Category Archives: pasta

Beef, Bean and Cheese Burritos/ Meat Lover’s Lasagna

I had a pound of lean ground beef in my freezer and, with a bountiful pantry, was torn between various possibilities. The front runners were beef burritos and a meat lasagna as I already had all the ingredients for either one. Including a batch of fresh pasta sitting in the fridge ready to be rolled out.

I decided to make small batches of both starting with a common base.

Ground Beef Base for the Two Dishes

1-2 tsp vegetable oil
1 small onion, finely diced
2-3 small cloves garlic, finely minced
1 lb/454 gm lean ground beef
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp dried oregano

In a large saute pan, fry the onions in the vegetable oil over medium heat until they become translucent and start picking up some colour on the edges. Add the garlic and continue frying for another minute or so, until the garlic is translucent as well.

Crumble the beef into the pan and fry until no longer pink, breaking up the meat into crumbles. Sprinkle the salt and dried oregano over the top of the meat, stir through and continue cooking for another few minutes.

Remove the pan from the heat, drain off the excess fat and transfer half the mixture to another container. Reserve for the meat lasagna.

Unfortunately, my home made flour tortillas weren’t large enough to fold into burritos, especially with anything else inside other than a generous tablespoon of Beef, Bean and Cheese Burrito filling, so I settled for burrito ‘wraps’.

Beef, Bean and Cheese Burritos – enough filling for 8 burritos, 4 servings at 2 burritos per servings

1/2 of the Ground Beef Base from above
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp chili powder
1/8 tsp smoked paprika
1/8 tsp Spanish paprika
1/4 cup salsa (mild, medium or hot) **
1/2 lb/ 227 gm canned re-fried beans
1/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Optional toppings or fillings
sour cream
guacamole
shredded lettuce
additional salsa
Mexican rice

8 home made sourdough flour tortillas or purchased regular 8 inch tortillas

** I had a package of taco seasoning (from a Taco Bell taco making kit) left in the freezer from the last time I made tacos so I used that instead.

To the ground beef base left in the saute pan, add the herbs and spices (cumin, chili powder, both paprikas) and stir through, cooking for a few minutes. Add the salsa and re-fried beans, mixing well, and continue cooking until the burrito mixture is warmed through. Take the pan off the heat and stir the shredded cheddar cheese through the mixture.

A picture of the ground beef base reserved for the lasagna and the finished beef, bean and cheese burrito filling.


Fill warmed tortillas with a couple of tablespoons of the burrito filling and then the other toppings or fillings.

Serve with salad.

Meat Lover’s Lasagna – enough for 3 to 4 servings

Meat Lover’s Lasagna – makes one 2.2 lb/1 kg lasagna, fills one 8 x 3 7/8 x 2 15/32 inch disposable aluminum baking pan

Meat Filling
1/2 of the Ground Beef Base from above
1/4 lb (2) hot Italian sausages, removed from casings
1/2 tsp dried basil
1/2 cup jarred tomato sauce

For Assembly
8 sheets commercial or home made pasta sheets, cooked until al dente
1/2 cup jarred tomato sauce, reserve 1/4 cup for topping
bechamel sauce (1 tbsp butter, 1 tbsp flour, 1/8 tsp ground nutmeg, salt and pepper to taste)
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
~1/3 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

In a large saute pan over medium heat, crumble the sausage meat, frying the meat until it is no longer pink. Drain off any excess fat. Add the reserved half of the ground beef base and the dried basil. Cook for several minutes. Stir in the first 1/2 cup of tomato sauce and set aside to cool.

Preheat your oven to 350 deg F.

Reserve half of the 2nd 1/2 cup of tomato sauce.

In the bottom of your baking pan, spread 1-2 tbsp of remaining tomato sauce. Lay a sheet of cooked pasta over the sauce and then spread one quarter (1/4) of the meat mixture over the pasta. Spread another 1-2 tbsp of tomato sauce over the meat. Add another pasta sheet and one third (1/3) of the bechamel on top of that. Sprinkle a generous tablespoon of the grated parmesan over the bechamel and then top with another sheet of pasta. Repeat with the meat sauce/tomato sauce, pasta, bechamel/parmesan, pasta layers until you finish with your last sheet of pasta. You’ll have used up all eight of your pasta sheets.

Tuck any excess portions of your pasta sheet down into the pan so that it doesn’t poke up. Spread your reserved 1/4 cup of tomato sauce over the pasta and sprinkle a generous handful of the grated mozzarella cheese over the tomato sauce.

Place your baking pan onto a large baking sheet, in case of over flow during cooking, and bake for 40-45 minutes in your pre-heated oven. If you like a browned top, you can turn on the broiler and brown the cheese … a BIT. Be careful. You don’t want a black cheese topping, especially after all the time you’ve invested in assembling this delicious dish.

Serve with salad.

Pasta Possibilities … Egg Noodles

ETA (07/31/2017): Picture of Mákos tészta added

Whether or not you’re on a budget, pasta is the start of many amazing dishes that don’t make you feel like you’re tight on cash.

I ended up making the usual ‘boring’ pasta dish because I had leftovers in the fridge that I wanted to use up … cooked hot Italian sausages and jarred pasta sauce from making a couple of pizzas on Saturday. And, because I’ve already made several heavy Hungarian dishes and both my two other options were also Hungarian. I hope to make them sometime in the next week and post pictures then.

These are the Hungarian noodle dishes I was GOING to make.

Mákos tészta (sweet poppy seed noodles) …

or Túrós czusza (curd cheese and bacon noodles) or Kaposztás tészta (cabbage with noodles)

Which one do you think I should make??

Instead of using dry pasta, I made fresh egg noodles with semolina … just enough for 2 servings (scaled down to use 1 egg) and am re-posting the recipe here. It’s very easy and you don’t even need a pasta machine to make them though I did for the convenience.

Fresh Semolina and Egg Pasta – 1 lb of pasta, enough for 4 servings

1 cup (170-180 gm) all-purpose flour
1 cup (200 gm) semolina flour
a pinch salt (1/8 tsp)
3 large eggs
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Sift together all-purpose flour, semolina flour, and pinch of salt. (Remove about 1/4 cup to a separate bowl and use it to knead with.)

On a clean surface, make a mound out of the flour mixture then make a deep well in center.

Break the eggs into the well and add olive oil. Whisk eggs very gently with a fork, gradually incorporating flour from the sides of the well. When mixture becomes too thick to mix with a fork, begin kneading with your hands.

Knead dough for 8 to 12 minutes, until it is smooth and supple. (To know when you’ve kneaded it enough, form the dough into a ball and cut it in half. The inside shouldn’t have pockets/holes in it but look nice and compact.)

Dust dough and work surface with semolina as needed to keep dough from becoming sticky. Wrap dough tightly in plastic and allow it to rest at room temperature for 1 hour.

Roll out the dough with a pasta machine or a rolling pin to desired thickness (<1/16th of an inch or 1 mm).

Let air dry for 10-15 min before cutting, especially with your pasta machine cutters. Cut into your favorite style of noodle or stuff with your favorite filling to make ravioli.

Bring water to a boil in a large pot, adding about a tbsp of salt.

Cook pasta until it is tender but not mushy, 1 to 8 minutes (2 1/2 minutes in this case) depending on the thickness. Drain immediately and toss with your favorite sauce.

Speaking of pizza … here’s what I made.

Happy Canada Day/ 4th of July Celebration!

Happy Canada Day!

and

Happy 4th of July!

 

I decided to combine the two celebrations, as they’re so close together, and make a nice meal for one (or two). A spatch-cocked little chicken was roasted and served with corn and spinach malfatti. Simple and tasty.

Dessert … well, I went a bit overboard there. I bought a 3 pack of fruit (2 blueberries and 1 raspberry for $5), mainly because I wanted to make blueberry muffins and came up with two fast and easy “red/white and blue” themed desserts.

French vanilla ice cream …

and

Vanilla bean panna cotta with blueberries and raspberries

Boring Friday

I’m bored again and in the mood to ramble. (Lucky you if you’re reading this.)

After a warmish week which culminated in a HOT Thursday, I woke up to rain and a much cooler Friday.

School/work is done as the last class was yesterday and the chance of getting a call during exam week is slim. Just got my VISA bill, and though expected, the hit is a bit of an ouchy due to the plumbing bill. At least now I can use the upstairs tub after a good snaking out and the downstairs tub won’t be dripping hot water … and money. It’s the last of the big bills (knock wood) til I get my 2nd set of city taxes. Still, it means I have to be very frugal until October when I would be getting my first paycheque of the new school year.

I need to go to the library and pick up a book that I’ve got on hold, but other than that, I have no reason to go out.

So, I guess I’ll do some cooking or rather, baking.

Speaking of … I’ve been scavenging through the fridge and freezer again for meals or components to go with recent purchases.

A bit under two pounds of fresh asparagus for $3.50. Enough for four servings with minimal wastage.

A tray of five boneless and skinless chicken breasts, picked up for 40% off, means I ended up with five top cutlets. One of the cutlets became an asparagus roll-up which was crumbed and baked, along with fifteen chicken tenders from the bottom of the breasts, for supper. The other four cutlets and ten of those tenders went into the freezer. Pretty good for $10. The KFC flyer has a bucket of 8 chicken tenders (ok, they’re bigger pieces) for $10. I laughed.

PS: The bread crumbs used for the cutlet and tenders were made with my own sourdough bread.

The combo pack of six pork chops for under $10 gave me two great comfort meals of pan fried pork chops, baked asparagus, mashed potatoes and pan gravy and there are four more chops for the freezer.

With a couple of scoops of vanilla ice cream, my fudgy chocolate cupcakes made for a great fast dessert.

The scraps of pasta from my ravioli became tagliatelle and were combined with beef stroganoff from the freezer. Enough for three meals. I’m glad I didn’t throw away those scraps. And, a beautiful fresh mango became a mango lassi when combined with milk, sugar and some yogurt.

I HAVE baked … a tray of sourdough cinnamon rolls, most of which are looking for a good home.

It’s been a productive week in spite of not working at all.

Spinach Malfatti or “Poorly Made” Spinach Dumplings

Sometimes you run across the most interestingly named dishes while browsing through cookbooks or surfing the internet. Malfatti, or “poorly made”, refer to a type of rolled spinach and cheese dumpling, and like the cookies brutti ma buoni or “ugly but good”, also from the Italian, the result is much tastier than the name would suggest.

Although they’re commonly served with a browned butter and fresh sage sauce, I’ve also found a version served with a marinara sauce and one with halved and sauteed grape tomatoes.

The dish is tasty but also an example of frugality … stretching a bit of cheese, spinach from the garden, and leftover bread in the form of bread crumbs, into a tasty and filling meatless dish.

Spinach Malfatti – I forgot to add the lemon zest to the dumpling mixture so I sprinkled it over the cooked dumplings instead. It was still tasty.

Regional naming variations:
ravioli nudi or gnudi (naked ravioli), gnocchi or ravioli verdi (green dumplings or ravioli), gnocchi di ricotta e spinaci (ricotta and spinach dumplings), strozzapreti (priest stranglers)

Spinach Malfatti (‘Poorly Made’ Dumplings) – serves 4

1 pound of fresh spinach (or a 10 oz/300 gm package of frozen spinach)
1/2 pound (8 oz, 225 gm) ricotta
1 cup breadcrumbs
1 tsp grated nutmeg
1/2 cup Grana Padano cheese (or Parmigiano-Reggiano)
2 eggs, slightly beaten
zest of one lemon, lemon reserved for sauce
flour for rolling the malfatti (all purpose or tipo “00”)

Sage Butter Sauce

1/2 cup (1 stick, 4 oz, 113 gm) unsalted butter
2 tbsp fresh sage, whole, torn or chopped as preferred and depending on the size of your sage leaves
1/4 cup cooking water from the dumplings
lemon, reserved for juice

Blanch the spinach in boiling water and then finely chop. Remove all the excess water out of the spinach by squeezing it really well in a dishtowel. (For convenience, a thawed 10 oz/300 gm package of chopped frozen spinach that has been squeezed dry may be used.)

Combine the spinach with ricotta, breadcrumbs, grated nutmeg, lemon zest, grated Grana Padano cheese, and eggs.

Flour your work surface, and divide the dough into 4 pieces. Roll each piece into a log, about an inch thick. Cut each log into dumplings about an inch wide. Toss the dumplings with a bit of flour if you’re not going to cook them right away.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a gentle boil then add the dumplings and cook until they float to the top, about 3 to 4 minutes. Before you drain them, reserve 1/4 cup of the cooking water.

The bar shaped dumplings are most often called ‘malfatti’ while the round ones are what seem to be called ‘gnudi’

Making the sage-butter sauce

Melt the butter in a saute pan over medium heat. Add fresh sage, and cook until the butter just begins to brown. Then whisk in about 1/4 cup of the pasta cooking water, gradually, so it emulsifies with the butter. Add your drained dumplings to the butter and shake the pan gently to coat.

Just before you serve the dumplings, squeeze some lemon juice over them and grate a little more grana padano cheese over the top.

Sweet Potato and Ricotta Ravioli with Prosciutto and Pea Sauce

I haven’t made ravioli from scratch in a while but after picking up a pound of ricotta cheese from the local Italian grocery store and with a medium sized sweet potato sitting on the counter in the kitchen, I had my inspiration. An economy ($2.31 for ~3.5 oz) package of prosciutto ends and a cup of frozen peas made for a tasty sauce.

Word to the wise … don’t start rolling out pasta late in the day when your kitchen is hot and you’re cranky and tired. Cause you end up rolling the pasta too thin, and then forget to cover it so it dries out. And trying to turn your thin drying pasta into sacchettini (little purses) when the tortellini shaping isn’t working out. Well, it’s not pretty. I ended up with some misshapen sacchettini and free-form square ravioli which I froze for bagging. Then I dropped the package. Cooked them anyway and covered them with the sauce and grated cheese and ate them anyway in protest.

Broken free-form ravioli covered with sauce and grated Parmigiano-Reggiano – It was delicious.

I made a couple dozen ravioli in my molds with the last of the filling, boiled them up, as well as the sacchettini, tossed them with the sauce and then froze them away for work lunch and two future meals.

RECIPE … well, here’s a list of ingredients, anyway

Pasta – 1 cup all purpose flour, 1 cup semolina flour, 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, 1/4 tsp salt and 3 large eggs make 1 lb of pasta, enough for 4 people

Filling – 1 cup cooled mashed sweet potato, 1/2 cup ricotta cheese, 1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, 1 tsp dry minced onion, 1 large egg, 1/4 tsp dried thyme, pinch or two dried garlic powder, salt (1/4 tsp) and ground black pepper (1/8 tsp) to taste. Enough for about 4 dozen ravioli at 1 tsp filling for each.

Sauce – 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, 3-4 oz prosciutto, thinly sliced and cut into strips, 1 cup fresh or frozen peas, thawed

Prosciutto and pea sauce combined with the broken ravioli … pretty all on its own.

I have the trimmings of the pasta in the fridge and may make plain noodles later today. Or maybe not.

PS: Ended up with 200 gm of tagliatelle noodles.

I made some duck fat brioche dough and turned it into hamburger buns and hoagies earlier that morning for a planned bbq the next day. Watch for pictures.

Quinoa Goes South of the Border

Cooking for one is a challenge.

On the plus side, you don’t have to cook as often. So the preparation and cooking time for one dish (which will give you six to eight meals) is reduced overall. On the negative side, especially with new dishes, what happens if you don’t LIKE the result? You end up having to eat it for six to eight meals. And some things don’t freeze well. If you’re smart, you halve the recipe to make that particular dish. But then, you often end up with half cans of sauces, beans, veggies etc that are needed for the dish.

Another negative is that you sometimes end up having to buy pre-packaged perishable foods for the dish you’re making that you don’t always use up before they go bad.

This past weekend I brought home a lot of pantry items. Some of them were intended for dishes in which the remaining quinoa in my pantry would be used. And then, I ran across a 900 gm package of white quinoa which was reduced to about 45% of its regular price. So I bought the bag planning to save the pricier tri-colour quinoa for dishes where appearance mattered. Luckily, such items have a long shelf life. But I ALSO bought a hard taco kit cause I have had a Tex-Mex craving for a while. And my Cinco de Mayo meal was just … sad. And it was on sale. 🙂

I DID have to buy some ground beef to put in the tacos, though, because I didn’t have any in my freezer. And old cheddar cheese because I was low on that too. Luckily the cheese was a dollar off.

(The JOYS of grocery shopping.)

Anyway, at this point, I had decided on a Tex-Mex menu for the weekend.

To spare you further headaches of the mental gymnastics I went through, my Sunday cooking ended up being beef tacos, a quinoa enchilada casserole and some mac and cheese (leftover pasta shells) as a side to one of my future weekday meals.

Quinoa Enchilada Casserole – serves 4

2 cups cooked quinoa (1/2 cup rinsed and drained quinoa, 1 cup chicken stock and 1/2 tsp salt, though you can use vegetable stock)
1/2 cup fresh or frozen and thawed corn
1/2 cup black beans (if canned, drained and rinsed well)
1/2 jalapeno pepper, seeded and diced finely
1/2 cup grated old cheddar cheese or Mexican cheese blend

Enchilada sauce

1 clove garlic, smashed and sauteed over medium heat in 1 tsp vegetable oil til golden, discard garlic retaining the seasoned oil
1/2 cup tomato sauce
1/2 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp salt and 1/8 tsp pepper
1 tbsp chipotle in adobo
1-2 tbsp water, as needed

Topping

1/2 cup grated old cheddar cheese or Mexican cheese blend

Garnish

1-2 diced Haas avocados
1/4 cup green onions thinly sliced on diagonal

Preheat oven to 350 deg Fahrenheit.

Lightly oil a medium sized casserole or other baking dish.

In a large sauce pan, combine the seasoned oil, tomato sauce, cumin, salt and pepper, chipotle and 1 tbsp water. Bring to a boil and simmer for 3-4 minutes. Add additional water if sauce is too thick.

Combine the quinoa, corn, black beans, jalapeno pepper and cheese in a medium sized bowl. Turn out into prepared baking dish and press down lightly.

Spoon the enchilada sauce over the top. Sprinkle the 2nd amount of cheese over the top.

Cover tightly with a sheet of aluminum foil, or the lid if using a casserole dish.

Bake for 20-25 minutes.

Let stand for 5-10 minutes and serve, garnishing each individual portion with diced avocado and green onion.

Expect to see more quinoa recipes … soon.

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.