Tag 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.

Repeated … Asian Themed Dishes

I’ve been craving sushi again … and you know what THAT means.

I make a bunch of my favourite Chinese and Japanese dishes, take pictures of them and share them with you all.

Okonomiyaki (Japanese cabbage pancake) – I diced some fake crab legs (surimi) and added it to the pancake mixture. The cooked strips of bacon are added to the top of the pancake before it’s flipped over and the top is cooked. I’m wrapping the two I made and freezing them away for future meals.

Szechuan shrimp and broccoli over longevity lo mein noodles – 3/4 of a pound of white Pacific shrimp in a spicy sweet and sour type sauce. I bought a bundle of broccoli cheap (88 cents). It was most mostly stem and very little florette so I threw in all the florettes and froze some of the stem for vegetable stock.

Sticky Asian drumsticks

Sushi hand rolls (temaki sushi) – A shiso (perilla) leaf gives these hand rolls a great fresh flavour. And they’re so inexpensive. Cook up a cup of sushi rice and you have enough rice for 8-10 hand rolls.

All you need is a drizzle of soy sauce before devouring these beauties.

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.

Chicken and Broccoli Stir Fry with Noodles

Broccoli is a great price these days, so I bought a bundle and paired it with chicken for a Chinese stir fry with noodles.

I winged this dish so writing up the recipe below was as accurate as I could make it, a few hours after the fact. If anything doesn’t make sense, please let me know.

Chicken and Broccoli Stir Fry with Noodles – serves 2-3

200 gm dry spaghetti, cooked according to package directions

1 large chicken breast, skinless and boneless
3 tbsp soy sauce, divided
1 tbsp and 1 tsp cornstarch, divided
1 tbsp hoisin sauce
1 tbsp mirin
1 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp ground white pepper
1 tsp rice wine vinegar
1 tsp toasted sesame oil
1 inch fresh ginger, peeled and finely minced
1 clove garlic, finely minced (may be replaced with 1/4 tsp dry garlic)
1/4 tsp dried red pepper flakes
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1-2 stalks green onion, finely sliced
1 stalk broccoli, cut into 2-2 1/2 inch long florettes, peeled stalk cut into 1/4 inch thick planks about the same length
1/2 tsp salt
water as needed

Cut the chicken breast into 1/2 inch slices and dice into 1 inch cubes.

In a bowl, add diced chicken, 2 tbsp soy sauce, 1 tsp cornstarch, hoisin, mirin, sugar, rice wine vinegar, sesame oil, half the ginger and half the garlic, white pepper and the white part of the green onion. Mix together and refrigerate overnight or for about 15-20 minutes at room temperature.

Cook pasta, drain and keep warm.

In a large saute pan, heat vegetable oil over medium high heat, add the remaining ginger, garlic and red pepper flakes, broccoli and salt and saute for a few minutes. Add 1/4 cup water, cover and steam for 2 minutes until broccoli is still green and slightly crunchy. Transfer the broccoli, ginger and garlic to a bowl and reserve.

Drain the marinaded chicken and reserve the liquid. Add the drained chicken to the hot saute pan and saute for a few minutes until it’s no longer pink. Stir often so the chicken doesn’t stick.

In a small bowl, mix the remaining tablespoon of cornstarch with 1/4 cup of water and reserve.

Reduce the heat to medium and add the reserved marinade, the remaining tablespoon of soy sauce, the broccoli and the cornstarch mixture above. Stir through and cook until the sauce thickens and coats the meat and broccoli.

Add the hot, drained noodles and the green part of the onion and stir through to coat the noodles.

Taste for salt level. If needed, add some soy sauce and serve.

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.

Hot and Cooking Boring Stuff

No recipes … just lots of pictures. If you want recipes for something, let me know.

It’s been really warm and humid, and the A/C is labouring to deal with it all,  so I have been doing minimal cooking.

In fact, I bought a giant (28 piece) cheese and pepperoni shreds pizza and have been eating 2-4 pieces for lunch or dinner over the last week, while playing with some aspect of tried and true recipes.

Like trying a substitute for chicken stock in the form of a jar of “Better than Bouillon low sodium organic chicken base” and then using it to make egg drop/flower soup. The pinch of turmeric didn’t make the soup appreciably more ‘yellow’ than my usual recipe even though it’s supposedly a Chinese restaurant trick.

And then there was the boneless chicken breast that I sliced in half horizontally, pounded thin, and panko-breaded. I ended up with a cutlet and some chicken fingers which I baked. The twist was combining the egg/flour breading steps into a batter flavoured with mayo and mustard. The end result was super crunchy.

Chicken Finger/Cutlet Batter

1 egg
1 tbsp mayonnaise
1 1/2 tbsp dijon mustard (or any other mustard of choice)
2 tbsp flour
1/2 tsp salt
Black pepper

Place the Batter ingredients in a bowl and whisk with a fork until combined.

I pounded a boneless pork chop thin and treated it in the same manner.

I also made a batch of crepes (must remember to re-season my cast iron frying pan cause there’s a sticky spot), a dozen cream puffs and a half recipe of pastry cream. Instead of baking the cream puffs at the usual temperature (350 deg F) I tried the high/low combo that the classic recipe calls for. They looked great but about half the tray fell and I can’t account for it.

NEON PASTA ALERT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

And, finally, I attempted the classic Italian pasta dish egg-yolk ravioli (Uova da Raviolo). I used beet pasta from the freezer, cause I didn’t want to bother making a fresh batch of plain pasta dough. I rolled the dough a bit too thin and, while I was cooking the ravioli, the fragile pasta tore open. I managed to salvage the 2 ravioli (that’s all I made) and, after dressing them up with a browned butter-bacon-sage sauce, ate a delicious dish with a perfectly cooked egg yolk.

The effort is worth the fuss. I used the rest of the ricotta-Grana Padano cheese filling to make some regular ravioli which I froze away.

I kneaded a bit more flour into the pasta from the trimmings used above for these ravioli giving me a paler colour.

All in all, it’s been a fun week. 🙂

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.