Italian Pasta and Bean Soup (Pasta E Fagioli)

This delicious Italian soup is filling and usually inexpensive to cook up. The name says it all … “pasta and beans”. I used a copycat Olive Garden recipe that I found on line many years ago, and adjusted the recipe for ingredients and amounts that I liked and had available. I’ve re-posted the recipe below.

I was being stingy with the amount of cannellini (aka white kidney) beans I used in this soup, since they’re pretty pricey at my local Italian grocery store, but you can’t beat the delicious, creamy texture of the beans once cooked. I added about a third of a pound of light red kidney beans, that I already had in my pantry, to make up the difference. Unfortunately, they took longer to cook than the cannellini so the latter were pretty much falling apart at that point.

Oh well.

And then there’s the pasta. I used just a very small amount of tubetti which I cooked separately, just until they were “al dente” or with a bit of texture left, and then added them to the soup for the last five minutes or so to finish cooking.

You can add meat or leave it out. I had about two thirds of a pound of ground beef which, added to two/two and a half cups of cooked beans, was plenty.

Olive Garden’s Pasta e Fagioli – makes ~4 quarts/16 cups, quantities of ingredients don’t need to be exact

1/2-1 tbsp vegetable oil, depending on how fatty your beef is
454 gm/ 1 lb lean ground beef
6 oz/ 1 cup onion, small dice
7 oz/ 1 cup celery, small dice
7 oz/ 1 cup carrots, small dice
24 oz/3 cups canned tomatoes, diced
1 cup cooked red kidney beans*
1 cup cooked white kidney beans*
5 cups beef stock (or chicken or vegetable stock or water)
1/2 tbsp dried oregano
1 1/4 teaspoons ground black pepper
salt as needed, start with 1/2 tsp
2 1/2 tsp chopped parsley (or 1 tsp dried parsley)
3/4 tsp Tabasco sauce
24 oz/ 3 cups spaghetti sauce
4 oz/ 1/2 cup/113 gm small shell macaroni (or any other small pasta)

*  Or use 2 cups of whatever type of cooked beans you like

Saute ground beef in oil over medium/medium-high heat, in a large 5 qt pot until the beef starts to brown. Add the onions, carrots, celery, and saute for 5-7 minutes just until the onions get translucent and start to pick up some colour.

Drain and rinse the beans, if using canned, and add to the pot. Also add beef stock, oregano, pepper, Tabasco, spaghetti sauce, canned tomatoes and pasta. Taste and add salt as desired.

Add the chopped parsley and simmer until the celery and carrots are tender, about 25-30 minutes.

NOTE: Make sure to stir all the way to the bottom at least every 7-10 minutes as the ingredients, especially the beef, settle and may stick and burn. I threw in some frozen corn for the last 5 minutes for added colour. If the soup seems too thick before serving, add a bit of water. You may garnish the soup with some grated Parmesan cheese.

Other vegetable add-ins you can include: cubed zucchini, fresh, torn spinach, and frozen green peas.

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Easy Japanese Dishes Pt. 2 – Japanese Mixed Rice (Takikomi Gohan)

This Japanese mixed rice dish was inspired by a recipe posted on TabiEats. I had to make several changes since I didn’t have either the burdock root or any of the mushrooms they used. I transcribed the instructions from the video and rewrote them to make reproducing the recipe as simple as possible.

Japanese Mixed Rice (Takikomi Gohan) – serves 2

1 cup uncooked Japanese rice, washed and soaked in water for 30 minutes
1 cup cold water

Rice Seasonings

2 tbsp soy sauce
1/2 tbsp sake
1 tsp instant dashi powder

Rice add-ins/Toppings

1 1/2 inch piece carrot, cut into thin planks and halved
2 large white mushrooms, cleaned, cut in half and sliced thinly
1 large broccoli florette, cut into smaller pieces
nametake, to taste (I used about 2 tbsp, see recipe below)
40-80 gm firm tofu, drained and cubed

Other options for toppings

40 gm boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into bite sized pieces
40 gm beef, thinly sliced
canned tuna, drained
konnyaku/konjac, sliced and cubed
bamboo shoots, sliced and julienned
water chestnuts, sliced and jullienned
peas, edamame or french beans
sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed

In a medium sized sauce pan, add the washed, drained rice and the soy sauce, sake and instant dashi powder. Stir well.

Top the rice with vegetables and other toppings. Do not stir.

Bring the water to a boil, cover turn the heat down to medium and cook for 2 min. Turn the heat down to low and cook for an additional 10 minutes. Turn the heat off, remove the pan from the heat and let the rice and veggies steam for another 5-10 minutes. With a sushi rice paddle or large spoon fold to mix the toppings into the rice.

Serve with a piece of grilled fish, a bowl of soup and some pickled vegetables. Make onigiri with leftover mixed rice.

Nametake is a condiment of cooked, seasoned enoki mushrooms. It may be added to soups, rice or noodles as a topping. There are more elaborate recipes or preparations for making your own, but the one below is fast and tasty.

Nametake – makes about 1 cup

7 oz/200 gm enoki mushroom, cleaned
3 tbsp mirin
3 tbsp soy sauce

Preparation of the enoki mushrooms

Trim off the brown ‘root’ end of the package of enoki mushrooms. There’s about an inch/an inch and a quarter of edible mushroom between the trimmed off portion and the white stalk portion of the enoki mushrooms that may be cut off and reserved, as it’s still edible. I’ll show you what you can do with it in the next post on this theme.

Cut the enoki mushrooms in two lengthwise, about 2 inches long (note: I forgot to do this but didn’t find it was an issue) and break up into smaller pieces. Rinse if needed and drain well.

Add the mushrooms to a saucepan along with the soy sauce and mirin. Bring to a simmer and cook for about 5-7 minutes until the mushrooms have picked up some of the colour of the soy sauce.

Transfer to a small jar and refrigerate. Use within a week or two.

Easy Japanese Dishes Pt. 1 – Easy Cheeseburger Ramen

For anyone wishing to try Japanese dishes, yet not fond of sushi, the recipe below is simple and requires few specialized ingredients. It is the first of two or three posts I will be making on this theme.

Dried ramen noodle soup packages may be used for more than just cheap university food. I found the recipe for this Cheeseburger ramen on the TabiEats YouTube channel. I made a couple of changes to their recipe, such as cutting the lettuce (romaine) into three-quarter inch strips, to make eating the lettuce easier. I also reduced the amount of the dried seasoning package used to 1/8-1/4 tsp. Using the full package is just excessive as no one needs that much salt and/or MSG in their diets.

Easy Cheeseburger Ramen – serves 1

3 lettuce leaves, iceberg or romaine, cut into 3/4 inch strips
2 slices cheddar cheese, sliced about 1/2 inch wide
150 gm ground meat (beef and pork mixture)
1 tsp vegetable oil, for frying the burger patty
1 pkg ramen noodles
small pickle, thinly sliced for garnish (optional)
ketchup and mustard, garnish

Add the sliced lettuce strips to a serving plate and reserve.

Shape the ground meat into a 3-4 inch diameter patty. Add the vegetable oil to the frying pan and cook the patty over medium heat for 2-3 min on the first side. Turn the patty over and cook on the second side until no longer pink inside. Break the patty into six to eight pieces or wedges after a minute or so. It helps to cook the meat more quickly and you’ll be able to tell when the meat is done.

Bring 4 cup of water to the boil in a medium sized cooking pot. Cook the the ramen noodles as per package instructions. Set aside the seasoning package. Reduce the cooking time as you’ll be cooking the noodles further with the meat.

Drain the ramen noodles and add to the frying pan. Reduce the heat to medium-low. Toss the noodles with the meat to coat with the meat juices. Scatter the sliced cheese over the top and toss gently. Sprinkle about 1/8 tsp of the ramen seasoning packet contents over the noodles and meat. Mix well and taste. Add an additional 1/8 tsp if needed.

Turn the noodles and meat out over the lettuce lined plate.

Add the pickle slices over the top, if used. Garnish with ketchup and mustard and serve.

Note: You can make your own version of this dish using the pasta of your choice. Season with salt and pepper or Maggi seasoning sauce or bouillon/dry soup mix.

Orange Curd Sponge/Swiss Roll

I haven’t made a sponge or Swiss roll in ages but was recently inspired to recreate the lemon curd roll I saw posted on one of my FB groups.

I dug out the wonky old baking sheet that’s the perfect size for the recipe I wanted to use and the result, with minimal effort since I already had some home made orange curd in the fridge, was delicious. It’s actually easier to make this cake than you’d suspect.

From left to right: ready to combine the beaten egg whites with the egg yolk/flour mixture, the greased, parchment paper lined, greased and floured baking sheet and the cake, ready to bake.

After baking – the top of the cake, the bottom, and the rolled up cooled cake ready for filling.

Ready to re-roll and sprinkled with icing sugar before cutting.

Inside of the sponge roll … nice and light and fluffy

Here are some pictures of my previous efforts at a vanilla roll filled with sweetened whipped cream, cherry jam and drained, jarred sour cherries …

… and a cocoa roll filled with chocolate buttercream.

Okinawan Taco Rice (Tako Raisu)

Sadly, I’ve never been to Japan, so my only exposure to Japanese cuisine has been through television programs, cookbooks and, more recently, YouTube videos.

I first ran across this Tex-Mex/Japanese fusion dish originating in Okinawa on the channel TabiEats and copied the recipe from there.

It’s a simple idea … a basic taco meat recipe, with the addition of some soy sauce to give it that Japanese touch. Instead of being served in a soft or crunchy taco shell, the meat is served over a cup of steamed rice. You can use short grain sushi rice or long grain, like the basmati rice that I accidentally pulled out of the fridge.

Okinawan Taco Rice (Tako Raisu)

Mise en place: Lean ground beef, onion, garlic, cumin, chili powder, soy sauce, tomato paste, cooked rice, salsa and salt (not pictured). Avocado and firm tofu are for the variations.

Rice and taco meat ready to be garnished

Variations

1. Taconari – Inari sushi tofu pockets filled with a combination of sushi rice and the taco meat (or the tofu option below)

 

2. Tofu taco rice – Crumbled firm tofu replaces the ground meat (beef, beef and pork, chicken or turkey) in the taco meat recipe and is combined with the sushi rice … may be eaten stuffed in inari pouches or in endive cups.

 

3. Avocado Taco – Avocado half, center scooped out and filled with the taco meat before being garnished with your favourite taco toppings

   

 

For One Pasta Duo

The website where I found the ‘for one’ cake recipes also has savoury dishes. Especially pasta dishes.

Like this Ham and Pea Alfredo for One … I made it with linguine

I improvised this Turkey Cutlet Parmigiana with a quick and easy marinara sauce and one of the cutlets from my freezer.

Turkey Cutlet Parmigiana for One

Turkey Cutlet Parmigiana for One

1 turkey cutlet
1/4 cup grated Mozzarella cheese
100 gm dry pasta, cooked according to package directions

Quick Marinara Sauce for One – enough to dress about 100 gm dried pasta

1 cup canned, diced tomatoes, with juice
1/2 tbsp butter or margarine
1/4-1/2 cup water, as needed
1/8 tsp minced onion
1/8 tsp dried oregano
pinch of garlic powder
salt to taste
fresh oregano (sprig) and 2-3 fresh basil leaves, torn (optional)
sugar, as needed

In a large saute pan, combine the tomatoes, butter, 1/4 cup water, onion, oregano and garlic. Bring to the boil, turn down to a simmer, cover the pan, and simmer for 10 minutes. Puree the tomato sauce.

Add the fresh herbs and a pinch or two of salt. Add more water if needed. Cover and simmer for another 10 minutes. taste and add sugar and salt, as needed.

Add the cooked pasta and toss in the sauce.

Push the pasta to one side of the pan. Add the turkey cutlet, sprinkle the mozzarella cheese on top and put the lid on the pan. When the cutlet has warmed through and the cheese has melted, transfer to a serving plate. Garnish with fresh herbs.

The Economical Frozen Turkey

PICTURE HEAVY: I totally forgot to post this until today. The turkey was thawed and cooked more than a month ago.

I finally got around to cooking one of the two turkeys in my freezer. Since it was bought frozen ($12 CDN for 12 lbs), it was thawed, broken down and cooked so that the results could be refrozen to extend their use and so that I wouldn’t be eating turkey for ten days straight. It was a lot of work over several days but the results were worth it, I think.

The traditional turkey plate – Roasted turkey breast, mashed potatoes with home made gravy, home made cranberry sauce and salad with sun-dried tomato dressing (by Kraft)

The Details

1. Breasts (boned out)
– one of the breast and the two tenderloins were cut into 11 cutlets
– the second breast was seasoned with salt and pepper, drizzled with olive oil and roasted

Turkey cutlets


Roasted boneless turkey breast

2. Wings (barring the tips) separated into two, drumsticks
– marinated overnight in VHS honey garlic marinade and roasted

3. Thighs (boned out)
– ground up with trimmings from the turkey carcasse to produce 6 x ~95 gm patties

Turkey patty served on home made enriched buns

4. Carcass, along with the turkey neck and the heart
– turned into 22 cups of stock and ~400gm picked meat, 4 cups and about 100gm of the meat, plus the heart, were used for matzoh ball soup

5. Liver
– sliced, sauteed in butter and served on sourdough bread

Happy Valentine’s Day 2019

I decided to splurge on a pretty pink St. Valentine’s Day cake to brighten up an otherwise ho-hum occasion.

As you can tell, my cake decorating skills are at the novice level. (Is there something below that?) The cake was tasty though … I ate a third of it to confirm that fact.

Profile of the Pink Cherry Cake

Pink Cherry Cake – makes 2 mini cakes baked in 1 cup ramekins

Basic Vanilla Cake for Two recipe
pink gel food colouring
1 tsp Kirsch, substituted for the vanilla extract
2 tbsp finely minced red glace cherries, stirred into batter just before pouring into ramekins

Glace Cherry Cream Cheese Frosting – enough to frost 2 mini cakes including filling

2 oz/57 gm gm cream cheese, room temperature
1 oz/28 gm unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup powdered sugar
1 tbsp Kirsch

Using an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese and butter in a small bowl until smooth. Add the Kirsch and beat in briefly. Beat in the powdered sugar.

Spread/pipe the frosting over the cake.

Vanilla Cake for One (Review) and a Variation

Sadly, you can’t just omit the cocoa powder in the previous ‘chocolate cake for one’ recipe and get a vanilla version, because the chemistry of the leavener doesn’t work, so I went net surfing for a real vanilla cake recipe.

My answer was found in a ‘vanilla cupcake for two’ recipe baked in a cupcake/muffin pan … so I buttered a couple of ramekins instead. Because a CUPcake is NOT a cake. I had some sticking in the very center of the mini cakes so on my second attempt, an orange flavoured variation, I buttered the ramekins and lined the bottom with a circle of parchment paper, cut to size, which solved the problem.

Frosting a cake at midnight does not result in the most photogenic of images but I had to snap a picture before going to bed.

Crumb/profile of the vanilla cake … yes, there’s some orange zest in the vanilla buttercream frosting in case you spotted that fleck of orange.

REVIEW: Very tasty cake. Fast and easy to assemble. Of course you can frost each ‘cake’ individually but the two layer version just has a lot more visual appeal. For a quick and easy frosting, slightly sweetened whipped cream would work.

Of course I had to take the plain vanilla cake to the next level by adding 1 tsp of orange zest and substituting orange extract for half of the vanilla extract, in the next version I made.

I also decided to switch to a less sweet filling/frosting since the vanilla buttercream that I had used, from the same web site as the chocolate cake, was just too sweet. My ideas evolved from a cream cheese/butter/icing sugar version to one that reduced the amount of sugar and substituted it with home made curd. Since I had made an orange flavoured cake, I made a batch of orange curd to enhance the orange taste. I scaled down a frosting recipe that I found here.

I used less curd than I had originally calculated but I still think the frosting was too soft, even after half an hour in the fridge, so I’d cut back even more on future attempts.

I’d also use the frosting for a filling, in the future, because the orange curd oozed out while cutting into the cake. Hopefully the frosting as filling will stand up to serving better. I’m a firm believer in not skimping on the amount of frosting used but I think the amount I made is enough to fill and frost two mini two layer cakes.

Crumb/profile of the orange cake

Orange Curd Frosting – enough to frost 2 mini cakes including filling

2 oz/57 gm gm cream cheese, room temperature
1 oz/28 gm unsalted butter, room temperature
1/3 cup powdered sugar
1-2 tbsp orange curd *

* Start with the smaller amount and decide whether you’ll need another 1/2 tbsp. You probably won’t need the full amount

Using an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese and butter in a small bowl until smooth. Beat in the powdered sugar, then the orange curd.

Spread the frosting over the cake.

NOTE: The original recipe says the cake may be frosted a day before serving and covered with a cake dome and refrigerated so it doesn’t dry out.

Coffee Cake for One (Review) and a Variation

After having LOVED the chocolate cake (for one) recipe found on the same site, I thought I’d give the coffee cake for one a try as well.

It’s another winner.

I WOULD cut back on the topping though since half the amount is plenty. The excess just fell off when I turned out the cake to transfer it to a serving plate. Perhaps if I’d drizzled some melted butter over the top, as the post suggests doing, it would have “glued down” the cinnamon sugar topping.

REVIEW: The cake itself is tender and tastes just sweet enough for my taste. I used the same one cup ramekin as I had used for the chocolate cake and thought that the resulting coffee cake was a bit thin.

So, I opened a can of tuna (made a tuna salad sandwich with the tuna inside), peeled off the label and washed it out carefully. I added some home made cranberry sauce in this variation. The revised baking instructions/topping are posted below.

Cranberry Coffee Cake for One

Cranberry Coffee Cake for One

Cranberry filling

1-2 tsp cranberry sauce, home made preferred

Topping

1 tbsp melted unsalted butter
1-2 tsp rolled oats
1-2 tsp brown sugar
pinch ground cinnamon

Make the coffee cake batter as in the original recipe.

Spoon 2/3 of the batter into the prepared baking dish. Using a very small spoon place small amounts of cranberry sauce over the batter. Spread it out a bit. Spoon small amounts of the rest of the coffee cake batter over the cranberry sauce.

In a separate container, combine the brown sugar, rolled oats, ground cinnamon and melted butter. Spoon over the top of the coffee cake batter.

Bake for 15-18 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

The top of the coffee cake could have been a bit darker but the bottom was nicely browned.

There was a bit more height compared to the coffee cake baked in the ramekin, as well.