Category Archives: pasta

December 2016 Cooking Wrap-Up

Cooking wise, if not in other respects, 2016 has been a successful year.

I made a second sourdough starter with canned pineapple juice and whole wheat flour and then made some great breads with it. I thickened it up quite a bit compared to the one I made in 2105 and that may have accounted for some of the success. Experience helped as well, as I’m less hesitant about trying new sourdough recipes. I did revisit the old stand-by, regular yeast, and made a delicious honey challah just before Christmas. Definitely something I’ll be repeating next year.

Bacon, Cheddar Cheese and Cracked Black Pepper Sourdough loaf and round Honey Challah

Crumb of the challah

Cooking on an even stricter budget than ever before resulted in having to be creative with simple ingredients bought on sale, like chicken, pork and ground beef, or leftovers, and the results were mostly successful. You’ll have to scroll back through the posts to see them. I do miss fish, seafood and steak however. I’m also grocery shopping less often and there’s less wastage as I try to use up what’s most perishable first. I’m also going back to basics with the dishes I’ve been making such as cookies and fudge. I haven’t been buying as many jarred sauces as in the past, while using up the ones I already have in things like stir-fries.

The meat sauce I made recently with a simple spaghetti sauce base was delicious as well as economical.  One pound of ground beef was stretched to make eight cups of sauce.

I turned some leftover mashed sweet potato into muffins with raisins for added sweetness using a recipe found on Rachel Ray’s web site.

And because I missed seafood … I bought a package of mussels in garlic sauce on sale, and one of cooked shrimp, and made this pasta dish with the spaghetti sauce.

Post Thanksgiving / Pre-Christmas Doldrums in Cooking

If it weren’t for bread and soups, I wouldn’t be doing much new cooking at all these days. I’m not counting the six kinds of fudge I’ve made since Thanksgiving.

These are no knead sourdough breads where gluten development comes about from letting flour, water and starter autolyse for a long time at room temperature. Unlike high hydration doughs, which develop their gluten through a series of stretches and folds, and produce artisanal loaves full of large holes, the crumb of these loaves is more dense and you get lovely sandwich type breads as a result.

SweetDried Cranberry, Honey and Orange Zest

You can use various fresh or dried fruit, nuts and zest to make each loaf different.

SavouryBacon, Old White Cheddar and Cracked Black Pepper

I decided to stick with just a few ingredients so as to let them stand out in this loaf but dried herbs, and inclusions like black olives, pickled or fresh peppers (jalapeno or serrano), seeds and grains and even caramelized onion can be added.

A basic soup includes a liquid like a stock or water, a flavourful vegetable mixture, a starch (potato, pasta or rice), a protein (meat or dried bean or lentil), herbs and seasonings.

Italian sausage tortellini in a marinara broth and Turkey and wild rice in a light chicken stock

Beef and pot barley soup and Creamy turkey, potato gnocchi and veggie soup

Odds and Ends

Breakfast of sunny side up eggs, bacon and toasted sourdough bread

Pan-fried pork chop, mashed potatoes and coleslaw and home made ricotta filled beet (root) pasta ravioli in browned butter, sage and pine nut sauce with garnish of grated Parmesan cheese

Eye of Round Roast – a bit overcooked but I made a lovely gravy with the drippings/au jus

Purchased mititei/mici (skinless Romanian sausages) as part of a quick meal including several dips … marinara sauce, tzatziki sauce and hummus

Ham, Potato and Corn Chowder, Chicken Breast Duo and Honeycomb

It’s fall time again and with the nip in the air, and my kitchen, I’m planning more substantial cooking projects that will warm me up.

Like this ham, potato and corn chowder I found on someone’s blog. The ingredients are similar to a previous soup I’ve posted, other than using a roux to thicken it up to the consistency of a chowder. You can add whipping or half and half cream if you want to add richness to the dish. And don’t mind the extra calories.

In the meantime, however, I thawed out the last of the boneless, skinless chicken breasts from my freezer (1 pound in total) and turned them into chicken and kale pesto spaghetti

… and a fast and tasty marinated Middle Eastern dish on skewers called chicken tawook.

Both are dishes I’ve made before so no recipes.

I recently got a late afternoon craving for something sweet and whipped up this variation on a peanut brittle. Honeycomb is a nut free toffee in which, similar to a brittle, baking soda is added to a caramelized sugar mixture. The sugar used and, most importantly, the amounts of baking soda added vary. The extra baking soda used in the honeycomb creates lots of bubbles resulting in a sponge-like texture that shatters in your mouth as your crunch down on it. I started with a brittle recipe but added an additional teaspoon of baking soda. Next time, I’ll make a traditional honeycomb with brown sugar and molasses in place of the white sugar and corn syrup I used.

NOTE: DO NOT disturb your molten sugar mixture once you’ve poured it out onto your buttered or greased baking pan in order to even it out. You’re flattening out all of those lovely bubbles if you do so.

Odds and End Meals

When cooking for one, you end up with a lot of leftovers especially if, like me, you make big pots of some dishes. When my freezer fills up to a certain point, I stop cooking and start putting together the odds and ends and come up with meals.

I try not to have too many desserts in my freezer, cause I snack when I’m bored, so I give away as much as I can of the more successful results. But this means I get stuck with some things that aren’t suitable for gifting. Like a tray of peach crumble bars that were mostly crumble and very little peach. A while back, I bought a clamshell of mostly bruised and tasteless peaches that I had to throw away. So I ended up with a lot less fruit than I needed … which I didn’t realize until I was in the middle of baking with nothing else to add in to make up the shortage. A bit of apricot jam (ran out of ice cream) is making the bars a bit more palatable, at least.

Right now, I’m adding soup as often as I can to my meals. Biscuits or bread are a good filler.

Of course, I DO make new dishes. I snagged a double package of sausage filled tortellini on sale and cooked one up in a blush sauce. On its own, the pasta dish isn’t very filling, and I didn’t have any greens for salad in the house, so I served it with a savoury plate of polenta.

The rest of the polenta was patted out into a buttered 8″ by 8″ glass dish and refrigerated, prior to being fried up as a base for a jarred spaghetti-pesto sauce.

Chicken drumsticks are often found on sale. A bit of Italian seasoning sprinkled on top and unattended baking time and you’ve got the start of a great meal.

A bit of barbecue sauce and a different starch, and you’ve got a new meal.

Things get a bit tight just before payday or in the case of supply teachers, with no paycheques for 3 months, so a tuna macaroni salad with pasta and canned tuna bought on sale is filling and tasty too. I’d usually throw some diced celery into my salad but in this case, diced raw carrots made for a nice, crunchy bite and a bit of colour too.

Whenever I have coleslaw in the house, I’m tempted to make okonomiyaki, a Japanese pancake. Another inexpensive and filling dish.

Pesto … What kind do YOU make?

Nothing new about this post. I had intended to make a different kind of pesto but my poor basil plants have gone to flower, cause I’m neglecting them. The big leaves at the bottom are turning yellow and dropping off. At least I’m watering every day which is a necessity in this hot weather and a hot weather alert is coming up again. I made a couple of tasty things while dealing with the visit from the handyman (and his wife and daughter who help out) who is here to weed the worst of the back.

PS: They got 1/2 the lemon curd rolls, all the cherry braid and the rest of the ciabatta bread that I’d baked earlier that day.

* * *

Of course, the classic Genovese pesto of basil, pine nuts, garlic and Parmesan cheese with extra virgin olive oil is familiar to most people but you can mix and match your herbs, the nut used and even the oil.

Basil picked from my plants … FINALLY

For a strong tasting meat, like a leg of lamb, make a pesto with fresh parsley, toasted walnuts and walnut oil if you have it handy  … or just a nice neutral vegetable oil like canola. Butterfly your leg of lamb, spread the pesto over the meat, then roll it up, tie it and roast. The pesto will flavour the meat and keep it moist. If you put your leg of lamb on top of some potato wedges, the juices will flavour the potatoes. (Sorry, I dont’ have any pics to share.)

That reminds me. I really need to pick up a leg of lamb.

If you don’t want to buy a whole leg of lamb and butterfly it, pan fried lamb shoulder chops with a mint-cilantro pesto pasta is amazing.

Pesto garlic bread – Combine equal parts softened butter and pesto. Add some grated Parmesan cheese to the mixture as well, if desired. Spread over your favourite crusty bread and place the bread on a baking sheet under the broiler just until the bread is crunchy and the butter is melted

Creamy Chicken Pesto Pasta

Creamy Chicken Pesto Pasta – serves 2

1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 boneless, skinless chicken breast cut into 3/4-1 inch cubes
1/4 cup whipping cream or chicken broth if you want to watch your calories
2-3 tbsp pesto
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
salt and pepper to taste
150-200 gm fettuccine, linguine or spaghetti cooked according to package directions

In a large saute pan, heat up the oil over medium high heat. Saute the chicken cubes until cooked through.

Reduce the heat to medium and add the pesto, whipping cream and cheese. Mix well and add the cooked pasta.

Add salt and pepper as desired.

Serve with crusty bread and a salad.

VEGGIE Add-ins: Steamed broccoli florettes or halved cherry tomatoes sauteed briefly in the same pan, after the chicken was browned. Sauteed pepper strips or sliced mushrooms would also be great.

Re-imagining Basic Recipes pt 2

I like recipes that you can modify for different dishes or presentations like the basic pasta dough recipe below. It’s based on the proportions used in the spinach pasta I made a while back.

A 10 oz batch of pasta coloured with 1/8 and 1/3 cup of beet puree, respectively. The colour isn’t dramatically different but I’m hoping the cooked pasta on the more concentrated batch will end up being much darker than in my first posts. And then maybe I can do a tricolour pasta dish.

 

Some adaptations are better than others. I used the last of my sourdough starter to make a batch of chickpea flour (besan) crackers. I added some nanami togarashi (7 spice chili blend) to flavour it. The crackers were tasty enough but I didn’t really taste the chickpea flour. The flavour may have been overcome by the all-purpose flour sourdough starter. Next time, I’ll use all chickpea flour and some baking powder for leavening.

The chocolate cookie cups were filled with various items from vanilla ice cream (topped with sprinkles) to homemade caramel sauce poured over chopped nuts (I used walnuts but pecans would be lovely) and then topped with vanilla ice cream and caramel sauce. And finally, mixed citrus curd lightened with whipped cream and topped with some more ice cream. I think a chocolate chip cookie (minus the chocolate chips), or even a gingerbread cookie, dough would give me a more versatile/neutral base for filling, but this was a good first attempt of the technique.

 

 

 

Re-imagining Basic Recipes

So much for my ‘break’. But I’ve been having a lot of fun and couldn’t resist sharing some pictures.

Taking a recipe and re-thinking some elements to come up with something new and exciting is important for the daily cook. And those of us on a budget who can’t run out and buy exotic or expensive ingredients.

So, adding beet puree (only 2 tbsp to a 2 egg pasta recipe) to a basic pasta recipe and coming up with a very pretty pink pasta doesn’t take a lot of money, just some imagination, or google-fu in case your imagination is as limited as mine.

Making the Beet Pasta

Dressing the resulting pasta is another fun pastime.

Shrimp Scampi … a very romantic shrimp supper for two

Browned Butter and Sage … a more modest meatless pasta dish with a generous grating of Grana Padano cheese

No changes in this dish from the basic recipe I posted before, but the pictures are MUCH nicer.

I haven’t made these onigiri (Japanese rice patties) in ages. You can leave them plain or fill them with anything from the classic umeboshi which are a type of pickled ‘plums’, dried bonito flakes moistened with soy sauce or a very Western tuna salad. The onigiri may also be eaten as is or grilled, basted with soy sauce and then grilled again briefly. Wrapping a strip of nori around the rice patty keeps your fingers clean, but you’ll want to wait til the last minute so the seaweed stays nice and crispy.

I learned a fun way to shape/pack sushi rice into a round ball. Simply take 2 small round bottomed bowls, rinse them with water so the rice doesn’t stick, add your rice to the bottom bowl, put the other bowl on top and SHAKE back and forth for a minute or so.

Crack open the ball of rice on a moistened sheet of food wrap over which you’ve sprinkled some salt, and add your filling. Tighten the plastic wrap around the ball and filling and squeeze it tightly, then form into a triangle shape.

Plain Onigiri – wrap a strip of nori around the patty before eating

Yaki Onigiri – I like to add a bit of wasabi to the onigiri before wrapping the nori around it and eating.

Chocolate Crinkle Cookies become cookie cups … I used 3-4 tbsp to make balls which were placed into muffin tins sprayed with cooking spray. The cookies and cups were baked together for 15-16 min at 350 deg F and then I used the bottom of a shot glass to press down the cookie in the muffin tins to make a ‘cup’. The cups were allowed to cool for 5 minutes before being removed from the muffin tins and transferred to the cooling rack to cool completely.

I’ll fill the cups and share pictures soon.

Pine Nut Brittle and a Break

I  think I’m going to take a bit of a break … not sure how long though so I’ll leave you with a quick candy recipe post. This will give anyone reading a chance to catch up on earlier posts which they may have missed (hint) and give ME a chance to come up with some ideas for what to make during my two months of summer break.

POSSIBLE projects are mostly rehashes of things I haven’t made in ages … like cannoli shells, potstickers, pastas (I’ve been meaning to try a beet puree for colouring), yaki onigiri. (I may add more ideas here as they come to me. Right now I’m too hungry to think clearly.)

I had a brittle craving a while ago, but the only nuts in the house were pine nuts from my freezer, so that’s what I went with. Not cheap to make compared to something like a peanut brittle, but OH SO GOOD.

Pine Nut Brittle

A very simple basic brittle recipe using equal amounts by weight of sugar (100 g /1/2 cup sugar, 100 gm/1 cup pine nuts, 1 tsp butter, a pinch of baking soda, a pinch of sea salt and a few finely minced fresh rosemary leaves).

I made a second batch in which I doubled the sugar and halved the nuts. It was good too and more economical on the nuts if that’s a concern. Here’s a picture of the two versions for comparison. At least I could spread out the 2nd batch of brittle more thinly on the sheet.

Meal Round-up

Breakfast of sourdough starter pancakes topped with macerated strawberries and maple syrup, eggs over easy and LOTS of bacon.

Various chicken dishes: a disappointing chicken kebab recipe which was transformed into a chicken shawarma wrap, a couple of ways to serve leftover shredded chicken mole

Leftover pea-meal bacon roast, mac and cheese and peas … all from the freezer

Potato salad with hardboiled eggs with my home made blender mayonnaise.

Fun Cooking … Roasts/Sides, Puddings, Condiments etc

As my LJ says, “Cooking is Fun … Really”.

You can make big flashy dishes like a rosemary and garlic rubbed boneless lamb shoulder roast ($4.99/lb)  …

… with roast veggies.

Or this bbq sauce glazed peameal bacon (Canadian bacon) roast  ($2.99/lb) …

… with sauteed spinach/pine nuts, baked potatoes/sliced onion and roasted asparagus.

But you can also make simple things like this rich and creamy home made blender mayonnaise without any artificial ingredients, to use in your egg, potato or tuna salads. It’s also a great base for an aioli with the addition of roasted and pureed garlic.

Or, a basic home made pudding like a classic chocolate, which I’ve posted in the past. (I’m reposting the recipe for convenience.) Spike it with rum, bourbon, whiskey or Grand Marnier or Cointreau for a grown up version.

Old Fashioned Chocolate Pudding – serves 4

2 cups milk
3-4 tbsp cornstarch
1/4 cup sugar (can increase from 1/4 to 1/3 cup if desired)
1/4 tsp salt
2 tbsp good quality cocoa
1 tsp vanilla

Scald 1 1/2 cups of milk in a heavy saucepan (look for tiny bubbles around the edge).

Mix together the cornstarch, sugar, salt and cocoa, add the remaining 1/2 cup milk, and stir until well blended.

Stir in the scalded milk and blend well. Pour the mixture back into the saucepan and stir constantly over medium heat until thickened. Let the pudding boil for one minute while stirring briskly. Remove from heat, pour into a bowl and let cool for a few minutes.

Stir in the vanilla, spoon into serving dishes.

And a butterscotch pudding variation.

Butterscotch Pudding Variation – serves 3

1 cup milk
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 tbsp cornstarch
1/8 tsp salt
1 egg yolk
1 tbsp butter, cut into cubes
1/2 tsp vanilla

Scald 3/4 cup milk.

In a saucepan, whisk together brown sugar, cornstarch, salt and egg yolk. Stir in 1/4 cup of cold milk until smooth.

Whisk in the warmed milk, very slowly. Place saucepan over medium heat and cook until thickened. Let the pudding boil for one minute while stirring briskly. Remove from heat, pour into a bowl and let cool for a few minutes.

Whisk in the butter, a cube or two at a time until melted.

Whisk in the vanilla and then spoon into serving dishes.

Even a watermelon lemonade when your seedless watermelon turns out not to be as sweet as you hoped.

And remember that spaghetti meat sauce made with leftover odds and ends like green peppers and sauteed mushrooms? I tossed it with some large pasta shells. You can dress up the dish with grated Romano cheese or down with some leftover sweet and milky home made paneer (Indian farmer’s cheese).

April Clear-out

I haven’t done much cooking in April, certainly nothing post-worthy, but I thought I’d share some of the tasty things I made.

Barbecue meal of giant hamburgers and sausages, with mac and cheese and corn side dishes, and a Mexican beer to wash it down.

Burgers (ground beef and pork) and sirloin tip steak, chicken breast basted with Jamaican barbecue sauce and Grill ’em sausages

Baked chicken drumsticks with the jerk bbq sauce, mac and cheese, onion rings and raw broccoli with ranch dressing

Oven baked pork chop and baked potato

Hot Italian sausage and broccoli over pasta

Thin crust pepperoni and mozzarella pizza

I picked up some frozen chicken cutlets and used them in several dishes including a Chicken Alfredo salad and a Mexican chicken and rice wrap with Taco Bell hot sauce.

Breakfast burrito with a pepperoni omelette, home fried potatoes, Mexican rice and avocado

Sushi – fake crab legs and avocado or cream cheese filling. I also made an attempt at a Caterpillar/Dragon roll with a garnish of spicy Mayo with flying fish caviar.

Orange curd and …

an orange loaf cake

Cheddar cheese straws and bars