Archive for the ‘Recipes’ Category

Linguine alla Carbonara

Quick, simple, inexpensive, and delicious!  Or put another way:  Bacon, eggs, cheese and pasta!  In either case, you can’t go wrong.

I have been wanting to make this for quite awhile, but for some reason, just never got around to it.  Anthony Bourdain’s episode of “No Reservations” from Rome rekindled the idea, but it dimmed after weeks went by.  FINALLY, I got around to making this for lunch today.

I’m not sure why I waited so long.  It wasn’t at all difficult, nor was it complicated.  There weren’t any exotic or expensive ingredients, and in fact, most of us probably have all of the ingredients (or reasonable substitutes) on-hand.  So, really, I have no excuse, other than the fact that the few times I did think about making it for dinner, the idea was nixed by Bikenut.

There are a lot of recipes for carbonara online, but in the end, I kind of did a mash-up of the ideas I liked the best.  Some recipes called for raw yolks to top the finished pasta, others crowned it with a poached egg.  Some added herbs, some didn’t.  Regular bacon, pancetta, guanciale.  Spaghetti, linguine, fusilli, rotini… like I said, lots of different recipes out there.   I went with very simple to start, figuring I could add extras the next time if I thought it needed anything else.

Simple is good!  I think I might add a little fresh herbs to the dish next time, just to give it a little, well, freshness, but this was pretty good as-is.  This dish would be a great meal for a quick weeknight dinner when you want something warm and rich and comforting.

Linguine alla Carbonara

Ingredients:

  • 8 oz linguine (or pasta of your choice)
  • 4 oz diced pancetta (or a couple of slices of regular bacon, diced)
  • 1 whole egg plus 2 egg yolks
  • 1/2 to 3/4 cup of grated Parmesan cheese (or a mix of Parm and Pecorino)
  • Cracked black pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup of pasta water (don’t pour it out!)

Directions:

  1. Heat a large pot of salted water to boiling.  Add pasta and cook according to package directions.
  2. While pasta is cooking, in a large skillet or fry pan over medium-high heat, add 2 Tablespoons of olive oil and pancetta.  Cook until pancetta has rendered its fat, but not quite crispy.  Set aside.
  3. Whisk egg and egg yolks together with 1/2 cup of Parmesan cheese in a small bowl.  Set aside.
  4. When pasta is ready, use tongs to remove from the water and place into the pan with the pancetta over low heat.  Add 1/2 cup of pasta water to pan.
  5. Whisk 1-2 Tablespoons of hot pasta water to the eggs to temper, then pour over the pasta and quickly toss, keeping the pasta and egg moving until the sauce becomes creamy.  Remove from heat.  If needed, add additional pasta water to thin, or Parmesan cheese to thicken the sauce to the desired consistency.
  6. Add fresh cracked black pepper to taste.  Top with fresh grated Parmesan cheese.
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Chocolate Chip Cinnamon Oatmeal Cookies

It’s a rare day when Bikenut actually asks for sweets, so when he said, “How about some rainy day cookies?” I jumped on the chance!  I made two different batches of oatmeal cookies;  For Bikenut, I made blueberry oatmeal cookies, and for myself, I made these.

If you’ve ever had Mexican hot chocolate, these are very reminiscent of that — the richness of the chocolate with a bit of spice from the cinnamon and clove.   I figured that I would enjoy these, but I didn’t realize just how much!  The oatmeal gives these cookies something to sink your teeth into and chew on for a bit, so they go a long way.  I’m usually a 2-3 cookie gal, but just one of these satisfied my after-dinner sweet tooth.

By the way, if you’re interested in the blueberry version I made for Bikenut, just make it a level 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon, and instead of the chocolate chips, add dried and sweetened wild blueberries.  (If he liked white chocolate, I would have added white chocolate chips to his batch.)  I’m so sated from my one cookie that I can’t bring myself to try the blueberry version, but Bikenut gobbled his up and said they were pretty darn good, so I think I did okay!

Chocolate Chip Cinnamon Oatmeal Cookies

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup of softened butter
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon cloves
  • 1/2 heaping teaspoon cinnamon
  • Dash of salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1-3/4 cups flour
  • 2 cups rolled oats
  • 16 oz semi-sweet chocolate chips

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 425°F.
  2. In a large bowl, beat butter with hand mixer until creamed and fluffy.  (About 30 seconds)
  3. Add brown sugar, granulated sugar, baking powder, baking soda, cloves, cinnamon, and salt.  Beat until well mixed.
  4. Add eggs and vanilla, beat until well mixed.
  5. Blend in flour 1/2 cup at a time to mixture, using mixer or spoon.
  6. Stir in oats and chocolate chips.
  7. Drop Tablespoon-sized balls of dough onto a parchment-lined cookie sheet, then bake for 12-15 minutes, or until cookies are golden brown.
  8. Cool cookies on a wire rack.

Herb & Rice Stuffed Pepper

Cooking for other people can be tricky.  Especially if it’s Bikenut!  He’s so picky, but I guess the challenge keeps things interesting.

Bikenut has expressed before that he doesn’t care for stuffed peppers.  So, when I had the idea to make some stuffed tomatoes, with herbs and fresh bread crumbs, I thought, “Hey, he likes tomatoes, so he might like those.”  But Bikenut informed me he doesn’t like stuffed tomatoes.  Rather, he doesn’t like stuffed vegetables of any sort.  So, I decided that I would just chuck the idea altogether.

That obviously didn’t last long, and I decided that I would make myself a stuffed pepper to go with the kebabs I was attempting that night for dinner.  (Separate post for that one coming later.)  I prefer any other color bell pepper than the green ones.  They just have some overly pungent flavor to them.  Not to say they aren’t good in some dishes… but to me, they’re best reserved for pizza toppings.  Although, I have to say, they are good with the ground beef and rice version of stuffed peppers.  Maybe it’s the combination of tomato and green bell pepper that appeals to me, but otherwise, forget it.  Anyway…

I had some leftover jasmine rice from dinner the night before, and I decided that I would use that to stuff my pepper.  If I had to start from scratch, I’d have used basmati for this recipe.  I was, afterall, going for a Middle Eastern flavor.  As it turned out though, this wasn’t too bad!  It’s filling though, so I’m really glad I forgot to make it when I threw all of the veggies in to roast for the kebab meal last night.  I only had about half of this pepper for lunch and I’m, well, stuffed!  So, perhaps if you’re making it as a side or for light eaters, half a pepper per person might be about right for a dinner portion.

Herb & Rice Stuffed Pepper

Ingredients:

  • 1  medium bell pepper
  • 1-1/2 cups of cooked rice (leftovers work great!)
  • 2 Tablespoons red onion or shallot, finely diced
  • 1 Tablespoon fresh flat leaf parsley, chopped
  • 1 Tablespoon fresh chives, chopped
  • 1/2 Tablespoon cold butter, diced
  • 1/4 teaspoon each: turmeric, paprika, coriander, garlic powder, onion powder
  • Dash each: cumin, cardamom, garam masala, salt and pepper
  • 2 Tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375°F.
  2. Rinse and dry pepper.  For one single serving pepper, cut off top of pepper at the stem end.  For two half-pepper servings, cut out stem, then halve the pepper from stem to bottom.  Remove seeds and ribs.  Set aside.
  3. In a small bowl, combine all remaining ingredients, reserving one tablespoon of Parmesan cheese.  Stir all ingredients together until well mixed.
  4. Firmly pack stuffing mixture into the pepper.
  5. Place stuffed pepper in a baking dish and rub outside of pepper with oil to coat.
  6. Bake pepper in oven for 25-30 minutes, or until pepper is tender.
  7. Top pepper with remaining Parmesan cheese and broil until golden brown.

Peep’s Not-So-Traditional Chicken & Dumplings

My grandma would probably lecture me for this recipe.  It’s not “traditional”, which I guess goes right along with the bulk of my personality!  Traditionally you’re supposed to boil the chicken in the pot.  I just have a thing against stewed or boiled chicken.  I have to admit, this is the first time I’ve made this dish myself and it originally wasn’t meant to be chicken and dumplings.  I was aiming for a pot pie, but didn’t want to mess with making a pie dough after Bikenut’s comment that he wasn’t thrilled with the pre-made crust the last time we used it.

Regardless of the original intent, the process was going to be the same, just with a little less thickening at the end.  So, I went off to Whole Foods and bought what I needed, came home and got started.  I think most people wouldn’t go through all the same trouble I did for this dish, and that’s fine.  Not everyone is insane like me, thankfully.  But I’m telling you, there’s a world of difference when you do it all yourself.  Sort of like that summer when I grew tomatoes in the backyard and thought they were the best tomatoes in the world, which is something coming from someone that still doesn’t like tomatoes to this day.

But I digress… where this recipe takes a turn from the traditional chicken & dumplings is right out of the gate.  Rather than boiling or stewing the chicken, I roasted it in the oven.  I like the flavor and juiciness of roasted chicken, so it seemed the natural way to go about starting things off.  It’s a little more work, but I really think it’s worth it for the flavor and texture.  Because I didn’t boil the chicken, I needed chicken broth.  I didn’t want to use store-bought broth and opted to roast the chicken bones after pulling the meat off, then boiling the bones with the same spices I used to season the chicken (along with a couple bay leaves and some parsley) in order to make a broth.  After that, we rejoin the chicken & dumplings highway that most people travel.

It is definitely an investment in terms of time, but I thought it turned out amazingly well and totally worth the time spent.   Sorry, Grandma!

(If you’re in a bit more of a rush, there’s a shortcut at the end of the recipe below.)

Peep’s Not-So-Traditional Chicken & Dumplings

Ingredients:

  • 6 whole chicken legs (thigh and drumstick, skin on)
  • Spice mix #1: Garlic powder, onion powder, dried thyme, dried sage, sea salt and fresh ground pepper
  • 4 cups of water
  • Spice mix #2: Dried parsley, 2 bay leaves, plus Spice mix #1
  • 3 large carrots, chopped
  • 4 ribs of celery, chopped (with leaves)
  • 1 large yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 large russet potato, peeled and cut into large dice
  • 2-3 Tbsp flour
  • 2-3 Tbsp butter
  • 3/4 cup of all-purpose baking mix (I used Trader Joe’s Pancake and All-Purpose Baking Mix)
  • 1/3 cup of half & half (or milk)
  • 1 tsp dried parsley flakes

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.  Season chicken legs with spice mix #1, roughly 1 teaspoon of each to cover all six legs.
  2. Roast legs in oven for about 1 hour, until juices run clear.  Remove from oven and allow to cool enough to handle.
  3. Remove skin and discard (or enjoy a little treat.)  Remove meat from bones, cover with foil and set aside along with drippings.  Place bones in a large cast iron dutch oven and return to oven to roast at 350°F for about 45 minutes to 1 hour.
  4. Remove cast iron pot from oven and place directly on the stovetop over medium heat.  Add four cups of water, or enough to just cover the bones.  Add spice mix #2, roughly 1 teaspoon each of sage and thyme, 2 teaspoons each of remaining spices.  Cover and simmer over medium heat for at least 1 hour.  Taste for flavoring and adjust spices to taste.  Remove bones from pot and discard.
  5. Add chicken meat, drippings, carrots, celery, onion, and potato to the broth.  Simmer 15-20 minutes over medium/medium-low heat, or until vegetables are tender.
  6. In a small pot, melt butter.  Add flour and a dash each of spice mix #1.  Stir together and allow flour to cook, about 1-2 minutes.  Add to stew, stir,  cover and simmer over medium-low heat while preparing the dumpling batter.  (You could also use potato flakes to thicken instead, or in addition if you want to thicken it further.)
  7. For dumplings, combine baking mix, half & half, and parsley flakes in a small bowl.  When stew is simmering, add dumpling batter, one tablespoon at a time to the stew.  Once all dumplings (about 8 of them) have been dropped, cover and cook for an additional 10-15 minutes.  Do not uncover for at least 10 minutes!
  8. Check doneness of dumplings by inserting a toothpick into the center.  Toothpick should come out clean.  (My dumplings were still really wet on top, so I ended up gently flipping them after 12 minutes and cooking for another 5 minutes or so.)
  9. Serve stew in a bowl with 2 dumplings per serving.

SHORTCUT:  If you’re looking for a quicker version for a weeknight, you could use a pre-cooked rotisserie chicken at the market, or leftover cooked chicken, and store-bought chicken broth then skip ahead to Step 5 in the instructions above.

English Muffins

I have an admission to make.  I have always been a bit afraid of any recipe that requires rolling pins.  I would tell myself that I just didn’t have the time or patience to wait for dough to rise, let alone to do it twice!  But the truth is, I think I was traumatized one Christmas while trying to roll out sugar cookie dough.  That was a total failure for whatever reason, and I’ve avoided rolling pins as much as I could ever since.

But the other day, on a whim, I bought a little package of yeast and told myself that I would make SOMETHING with it.  That something turned out to be English muffins!  (There are two more little packets of yeast left, so this is Part I of the Baker Peep trilogy!  Next, I think I’m going to try brioche rolls.)

I used this recipe since a lot of other folks seemed to like their results.  For me, I think it could have used a little more salt, and maybe a little more yeast for more volume, but otherwise, these turned out pretty well!  I didn’t cook them stove-top on a griddle, but instead threw them in a 375°F oven on parchment dusted with cornmeal, about 6-7 minutes per side.

Roasted Veggie Lasagna

This is not the lasagna I wanted to make. I envisioned an ALL veggie lasagna, with long strips of zucchini in place of pasta noodles, but it was not to be. As we walked through the produce section of the new Sprouts market in the area, I mentioned to Bikenut that I was going to make a little lasagna for myself for lunch the next day.

“I like lasagna,” he said.
“I was going to make the noodles out of zucchini…”
“But, I don’t like zucchini,” he said.
“Yes, I know, which is why I was only going to make it for me!”

Obviously, I couldn’t bear the idea of Bikenut being disappointed that he didn’t get any lasagna, and the mere fact that he stated he actually LIKED something (which meant he was more likely to actually EAT it) was enough to send me back to the store for the noodles.

Zucchini was still going into the lasagna, but I was made to promise that it would only be in half. I also picked up an assortment of other veggies to roast and layer in there as well: carrot, yellow squash, onions (half a red, half a white, and a whole small yellow), portobello mushrooms, white button mushrooms, and spinach. The other ingredients were ricotta cheese, a mozzarella and smoked provolone cheese blend, and a quick pasta sauce made the night before from two cans of tomato sauce, 4 cloves of garlic (minced), half of a white onion (diced), and a handful of spices.

Unfortunately, not everything made it into the lasagna. Having bought an actual bunch of spinach, rather than the pre-washed, pre-packaged bag o’ spinach, I had to make sure that it was thoroughly rinsed. This meant giving it a good rinse through the colander a couple of times, then soaking it in a bowl of water to get anything else off it, and then giving it a final rinse before patting it dry and putting it to use. It got as far as the soak, sitting in a bowl on the counter next to the sink, when I turned my attention to other tasks that needed to be completed. I figured that was a better use of my time than watching spinach soak. Unfortunately, that move and the fact that it wasn’t to be included in the roasting caused the spinach to be forgotten. Oh well.

I was a little apprehensive about using these “no cook” pasta sheets, and I was a bit happy that I had left my sauce a little thin so that the noodles could soak it all up and definitely come out cooked. So a base of sauce went down into a 9″x13″ baking dish, then layer after layer followed; pasta, cheese, veggies, ricotta, sauce, pasta, cheese, veggies, ricotta, sauce, etc. The veggies were chunky, so I only got to three layers of pasta before having to top it off with cheese, covering it with foil and popping it into the oven.

After about an hour in the oven, it came out looking and smelling amazing! Bikenut insisted that I let it rest for a good 30 minutes or more, but after 15, I had to sample it. I should have waited, because I didn’t get so much a piece of lasagna as I did a sloppy pile of noodles, sauce and veggies. It was a tasty mess though! When Bikenut decided to have his non-zucchini piece, he told me it was one of the best veggie lasagnas he’s ever eaten. To further the compliment, we were trying to decide a few nights later where we wanted to go out to eat, and Bikenut said, “You know, I really just want to have another piece of that lasagna with a cold glass of milk.” He really must have liked it to pass up a steak, honey-walnut prawns, or fish and chips at his favorite pub!

So here you go… hopefully everyone you make this for loves it just as much!

Roasted Veggie Lasagna

Ingredients:

For the sauce:

    • 2 – 12oz cans tomato sauce
    • 4 cloves of garlic
    • 1/2 large yellow onion
    • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
    • 1 teaspoon sugar, or more to taste
    • Herbs/Spices: Dried oregano, garlic powder, onion powder, red pepper flakes, paprika, fennel or caraway seed, fresh basil, salt & pepper

For the roasted veggies:

    • 2 medium zucchini
    • 1 large yellow squash
    • 1 large carrot
    • 1/2 large yellow onion
    • 1/2 large white onion
    • 1/2 large red onion
    • 2 portobello mushrooms
    • 1/2 lb white button mushrooms
    • Spices: Dried oregano, garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, salt & pepper
    • Olive oil to coat

For the ricotta filling:

    • 12-16oz ricotta cheese
    • 2 sprigs fresh oregano, removed from stem, roughly chopped
    • 6 leaves fresh basil, finely chopped
    • 3 Tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
    • 3 Tablespoons shredded mozzarella & smoked provolone cheese blend
    • 1 beaten egg

For the lasagna:

    • 4 cups of shredded mozzarella & smoked provolone cheese blend
    • 1 box “no cook” lasagna noodles

Instructions:

For the sauce:

    • Over medium heat, add olive oil to pot.  Add garlic, onion, and dry spices, about 1 Tablespoon of each: dried oregano, garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, fennel or caraway seeds, and a pinch of red pepper flakes (more if you like it spicy, or omit altogether if you don’t like it spicy at all.)  Cook until onions are translucent.
    • Add tomato sauce and simmer for at least 15 minutes, but the longer the better.   After 15 minutes, taste.  If too tangy, add sugar a teaspoon at a time, tasting between each addition to make sure it doesn’t get TOO sweet.
    • Remove from heat and stir in about 1/3 cup of chopped fresh basil.  Set aside.   If making the sauce in advance, cool and refrigerate until ready to use.

For the veggies:

    • Preheat oven to 400°F.
    • Slice zucchini, squash, carrot, and button mushrooms into 1/4″ thick slices.
    • With a spoon, remove the stems and “gills” of the portobello mushrooms and cut caps into roughly 1″ pieces.
    • Quarter the onions, and arrange all prepared veggies on a large baking sheet.
    • Drizzle olive oil over the veggies, sprinkle with spices (about 1 Tablespoon of each), then toss to coat.
    • Place in oven and bake for about 15-20 minutes, until veggies begin to let go of some of their liquid and soften, but are still firm.
    • Remove from oven and set aside.  If making the veggies in advance, cool and refrigerate until ready to use.

For the ricotta mixture:

    • In a small bowl, add ricotta, parmesan, mozzarella & provolone cheese, and egg.
    • Add oregano and basil.
    • Mix until all ingredients are well incorporated.

For the lasagna:

    • Preheat oven to 350°F, and grease a 9″x13″ baking dish.
    • Spoon sauce into dish, covering the bottom in a thin layer of sauce.
    • Place a single layer of pasta sheets in dish.  Add a layer of mozzarella & provolone cheese (approx. 1/4 to 1/3 of the cheese.)  Add layer of roasted veggies.  Add layer of ricotta mixture.  Add layer of sauce. Repeat layering one more time.
    • Add a layer of pasta sheets, and very gently press down on the sheets to compact the lasagna.  Top with a layer of sauce, a layer of mozzarella & provolone cheese, then sprinkle the top with parmesan cheese.
    • Loosely cover the dish with aluminum foil, place on a baking sheet, and bake in the oven for approximately 40 minutes.
    • After 40 minutes, remove the foil and bake for another 15-20 minutes, or until the cheese begins to brown.
    • Let cool for approximately 30 minutes, then slice and serve.

Chile Rellenos, Part Dos

Watching Master Chef the other night, I decided that chile rellenos were in my cooking future. I didn’t take photos along the way the first time, so I thought I’d add these to the blog. Take a look at the photos, and if you want to try them yourself, you can check out the original post for the recipe.