Easiest Potluck Dish That Wows

Easy Potluck RecipeIf you’re like me and don’t have any money/quiver in terror at the thought of having to prepare a dish for other people (except for your boyfriend who has to eat what you make before he goes to work in the evenings or he starves), this dish is perfect for you. So, you can relax and focus on what’s really important: Removing things in your medicine cabinet because you know your friends are snoopy.

I make this side dish every time we host a medium-to-large dinner party or holiday dinner in our apartment. It doesn’t take long, which is always nice when oven space is at a premium. It’s generally really cheap to make, tastes delicious and is subject to oohs and aahs when unveiled to a crowd.

I stole this recipe from my boyfriend’s mom. She makes it on similar occasions, but she puts carrots in it too. I skip the carrots because then there’s room for more cheese. It has no name, other than that “cheesy broccoli thing”, but my friends have tried to make “Pillsbury broccoli delight” catch on.

This is a perfect potluck side dish as well. I made this for my very first potluck and it turned out great, although while it was baking I made a frantic phone call to my parents asking what the general potluck etiquette was when it came to getting your dish back because my dishware was new at the time and I wanted it back. My mom assured me when I was leaving the host would wash it for me and give it back, which is exactly what happened. Phew. She also suggested adding pretty shapes.

Easy Potluck Recipe
"Does this mean you're going out tonight?"

You’ll need:

Baking dish (red Kitchen-aid dishware is the most impressive)
Cooking spray
3 tubes of Pillsbury Crescent Rolls (keep each of these in the fridge until the last second. This means when the recipe calls for one tube, you go get one tube out of the fridge and leave the rest in there or it will be a big sticky mess)
1 block (the big package!) of cheddar cheese, the older or sharper the better, grated
2-3 big heads of fresh broccoli, chopped into pieces
Parchment paper
Cookie cutters

And it goes like this:

1. Lube up the baking dish with a thin layer of cooking spray, paying extra special attention to the corners and the sides.

2. Spread one tube of crescent roll dough across the bottom of the dish, and squish together the little dotted lines on the dough with your fingers.

3. Bake this layer for 8-10 minutes or so at about 350, until reasonably cooked.

Easy Potluck Recipe
The first layer, baked in advance. If you're not pressed for time, you can skip this step, but it is difficult to discern whether or not the bottom layer is truly cooked once it is all constructed.

4. Cover the first layer of cooked dough with broccoli pieces.

Easy Potluck Recipe
The broccoli layer. This is the coverage you should be striving for.

5. Spread the cheese over the broccoli, filling up all of the nooks and crannies (especially the crannies).

Easy Potluck Recipe
The cheese layer. Crannies: filled.

6. Cover with another tube of crescent roll dough, stretching it out as much as possible to cover all of the broccoli and cheese. Pinch the seams in the dough together with your fingers.

Easy Potluck Recipe
Do your best, those Pillsbury crescent roll seams are tricky.

Here’s where we get fancy! I’ve served this plenty of times without the shapes on top, but I don’t think I’ll do it any other way after doing it with the shapes the last time.

7. Lay out a sheet of parchment paper and lightly spray it with cooking spray.

8. Roll out the last tube of dough onto the parchment paper. Pinch together the seams yet again to make one smooth sheet of dough.

9. Cut out shapes with cookie cutters and place them on the dish.

Easy Potluck Recipe
I only have Christmas cookie cutters, and the only other shapes were snowmen and candy canes. I didn't think they would come off well.




You cannot ball up this dough and roll it out again, it just doesn’t work no matter what you do. Do you see the tiny, mangled, ugly star in the bottom right-hand corner up there? That’s what happens when you try to recycle the dough. Just never try. Maximize the amount of shapes you can make to the best of your ability.

Bake the entire thing as long as you can in the middle of the oven at about 350. You need to keep it in the oven a while to make sure the broccoli cooks and the cheese melts, but you don’t want to burn the top dough layer. I’ve found it usually takes between 15-20 minutes, but if your dough layer isn’t too brown yet – keep going. If you didn’t bake the bottom layer first, you need to keep it in the oven until the top layer just can’t take it anymore.

10. Impress your friends! Also, you can add shredded chicken and make it a meal.

Easy Potluck Recipe
BOOM. Tastes even better the next day as leftovers!


Green Chili Cheeseburger

Rob and I have an ongoing debate (well, such as it is. He keeps pressing but I am right. He puts ketchup on leftover pizza so who are you gonna believe?) about burgers. A hamburger in my opinion is a fabulous ground beef patty with little seasoning and a binder. It is topped with the classics: ketchup, yellow mustard, green relish, raw onion, dill pickle, iceberg lettuce and tomato….all on a soft white bun. Add a slice of American cheese and call it a cheeseburger. You start adding garlic to the patty, Dijon, arugula , brie and present it on chiabatta and I maintain it is now a sandwich – maybe a great sandwich, but not a burger.

Enter the green chili cheeseburger of New Mexico fame. This one Rob and I agree on. You cannot mess around with this. It is an entity unto its own. Perfection. We first encountered this cheeseburger at the Owl Bar in San Antonio, New Mexico. About to hit the road to Albuquerque from Santa Fe, we were told we must visit this bar and have a green chili cheeseburger by the concierge at the Inn of the Five Graces. San Antonio is little more than a gas stop, four pickups and this little dark, windowless bar. The Owl is also a famous footnote in history — it had a role in the birth of the Atomic Age.

The steps below outline how to recreate an all-dressed green chili cheeseburger as close as possible to the real deal at The Owl. No substitutions. No upgrades. The patty MUST be fried on a flat top, not grilled on the BBQ. The cheese MUST be a crappy, orange American slice. The bun MUST be a soft, white, cheap, classic burger bun. Alas, living in the Great White North we can only approximate Hatch, New Mexico green chilies. Old El Paso chopped green chilies in a can are pretty close, but less variable in heat.

Here are the steps:

1. Mix freshly ground beef with salt, pepper and one egg to help the burgers keep their shape when cooked. Form burgers that are not too thick and they can be ragged at the edges. This makes for better caramelization and better flavour.

2. Slice some tomato and onion and shred some lettuce

3. Heat up your green chiles. Because they will be placed on top of the burger and under the cheese, they need to be hot so the cheese will readily melt.

4. Heat a pan on your stove or BBQ (it’s less messy on the BBQ as this can splatter). The pan should be very hot. When the dry pan is quite hot, add the burgers. Season liberally with salt and pepper. Let them sit for at least 4 minutes to form a crust on the bottom and for enough fat to render to make them easy to turn over without sticking. When you think they’ve been on one side long enough, turn them over carefully. Place the hot green chiles on the burger and top with a cheese slice. You may need to cover your pan so the cheese can melt well.


5. Place your burger on a bottom bun and top with shredded lettuce, a slice of tomato and a thin slice of onion. Feel free to add other condiments, but this burger is delicious as is. Top bun goes on and eating commences.

The debate continues: how far do you stray from a traditional burger and it a still being called a burger? Rob says it depends on where you come from. Clearly in the Southwest, green chiles are a staple condiment.  At Louis’ Lunch, the birthplace of the burger in New Haven, Connecticut, no condiments at all are used, unless you count the butter on their buttered toast, which serves as a bun. Anyway, it’s a delicious argument. Let it rage on.




How To Make Your Own Sushi For Fun And Profit

Sushi is delicious. It’s a popular take-out item, but it can be made at home much more easily than you think. To get real specific, “sushi” only refers to the vinegared rice found in various applications from nigiri (fish on top of rice) to maki (rolls of rice with stuff). Technically, this is Makizushi or “maki”.

Along with the following food items, you will also require a sushi rolling mat (or a bamboo placemat from the dollar store) and some plastic wrap.

Make your own sushi ingredients

Mandatory sushi ingredients:

  • Sushi rice

Sometimes sold as sticky rice or calrose rice… if there’s a picture of a sushi roll on the package you are probably good to go. Cook it in a rice cooker, let it cool.

  • Nori

Nori are dried seaweed sheets. For some reason I thought you had to soak them in advance or something in order to transform them from delicate, dried crunchy pieces of mermaid-tail coloured paper into the soft, stretchy sushi coating we all know and love, but you don’t – the humidity from the rice takes care of all of that.

  • Rice vinegar
  • A couple spoonfuls of white granulated sugar

Our optional sushi ingredients:

  • Cucumber
  • “Crab”

Spicy mayo:How to make your own sushi

Hold on to your butts, because I am about to significantly improve your life. Spicy mayo, found on many delicious sushi roll varieties, is nothing more than mayonnaise mixed with Sriracha chill sauce. You’re welcome. Now you have the most delicious condiment for dipping, to spread on sandwiches and more. You’re not eating straight mayo, it’s an exotic treat!

How to make your own sushiCrushed Nacho Cheese Doritos

The restaurant that awakened my desire for sushi, Kinki in Ottawa, has a roll with crunchy stuff in it that appears to be crisped rice mixed with Dorito cheese. It’s probably not exactly that, but it totally tastes like it. Here we have cleverly skipped a step and simply crushed Doritos. Get a little crazy and go with extra spicy if you so desire.

The Steps:

1. Dissolve the sugar and vinegar together on the stove and allow this to cool before adding it to your rice. Mix well. Almost immediately, the rice will unstick itself and you will panic as it takes on the appearance of plain white rice – fear not, for this is only a disguise. If you let it sit for a moment it will recombobulate itself back into sticky rice.

 How to make your own sushi
Sushi rice.

2. Place the bamboo mat on a firm surface and have a bowl of warm water and a stiff spatula handy.

3. Place a sheet of plastic wrap over the bamboo mat. This is supposed to make it easier to form the sushi roll, but I find it gets in the way sometimes. You will have to find the best way for yourself.

4. Place the nori rough side up (it has a rough side and a shiny side) and gently spread the rice on it using the spatula. Wet the spatula in the water periodically to make this easier – but overall, this is the hardest part. Cram the rice onto the nori in a thin but tightly-adhered layer using the spatula, dipping it in the warm water to help it slide along the rice. Iron Chef Morimoto can do this simply with his wet hands at ninja speed, but we are lesser beings. Keep the rice layer only about 1/4 to 1/2 an inch thick – the thicker this layer, the bigger the rolls will be. You will need less rice than you think.

How to make your own sushi
Nori, rough side up and shiny side down.
How to make your own sushi
Rice on the nori! Nori tears easily so do this gently.

5. Place your ingredients on the sushi in a straight line on the end of the nori that is closest to you.

How to make your own sushi
Ingredients should be chopped into "stick" shape.
How to make your own sushi
Keep the ingredients somewhat compact and make sure each ingredient is placed throughout the length of the nori.

6. Use the bamboo mat to fold the nori over the ingredients and roll it up with your hands, keeping it tightly compacted.

How to make your own sushi
Folded over.
How to make your own sushi

7. Chill the sushi in the fridge for about 30 minutes or so. I made this step up, I don’t know if you need to. It makes it easier to cut.

8. Slice the sushi!

9. ????

10. Profit!

How to make your own sushi

Guest contributor Heather Rose is a freelance writer living in Toronto with her puppy, Bodie and boyfriend, Matt, one of whom enjoys her culinary experiments more than the other. She applies her life-long philosophy – “I did my best” – to all her recipes and cooking experiences.

Diners: The Fontenelle

I have passed this restaurant a thousand times giving it no more thought than wondering why anyone would name an eatery after the soft spot on an infant’s head. The Fontenelle is nestled into a sad, neglected stretch of Montreal Road across from the old bingo hall amongst several empty for rent retail spaces with nothing more than an old, nostalgic sign rising off the roof to announce it. Passing right on by is standard for most people, I would guess — it certainly was for us. Recently the diner has cropped up in Ottawa Foodies, a website devoted to good food in Ottawa. It’s mentioned several times if you are looking for a good breakfast in the city.

How could I have neglected to visit this place, just walking distance from my house. especially when I really do not have a favorite breakfast spot? Looking for a diner? People direct you to Elgin Street Diner or Zaks, both which are passable, with lotsa food on the plate, with an ironic, hipster-faux-nostalgic vibe. I was almost insulted that the Elgin Street Diner was featured on “You Gotta Eat Here” recently. Really? That’s the best Ottawa has to offer for morning fare?

We have a lot of shopping to do for an impromptu Cinco de Mayo party on this first sunny Saturday in Ottawa in sometime. Rob and I decide it’s time to check out The Fontenelle.

Entering The Fontenelle brings me back to childhood, and this place dates back at least to the sixties. Velvet paintings of cabins in the woods, brick-a-brac,  formica tables, green vinyl banquettes and swivel stools at the lunch counter greet you. No manufactured kitsch. Perched by the coffee machine is a politically incorrect dog made entirely of empty cigarette packs. I swear even the light streaming in the front window is from the mid-sixties. A friendly staffer, we later learn, is one of the family in this family-owned establishment, seats us and brings menus and coffee, included with breakfast. I’m sure if you sniff hard enough in just the right direction, you can detect the faint smell of bacon crisping in a pan, coffee perking and cigarette smoke, a scent many of us woke to in our busy yesteryear.

As we peruse menus, four middle-aged guys debate strenuously the merits of shopping carts with lockable wheels. I would guess they gather there at least every Saturday. Families with kids happily enjoy their meals, singles sit with The Sun, couples begin their day across coffee and the owner’s grand-kids hang out while grandad is in the kitchen cooking eggs. Saturday this week anyways, is not terribly busy but nicely occupied.

Oh yeah…where was I ? Breakfast! I ordered a breakfast club. White or whole wheat are my only options, which I appreciate. Some days you do not want to agonize over sourdough, multigrain, rye and so on. Coffee is decent and included with breakfast, unusual indeed. My plate arrives with my sandwich and a heaping helping of real honest to goodness home fries crisped up on a flat-top. Not deep fried “nuggets” diners call cafe potatoes or home fries. The breakfast comes unadorned by anemic winter fruit to be discarded. My club is on white bread, buttery good with fresh tomato, egg, perfectly crisped bacon, mayo, thick deli ham browned on the flattop and the piece de resistance…orange plastic cheese. Yes. Perfect. It melts and oozes just so and coats your mouth with cheesy goodness that reminds you that it’s not good for you.

Rob ordered smoked meat and two eggs, which came with well-buttered wheat toast and those same perfect flat-top home fries. The smoked meat was heated up on the flat-top, creating bits of caramelized deliciousness. His eggs were perfectly scrambled.

Classic ingredients and simple preparation, perfectly executed old-school. Honest food. My favorite kind of place. I hesitate to blog about this place. You will not find it on your own, likely — it is so un-hip it’s hip. Discovery will render it null and void.

Breakfast for two (which included a canned pop) $20.40 plus tip. We ordered the more “exotic” fare. A bacon and egg breakfast can be had for a song.

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