno bread with beef carpaccio for $13.95.

With this plate I would just roll up a piece of the beef carpaccio with the arugula greens and creamy cheese inside it. Delightful.

After our antipasti plates, we also had two side dishes.

The roasted brussels sprouts for $7.95 were truly amazing. Smoky and sweet and just plain delicious. Unfortunately they do not photograph very well so I have not included a photo of them. Some people may find the dish a little too smoky, but I loved it.

Roasted Vegetables
Roasted Vegetables

The other side dish we had was the Forno Roasted Vegetables for $7.95.  The carrots, fennel, squash, and other roasted root vegetables were done with a maple thyme dressing.

They were roasted to an exquisite softness and the sweetness of maple on the carrots, shallots, and fingerling potatoes popped perfectly. They were plated on a bed of arugula in a cast iron pan. This is a dish I would definitely order again.

Kid's Spaghetti
Kid’s Spaghetti

We also ordered three pasta dishes. My daughter had the Spaghetti Bolognese with a tangy tomato meat sauce for $7.95 from the “bambini menu”. It was a very generous portion for the price and really is a great value.

Signature Meatballs
Signature Meatballs

Seeing as they are the “signature meatballs” how could we not try them again? Same as my previous experience – awesome. Not too dense nor meaty.

We also wanted to try the gluten-free pasta – a penne noodle made with corn and rice flour.

Gluten Free Penne
Gluten Free Penne

We had the gluten free penne noodles with the herb roasted chicken, sun-dried tomatoes, peas, chicken broth. The noodles were very good. All too often gluten free noodles are chewy, even rubbery. Not at Trattoria Burnaby. In a blind taste test you would be hard pressed to know whether you were eating gluten free penne or a regular penne noodle.

The picture doesn’t do this dish justice! It was also a very generous serving and we ended up taking most of it home. There were many chunks of the roasted chicken.

Braised Ribs
Braised Ribs on Pappardelle pre-parmesan

The dish I chose was the Short Rib Pappardelle for $18.95. This is a relatively expensive pasta dish but wow was it incredible. The large pieces of braised short ribs, pine nuts, wild mushrooms on the wide, flat noodles really “worked” for me. I would definitely order this dish again!


All of the pasta dishes were generous and more than filling but not overwhelmingly large like Anton’s serves.

I had heard from friends that the Trattoria Burnaby kitchen had some issues with the timing of dishes. Yesterday I was very impressed with the way the kitchen was able to manage and get our eclectic choices of dishes to our table as we wanted them to arrive.

Yes, we did order a lot of food. We did this intentionally because we wanted to try a variety of the menu items.

Flourless Chocolate Torte
Flourless Chocolate Torte

To finish our meal we had the flourless chocolate torte.

I only had a small taste of this dessert because my daughter dove into it and devoured it before I could get much of a taste of it. What I had did taste wonderful – the centre of the chocolate torte had a very creamy caramel filling.

Mango and Blackberry Gelato
Mango and Blackberry Gelato

My daughter wanted a gelato and she couldn’t decide between two of the fruit flavours – mango and blackberry. Our server, Jennifer said no problem, and she brought us a cute little cup with two small scoops – mango and the blackberry. Both were extraordinarily good with strong, real fruit flavour.

I will definitely be returning to Trattoria Burnaby. I was very impressed with Jennifer, the server and the kitchen staff. In fact the entire staff made us feel very welcome and were able to meet all of our dining needs happily and cheerfully.

I will return and have no hesitation in recommending Trattoria Burnaby.?

Trattoria Burnaby, part of the Glowbal Group of restaurants is located at 4501 Kingsway near the corner of Kingsway and WIllingdon Ave, across the street from the Crystal Mall.

Glowbal Group’s Trattoria in Burnaby 

During the spring break I attended a Meetup at the Glowbal Group’s Trattoria in Burnaby on the corner of Kingsway and Willingdon.  As I often do, I get right to the bottomline – overall, I found enough I liked about Trattoria to make me want to return to sample more of the menu items.

That being said, the few menu items that we did sample at the Meetup were specially prepared for our group and are not available on their menu exactly as we had them. That is part of why I will definitely be returning – to anonymously sample the menu and level of service I receive when I am “just a customer”.

Trattoria Burnaby
Starter Platter

To start  our table shared an appetizer platter – I apologize that the I do not recall the names of each of the appetizers on the platter but I can say that they were all quite attractive.

I particularly enjoyed the meat balls – what they call Signature Meatballs. They had a pleasing texture; not as dense and “meaty” as too many meatballs tend to be. I suppose it is kind of a strange to appreciate a meatball that is not too meaty! At any rate, the meatballs were the highlight of the appetizer platter for me.

I only had a small tasting of the green salad and I found the vinaigrette  dressing to be perfectly light and full of flavour.

The portion size of the appetizer platter was a little bit disappointing – three big meatballs to be shared at a table of ten people. Of course I did attend the event with the idea of sampling the food offerings and not to get stuffed so the relatively small sample size was somewhat expected.

Like the appetizer platter, we were presented with a share platter for our mains.

Trattoria Burnaby
Truffled Spaghetti

My favourite on this platter was the truffled spaghetti with herbed ricotta. The spaghetti, while not made fresh in-house, was cooked perfectly. This is not surprising seeing as Trattoria is a restaurant that focuses on Italian food.

There was enough truffle oil on the spaghetti to give it a deep and sort or earthy of flavour and scent. It is a funny thing to describe.

The herbed ricotta melted into the spaghetti beautifully and added a very rich and creamy “topping” to the spaghetti. If I were to return I would definitely have a full order of this dish to myself.

There was also some grilled veal on the platter – again, ten people at a table, small sampler of veal – I had a tiny taste. Which was nice tasting but not nearly enough.

Trattoria Burnaby
Penne Arrabiata

As well as the truffled spaghetti and grilled veal, the Penne Arrabiata was another flavour hit for me. The white creamy looking stuff on top of it was their burrata – a soft, mozzarella-like cheese that has an unusually creamy texture.

The thick tomato sauce had a pretty significant spice kick to it. I enjoyed this part of the platter but I don’t think I would order it again. Good stuff, just not great.


I apologize for the out of focus photo above.

The desserts were even more difficult to manage than the dinner platters. One piece of Tiramisu to somehow be cut up and shared between ten people proved to be completely unrealistic.

There was another dessert plate that came with the Tiramisu but it did not make it to my end of the table before being destroyed so I did not have an opportunity to try it.

And now that we are back to the bottom line – yes I will return to Trattoria in Burnaby. I want to see what the food is like when I go in and order on my own. As well, they have some interesting and appealing promotions –

  • Sundays are $10 pizzas – Yep. That works for me!
  • Mondays kids under 8 eat free. That appeals to me!
  • Tuesdays they put pastas on for $12. Yep. I will be returning on a Tuesday!!

There are other features with wine and cocktail specials to bring people in to visit Trattoria but the Sunday – Tuesday features are the ones that will bring me back in to the restaurant.

I will be sure to let you know how my next visit to Trattoria in Burnaby goes. Until then…



Another One Pot Wonder

Tonight I got home later than usual, the kids were wild with hunger and there was nothing healthy to eat in the fridge. So, time for my one pot wonder quick meal.    
This was so easy! 

I cut up two small onions and dropped them into my Dutch oven pot and let them get that shiny, translucent look. 

Then I crushed a cube of vegetable stock-stuff into a mug, added about two cups of water and mixed that up pretty vigorously before dumping it in the pot with the onions. 

Next I dumped in a 24 ounce can of spaghetti sauce and then added about 3/4s of a 375 gram box of spaghetti – I figure it was about 10 ounces of spaghetti. 

Within a minute or two the spaghetti softened up so that I could fold it into the sauce. 

I let the spaghetti and sauce cook for about 12 minutes and then added about two cups of frozen peas. Why peas? Because that was what was in the freezer! 

I also cut up a frozen veggie patty and let that that warm up by sitting on top of the spaghetti. 

By the time I had my kids seated at  the table the veggie patty was warm right through. 

This was a real one pot wonder success!!

My One Pot Wonder Pasta Dinner 

It was my night to make dinner and while I love cooking, I hate all the kitchen mess that is left after cooking. 

So what is better than a one pot wonder pasta dinner!   
One pot! I used our Paderno Dutch oven for the entire meal. I began by adding a couple tablespoons of EVOO to the pot, got it hot and then added a diced up half an onion. 

I cooked the onion until it was translucent and then added the sliced yellow pepper to the pot. 


I let the  yellow peppers get softened up from the heat before adding two cups of veggie stock, one cup of 2% milk and a couple dollops of butter. 


Once the pot of liquid reached a boil I added just over half of a 375 gram box of spaghetti noodles. 

I reduced the heat to a medium low to keep the pot simmering so that the noodles softened up and cooked into the sauce. 


It was awesome to see them melting into the liquid in the pot!  


I let them noodles cook until they had absorbed nearly all the liquid in the pot. 

Then I added a little pile (1/2 cup) of feta cheese – why feta? because that’s what I had in the fridge! 


Honestly, this was a great tasting pasta! Thr rich and creamy sauce was cooked right into and onto the noodles making every bite a taste sensation. 


The best part? Other than the fact that I only had one pot, my knife, tongs, and a cutting board to clean up? 

The kidlets loved the pasta! That’s the real win! A one pot wonder. 

The Catelli Giveaway Winner is…

The winning number for the Catelli Healthy Harvest Ancient Grains pasta giveaway is 320!!! I will look through the entries to see who the first person to enter 320 was and then I will send them a quick email. Congrats to our winner!!

After carefully looking over the entries, the winner is Angela with her choice of 319. Congratulations!! I have sent you an email.

Random Number Generator
Random Number Generator

Catelli Healthy Harvest Ancient Grains – Giveaway

Now here is the really fun part of working with Catelli

Catelli Healthy Harvest Ancient Grains
Catelli Healthy Harvest Ancient Grains

To help celebrate the launch of Catelli Healthy Harvest Ancient Grains pasta they have not only provided me with free samples of spaghetti, spaghettini and rotini, they also want to provide one of my readers with a year-long supply of Catelli pasta!

It is relatively simple and easy to enter my contest –

There are just a few simple things for you to do to win the year-long supply of Catelli pasta (60 boxes of pasta). First, in a comment on THIS blog post tell me what Catelli noodle is your favorite and how you prepare it – your favourite sauce or salad dressing; maybe you eat your pasta without sauce!

In the same comment that you make on THIS blog post you also have to pick a number between one and 500 and add that number to your comment on this blog post. I will limit the number of entries to a maximum of 500. (Although it is highly unlikely that there will be 500 entries…I can dream.)

Third, you will need to provide me with an email address at which I can contact you. It would be helpful if you also put your name in there.

Now, to assure you that I will not be spamming you, under no circumstances will you be added to any emailing list from me or any other organization if you supply me with your email address. The only reason I’m asking for an email address is so that I can contact you to figure out how to get your Catelli pasta to you.

(Edit – You DO NOT need to add your email address to the comment you are posting- it only needs to be in the form that you fill out in order to post a comment.)

Only entries that have completed all three of these requirements will be eligible to win.

It is up to you to scan or read the comments before you choose a number to make sure you have not chosen a number that somebody has already chosen ahead of you. If two or more people enter with the same number the person who entered first will be the winner.

If there is no exact match to the number I draw then the next closest number (higher or lower) will be announced as the winner.

I will limit this contest-giveaway to one entry per email address.

This contest will close on Friday, April 10th, 2015 at 6 PM. Shortly after the contest closes I will use an iPad app that will generate a random number to find a winner.

After a winner has been decided I will contact that winner through the email address that they have provided me.

The winner will be required to answer a skill-testing question.

Good luck and may the odds be ever in your favour!!

Apologies in advance, this contest is only open to residents of Canada and the United States. 

Catelli Healthy Harvest Ancient Grains

Now that I have had an opportunity to actually taste the Catelli Healthy Harvest Ancient Grains pasta noodles I have to say, they are fantastic! While it is true that I am a pasta fiend, meaning I love pasta, I can honestly say that the Ancient Grains pasta is an excellent pasta.

Catelli Singapore Style Spaghettini with Shrimp and Veggies
Catelli Singapore Style Spaghettini with Shrimp and Veggies

The difference between Catelli Healthy Harvest Ancient Grains pasta and other pastas is that the Ancient Grains pasta is made from whole grain durum wheat semolina, and a whole grain flour blend made up of quinoa, amaranth, millet, sorghum and teff.

People have been talking about the health benefits of eating 100 per cent whole grain wheat for years, but the “new” ancient grains that are being re-discovered are even more healthy. Here is a little more on each of those “new” ancient grains:

Quinoa: Dating back to the 13th century South American Inca Empire, quinoa is high in fibre, protein and minerals – including magnesium, potassium, zinc and iron – and low on the glycemic index. And not only is it super healthy to eat, the slightly nutty flavour is an excellent addition to any meal.

Amaranth: Native to the Americas and prized by Aztec civilization, amaranth is rich in protein, containing all the essential amino acids, key vitamins, and minerals such as calcium, magnesium, potassium, phosphorus and iron.

Teff:  Originating in Ethiopia and Eritrea between 4,000 BCE and 1,000 BCE, this poppy seed-sized grain is high in protein, fibre, calcium, thiamin and iron. We have been experimenting with using Teff in our test kitchen in our gluten-free flour mixes.

Sorghum: Domesticated in Northeastern Africa more than 5,000 years ago, sorghum – a good source of vitamin B6, riboflavin, thiamin and magnesium – is known to support digestive health, help fight cardiovascular disease and help control blood sugar levels.

Millet: Cultivated 4,000 years ago from wild West African grass, this nutty-flavoured grain is known to be heart healthy, containing a high level of protein, magnesium and niacin. Alkalizing to the body, millet is considered one of the most digestible and non-allergenic grains available.

Chef Lynn Crawford was kind enough to provide me with her top ten tips on how to prepare whole grain pasta – this is not to say that you and I don’t already know how to prepare pasta but these are her top ten pasta cooking tips:

  1. Watch your cooking time: Pasta should be cooked according to the cook time guide on the package to achieve the ideal al dente texture. For a professional twist, cut one to two minutes off the suggested cooking time, drain and finish off cooking your pasta in the sauce.
  2. Skip the oil: There is no need to add oil to your cooking water. Despite popular belief, this actually takes away from the pasta’s final texture and ability to adhere to the sauce. Skip the oil and embrace the starchiness of your pasta.
  3. Water your pasta: When cooking pasta, use a large pot. As basic as it sounds, it will make a difference in the outcome of your pasta. You will need one litre of water to about 100 grams of pasta.  Using a large pot will give the pasta room to boil and help keep the noodles from sticking together.
  4. Think salty sea: Add a generous amount of sea salt to the boiling water to ensure your pasta is well seasoned. You may even want to taste the water before adding your pasta to make sure there is enough salt.
  5. Avoid rinsing: For hot pasta dishes, never rinse the pasta after cooking in order to retain the starch and enable warm sauces to better adhere to the pasta.
  6. Create the perfect pair: Delicate pasta shapes go well with delicate sauces, and heartier, ridged shapes pair well with richer sauces and ragus.  For example, try long thin pasta, such as spaghetti, with a classic marinara sauce. Penne, ziti or rigatoni lend themselves to thicker sauces with more texture, such as a ragu Bolognese.
  7. Embrace the texture: Whole grain pasta has a hearty, firm texture that’s perfect for cold or chilled recipes and marinates well in tangy dressings. The firmness of the noodles also provides a good base for both crunchy and juicy fresh vegetables.
  8. Top it off: With a nutty, rich flavour, whole grain pasta can take on other strong, complex flavours. Ingredients that pair well with whole grain pasta include garlic, chili, anchovies, rich pesto sauces, and bitter or dark leafy greens such as kale, Swiss chard and radicchio.
  9. Take the heat: When preparing hot pasta recipes, keep your serving plates or bowls warm in an oven set to a low temperature until you’re ready to serve. This will ensure that your final dish stays nice and hot.
  10. Crank up the flavour: Whole grain pasta is an easy base on which to build a healthy and delicious meal. Incorporate a lean protein, plenty of fresh vegetables, and seasoning with big flavours in the pasta for an even more nutritious and satisfying dish.

That’s it for today – tomorrow the fun will really begin! Chef Lynn Crawford has kindly supplied me with a recipe for Spaghetti with Zucchini, Lemon, Olives and Goat Cheese and I have arranged to get my hands on a year’s supply of Catelli pasta (60 boxes of it) to give away to one of my lucky readers. Check in tomorrow for details on how you can enter my pasta contest giveaway.


Catelli Healthy Harvest Ancient Grains

As I was saying yesterday, I was absolutely delighted to be part of the launch in western Canada of Catelli Healthy Harvest Ancient Grains pasta.

Catelli Healthy Harvest Ancient Grains
Catelli Healthy Harvest Ancient Grains

I am a fiend for pasta and while I always use pasta made with whole wheat or “fibre added”, the addition of the Ancient Grains element to the Catelli pastas is a big plus in my kitchen.

Unfortunately I was unable to attend the event yesterday evening in person but I was able to tune in via webcast.

That was a load of fun! I was able to ask Chef Crawford questions through a text-chat thingy and she answered my questions with lots of laughs.

Chef Crawford and Ancient Grains Pasta
Chef Crawford and Ancient Grains Pasta

The food bloggers who were at the Catelli launch last night were able to see Chef Crawford prepare the pasta and sauces and then taste the new pastas first hand right there in the SAIT Training Kitchen. I am sad that I was unable to be there for the tasting (and to meet Chef Crawford!) but, that’s the way it goes…

When asked Chef Crawford for her thoughts on the addition of the ancient grains such as quinoa, millet, sorghum, and amaranth to the Catelli pastas (spaghetti, spaghettini and rotini) she told us that;

“Whole grains and ancient grains have been a healthy choice for thousands of years, and Catelli has transformed this mix of proven ingredients into a simple, delicious and nutritious product.” 

Even though I did not get to taste the Catelli Healthy Harvest Ancient Grains pastas, there is actually some really cool news for you – I am working with Catelli at putting together a contest for the people who follow my blog – the prize? A YEAR’S supply of Catelli pasta!! I am still working on the details.

As soon as I am back from my foodie exploration aboard the Princess Cruise’s Grand Princess I will provide more details.