Sunday, March 22, 2015

Pasta Puttanesca

We don't eat a lot of pasta, but lately I've been craving a lighter pasta dish.  Generally, I love marinara and bolognese sauces, but don't really dig putting them on pasta - I'd rather put them over some spaghetti squash.  This time, I felt like pasta, but didn't want one of those heavy sauces, so I did my own version of Puttanesca.  It's mostly traditional, but a little of my own preferences thrown in there.  Came out really delicious.  When I minced together the garlic, anchovies, sun dried tomatoes and olives, it looked like a tapenade of the Gods!  I just wanted to spread it on some garlic toast!  Admittedly, I was spooning some of it onto the tomato halves, sprinkling some basil on top, and munching them that way as I was cutting them in half, heheh.  The dish was really quick and easy to make!

I was reminded the other day that I hadn't used anything from Rancid's new album with one of our recipes.  So here is another Rancid Recipe - the title track, "Honor Is All We Know".  -jen


PASTA PUTTANESCA
Prep Time:  10 minutes
Cook Time: 10-15 mimuntes
Difficulty:  Very easy
Serves:  4-6, depending on serving size
  • 6 large garlic cloves
  • 6 anchovy filets (I'm inclined to use the whole 2oz can)
  • 1/4 cup sun dried tomatoes, diced
  • 1/2 cup pitted kalamata olives (or green, or black, or D-all of the above)
  • 12oz dried pasta (your choice: spaghetti, bow tie, rotini)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4-5 large scallions, diced (about 1/2 a cup)
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes 
  • 3/4 cup dry white wine (or chicken broth)
  • 1 pint grape tomatoes, halved
  • 2 tablespoons capers, rinsed
  • 1/4 cup pasta water
  • juice and zest of 1 lemon
  • 1/4 cup basil, chopped or julienned
  • 4oz Romano cheese, crumbled
Bring large stock pot of salted water to a boil while preparing the following steps.

Mince together garlic, anchovies, and sun dried tomatoes.  Roughtly chop the kalamata olives right into the minced mix.  Set aside.

Add pasta to boiling water, bring back to a boil, and then turn down to a low boil, cooking 6-8 minutes until al dente (still slightly under-cooked.  Pasta will cook more in skillet.)  Drain and reserve 1/4 cup of pasta water.

Heat oil over medium-high heat in a large, deep skillet.  Saute scallions and red pepper flakes for 1 minute.  Add white wine and simmer for 2-3 minutes, until wine has cooked down by half.  Add grape tomatoes and cook for 2 minutes.  Add the minced garlic, anchovies, sun dried tomatoes, olives and the rinsed capers.  Cook for 2 more minutes or until sauce is reduced and thickened. 

Add pasta to skillet mixture with 1/4 cup pasta water.  Cook another 1-2 minutes (sauce will mostly absorb into pasta).  Remove from heat and toss with lemon juice and zest, basil, (a dash more of wine, if you like,) and crumbled Romano.  Add salt and pepper to taste (careful with the salt since the olives, capers and cheese will add a lot of salt).  Serve immediately while hot, however, it is quite tasty left over cold, straight out of the fridge.


Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Buttermilk Pumpkin and Oat Muffins

I don't have anything to intro with.  I had pumpkin puree in the freezer from last fall when we got a ton of sugar pumpkins from a friend.  I knew I'd be home today.  I felt like making muffins.  They were awesome.  There's not much else to say.

It's St. Patrick's Day... and there's really nothing Irish about these muffins.  I mean, I'm sure they have pumpkins and muffins in Ireland, so they could be Irish.  But that wasn't really my intention or anything.  I'm just going to use it as an excuse for an Irish tune.  Justin had Dropkick Murphys' "Good Rats" on today, so that's what I'm using.  -jen


BUTTERMILK PUMPKIN AND OAT MUFFINS
Prep Time:  20 minutes
Cook Time:  22-25 minutes
Makes:  12 muffins

Topping:
  • 1/4 cup old fashioned oats, uncooked
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon butter, melted
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
Muffins:
  • 1.5 cups flour
  • 1 cup old fashioned oats, uncooked
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup pecans
  • 1/2 cup raisins or cranberries
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • zest of 1 orange (about 2 teaspoons)
  • 1 cup unsweetened pumpkin puree
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.  Line 12-cup muffin tin with paper cups.

In a small bowl, combine all topping ingredients, mix and set aside.

In a large bowl, combine flour, oats, brown sugar, pecans, raisins, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger,  baking soda, salt and orange zest.  Mix to combine.

In a medium bowl, whisk together pumpkin puree, buttermilk, vegetable oil, egg and vanilla.  Pour wet ingredients into dry ingredients and fold together just until dry ingredients are moist.  (Do not over-mix.)

Spoon evenly into paper cups.  Sprinkle with topping and bake for 22-25 minutes, until golden brown and a knife inserted in the middle comes out clean.  Let cool for 5 minutes. 


Monday, March 9, 2015

Cauliflower "Couscous" Salad

This recipe is vegan/vegetarian, gluten-free, and low-carb!  Oh yeah, and it tastes amazing.  We try to eat low-carb most of the time and jumping on the cauliflower bandwagon the other day, I was making some pizza crust out of cauliflower, cheese and eggs.  I was supposed to "rice" the cauliflower in the food processor, but I did it a little too long and the pieces came out more like couscous than rice.  Then I mixed in some minced garlic and dried oregano as  part of the crust recipe, and decided to give it a taste.  Totally gave me the idea to do a couscous salad out of it.

I can't actually tell you how incredibly stoked I am at how good this came out.  I really enjoy Mediterranean-style cold salads.  I used to do them with rice, but I don't eat rice anymore.  So we started doing them with barley and couscous... but they're still pretty high-carb.  This solved the problem and I foresee us having this salad in the fridge on a frequent basis for lunches during the work week and quick dinners.

I decided to go with Lagwagon's "I Must Be Hateful".  I was feeling pretty hateful tonight towards a medical issue I'm having.  Seemed apropos.  -jen



CAULIFLOWER "COUSCOUS" SALAD
Prep Time:  10 minutes
Cook Time:  10 minutes
Makes:  About 6 cups
Requires:  Food Processor
  • 1 large head of cauliflower, diced large
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
  • 2/3 cup English cucumber, seeded and diced small
  • 2/3 cup bell pepper, diced small
  • 1/2 cup green onions, diced small
  • 1/2 cup sun dried tomatoes, diced small
  • 1/2 cup carrot, shredded
  • 1/4 cup green olives, chopped
  • 1/4 cup giardiniera, chopped (optional)
  • 2-3 tablespoons fresh basil, julienned or chopped
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • juice of 1 whole lemon
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
Place large-diced cauliflower in food processor and process until it looks like cooked couscous.  Place in a large, microwave-safe bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap (I recommend using glass so the plastic wrap sticks).  Microwave on high for 10 minutes.  Fluff with fork.

Add all remaining ingredients and stir until mixed.  At this point, you can serve it while it's still warm, or refrigerate and serve chilled.

Per 1 Cup Serving:  Calories-130, Fat-9g, Carbs-11.5, Fiber-4, Protein-3g


Sunday, March 8, 2015

Cream of Vegetable Soup

We've been making soup about once a week.  Throughout the week, we often have roasted vegetables several times and will often make a salad of some sort.  So when we're preparing vegetables, we've taken to saving things like the ends of carrots and onions, the stems of herbs, all of our vegetable "scraps", and storing them in a Ziploc bag in the freezer.  Then Justin makes stock out of them and we make a delicious vegetable soup.  Usually they're broth-based soups, but we felt like going with a cream style this week, packed full of vegetables (and bacon, which is totally optional).  Came out so rich and delicious!  We make large batches at a time so that we have lunches for work.  You can cut the recipe in half if you're not looking for quite so much.

The awesome thing about soups like this, is that you can customize the vegetables to whatever you like.  Don't like mushrooms?  Axe 'em and add cauliflower instead.  Don't like bell peppers?  Axe 'em and add potato instead.  I think most of our soups end up created just using whatever we have leftover in the fridge.  

To go with our soup, for no particular reason except to rock, is The Marked Men doing "All In Your Head".  -jen



CREAM OF VEGETABLE SOUP
Prep Time:  20 minutes (35 if using bacon)
Cook Time:  20 minutes
Difficulty:  Easy
Makes: about 14 cups

  • 1 pound bacon, diced (optional), reserve 2 tablespoons of bacon fat
  • 5 tablespoons butter (6 tbsp if not using bacon fat)
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil (4 tbsp if not using bacon fat)
  • 2 cups crimini or button mushrooms, diced fine
  • 2 cups broccoli florets (about 1 medium crown)
  • 1.5 cups yellow onion, diced fine (about 1 medium onion)
  • 1.5 cups carrots, diced fine (about 3 medium carrots)
  • 1 cup celery, diced fine (about 3 large stalks)
  • 1/2 cup red bell pepper, diced fine (about 1/2 medium pepper)
  • 1/2 cup poblano pepper, diced fine (about 1 medium poblano)
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried marjoram
  • 2/3 cup flour
  • 6 cups chicken broth 
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon white pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
  • salt, to taste (bacon adds a lot of salt on its own, as do most chicken stocks, so taste your soup before adding salt!)
Place diced bacon into a cold stock pot.  Turn heat to medium-high, and cook until crisped, about 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally to keep from sticking to the bottom of the pan.  Using a slotted spoon, spoon out the crisped bacon and drain over paper towels.  Set aside.  Drain all but 2 tablespoons of the bacon fat from the stock pot.

Add olive oil and butter to stock pot (still over medium-high heat).  Add all vegetables and saute until tender, 10-12 minutes.  Add the rosemary, thyme and marjoram to the vegetables and cook 1 more minute.  Sprinkle the flour over the vegetables and stir until flour absorbs oil and is no longer white.  Cook for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Whisk in the stock and turn the heat to high.  Whisk continuously until soup begins to thicken a little.  Once it begins to thicken, add heavy cream, white pepper, black pepper and the crisped bacon.  Stir continuously until soup comes to a boil, then remove from heat.  Add salt to taste and serve.


Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Tomato Gratin

I'd like to take credit for this awesome dish, but I really feel like I need to give credit where it's due - Ina Garten's Scalloped Tomatoes.  I went through and added what I wanted, subtracted what I didn't want and my methods were a little different.  But I still wouldn't feel right if I didn't give Ina credit, as her recipe is great.  Ours is just better.  (Sorry, Ina!  We love you!) Justin was baking us a loaf of boule the other day, but whether it was due to temperatures or humidity, it just didn't rise as much as he'd hoped, so it came out a little dense.  I'd remembered seeing Ina make her Scalloped Tomatoes recipe and thought our dense bread would be perfect for this... and it was! 

I wondered why this dish was called "scalloped"; it was my understanding that meant a dish was made with a cream sauce.  So I did a little researching on the magic interweb and it seems there are a few different definitions of what "scalloped" means in the culinary world.  While I didn't find a solid answer, I did find this article that summed up the variances nicely.  Still, I didn't know if I really wanted to call this recipe Scalloped Tomatoes - I didn't know if it would really explain what the dish was to someone browsing recipe names.  Now, the same website that broke down "scalloped" has this to say about "au gratin":  "Au Gratin means garnished with crumbs (usually bread) and grated cheese, then baked or grilled (aka broiled.)"  I think this definition fits the bill for my recipe more.  Now, because I don't speak french, I don't know if it's grammatically correct to call the dish a "tomato gratin" or "tomatoes au gratin" and I couldn't find an answer on that.

I'm not sure how we've done all these recipes and not used a Black Flag song yet.  What the hell is going on?!  Rectified now... Black Flag (with a long-haired Rollins) doing "Nervous Breakdown".  -jen


TOMATO GRATIN
Prep/Cook Time:  25 minutes
Bake Time:  35 minutes
Difficulty:  Medium
Serves:  6-8
  • 2.5 pounds (10-12) fresh Roma tomatoes, diced (1/2") 
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • olive oil
  • 2.5 cups cubed artisan bread (1/2")
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup rough-chopped green or kalamata olives
  • 1/2 cup finely diced onion
  • 1 tablespoon fresh minced garlic (5-6 cloves)
  • 1/2 cup basil, roughly chopped or julienned, packed
  • 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Prepare a shallow 2-quart baking dish (8"x8") with non-stick cooking spray.

Place diced tomatoes in a strainer over a bowl.  Toss with salt and set aside.

Heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet over a medium heat.  Add the bread cubes and toss in the olive oil to coat.  Let cubes toast into croutons, stirring often, until dark golden-brown and crispy, 5-8 minutes.  Add drained tomatoes, sugar, black pepper, olives, onion and garlic.  Cook an additional 3-5 minutes, stirring frequently.  Remove from heat and stir in basil.

Transfer mixture into prepared baking dish.  Sprinkle Parmesan over the top, and drizzle 2 tablespoons of olive oil over the Parmesan.  Bake, uncovered, for 35 minutes.  Serve hot.




Saturday, December 20, 2014

Swiss-Almond Cheese Spread with Caramelized Onions

Clearly, I've been on a cheese spread kick.  Not only did I do the Cheddar Cheese Spread recipe, and Justin did Ina Garten's smoked salmon spread, but I also made a cream cheese, green olive and pecan spread that I remembered my mom stuffing celery sticks with for holidays when I was a kid.  After talking to my grandmother the other day,  come to find out, my great-great grandmother used to make the pecan-olive spread stuffed in celery.  100 year old family recipe!  Pretty cool to me!  One of my older brothers and I both had the urge to make it this year (without having talked about it) - must be feeling reminiscent.  I hope at least one of my nieces or nephews end up liking it too to carry on the tradition.

Anyway, this all actually started with me having the desire to do a Swiss-almond cheese spread.  I just hadn't gotten to it yet.  I was trying to think of something to do to it so it wasn't just Swiss-almond spread and I thought caramelized onions would be great with it... and they were.  I think this might be our favourite dip/spread yet.  The Swiss cheese is so mellow and mild... but the almonds give it a good crunch and the onions with it almost remind me of French-onion soup.  Really delicious!

I blame the holidays for my cream cheese extravaganza.  And I've definitely been in a holiday mood - I am guilty of being one of those dreaded people who loves Christmas music.  Justin suggested a song from Bad Religion's Christmas Songs, but I couldn't decide on one.  And Christmas only comes one a year, so I thought I'd share a link to the whole album.  -jen


SWISS-ALMOND CHEESE SPREAD WITH CARAMELIZED ONIONS
Time:  25-30 minutes
Difficulty:  Easy
Makes:  about 2 cups
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 large onion, 1/4" slices (on the thin side)
  • 8oz cream cheese, softened
  • 8oz finely shredded Swiss cheese
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika 
  • salt and fresh ground pepper
  • 1/2-3/4 cup finely chopped almonds
In a large skillet over a low heat, melt butter and add olive oil.  Add sliced onions and let cook for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Onions will be soft, dark and sweet.  Set aside to cool.

Meanwhile, in a food processor (or with a fork), combine cream cheese, shredded Swiss, mayonnaise, paprika, a pinch of salt and a few cranks of fresh ground pepper; blend until creamy and smooth.  Add caramelized onions and pulse (or fork) until combined.  Fold in chopped almonds by hand.  Taste and add more salt and pepper if desired.

Serve chilled or slightly softened to room temp.


Thursday, December 18, 2014

Cheddar Cheese Spread

I haven't had as much time this year to make anything amazing or grand for the holidays like I'd hoped.  But I made this for no reason at all this morning (okay, I made it because I've been in a cream cheese mood) and I thought, "This would be so fantastic for any holiday party and so easy!"  So in a way, this recipe is perfect for the holidays which makes it both amazing and grand!

I'm a huge fan of crackers and cheese spread.  Grew up with the store-bought kind, you know the ones... port wine, cheddar & bacon, Swiss almond.  I actually don't see a lot of them in the stores anymore.  Maybe it's a passé appetizer... or maybe we just live behind the Redwood Curtain and don't get a lot of selection at our stores.  I try not to eat a lot of crackers anymore, but we have some crackers left over from a company Christmas party (where Justin made his own take on Ina Garten's Smoked Salmon dip, which was excellent, made with some fresh-caught, home-smoked salmon a friend gave us!) and we also have a ton of cheese in our house because my dad always sends a box of cheese and sausage from Wisconsin for Christmas - we look forward to it every year!  So I was itching for a cheese spread and decided to make one.  I don't think I will ever buy another store-bought cheese spread again!  This was just so easy to make and the different ideas for what I could put in them seems endless!  Beer, wine, garlic, onion, horseradish, bacon, herbs, roasted peppers.... you could put anything you liked into it!  Whatever cheese you want to use (I'd really like to make a Swiss-almond one!)  Like I said, I just used what I had at home and it came out fantastic!

I just heard this song for the first time the other day and I think it might be one of my new favourite Christmas songs.  I've always loved Cyndi Lauper.  Here she is with The Hives doing A Christmas Duel.  -jen


CHEDDAR CHEESE SPREAD
Time:  10 minutes
Difficulty:  So ridiculously easy
Makes:  about 2 cups
  • 8oz cream cheese, softened
  • 8oz medium or sharp cheddar cheese, finely shredded
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise (optional, but helps it spread better)
  • 2 teaspoons dried chives (optional)
  • 1/2 teaspoon white pepper (or to taste)
  • 1 teaspoon Sriracha sauce (or to taste)
In a food processor (or with a fork), combine all ingredients and mix until well blended.  Serve immediately or chill for later.  Really, you can choose whatever cheese you want and put whatever seasonings you like in it, that's just what I chose.  Be creative!