Saturday, October 31, 2009

Spoooooooky Spirits...

Hope everybody has enjoyed a safe and spooky Halloween!! Just wanted to slip in some fun, spooky spirits...using these special ingredients: Perhaps you could begin your day with Bloody Mary...be sure to give it a vampire cape...for a little added spooky....Bloody Mary from Nigella Bites 1 1/3 c. Chili Vodka I used Absolut Peppa (or ordinary vodka & a few splashes Tabasco) splash of dry sherry 2 1/2 c. tomato juice, chilled juice of a quarter to half a lemon, to taste few shakes of celery salt few dashes of Worcestershire sauce good sprinkling of Maldon or other sea salt, to taste Mix everything up good in a pitcher. celery stick ...and olives if you're anything like me Stir with a celery stick...pour into glasses and enjoy!! Wrap with a square black napkin folded diagonally to make a cape if it's Halloween...or if you're just in the mood. I garnish mine with garlic stuffed olives (the best), lemon wedge & bleu cheese stuffed olives. It'll get your motor running! And then....when you're back inside from the brisk trick-or-treat walk...feeling like you deserve a reward...mix up another spooky spirit...Ginger Pom..add a little blood to the rim!

Ginger Pom from Nigella Express 1 part Pama pomegranate liqueur 2 parts pomegranate juice POM! 2 parts ginger ale Mix 'em all together...serve over ice if you wish. Leave out the Pama for a non-alcoholic treat...but it's really, really good with it. Lush. Don't forget the red gel icing, er...uh...I mean blood around the rim! Betcha didn't guess that this is my I Heart Cooking Clubs entry this week...where our theme is Spooky Treats & Spirits...using the recipes of Nigella Lawson!!

****Plus, I wanted to gently guide you over to visit A Little Bit of Spain in Iowa where I did a little guest post yesterday :) ****



Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Squashy, Cheesy, Sausage (-y?) Pasta Bake!

Do you remember me recently telling you that I only started loving sweet potatoes in the last few years? Well, same goes for squash. Seriously. So, I'm trying different cooking methods and recipes and trying to figure out my favorite use for squash. And how to decide which kind of squash to try next...Jinkies!! Last time I had a chance to get to the Farmer's Market, I decided to try a couple new kinds...and then I wanted to make a pasta dish with one of them that looked a little something (okay, exactly) like this... Only problem is...I can't remember the name of this squash! I knew I should have written it down, but I assured myself that I would remember. How could I possibly forget in the 10 or 15 minutes it takes me to get from the market back home? I don't know...but I did. Typical. Anybody know what kind of squash this is? I remember that it has the word "sugar"...or maybe it's "sweet" somewhere in it...3 words, maybe? Pretty sure it was "sugar", though. Anyhoo...I quartered it to start with.Then I scooped out the seeds and put a pat of butter along with a good sprinkling of sea salt and grinding of black pepper and roasted them in a 350 degree F oven until they were nice and tender. Once cool enough to handle, scoop out the flesh and smoosh it up in a bowl...eat it or save it to use in anyway you choose.......perhaps in a dish like: Squashy, Cheesy Pasta Bake by girlichef (bear with me...usually I write the recipe down as I go along...this one was a little lacking in the notes department...so I'm going by less than stellar memory!) 1/2 lb. Italian Sausage, loose 1 red onion, sliced 2 garlic cloves, minced ~1/2 lb. mushrooms, sliced few good glugs of Red (or white) Wine ~1 c. cooked, smooshed Squash (any kind, I'd imagine) ~3/4 lb. Rigatoni ~4 oz. Swiss cheese ~1 c. Homemade Cottage cheese (dry, crumbly form), divided or another fresh, crumbly cheese Freshly grated Parmesan cheese Parsley, chopped- to taste Sage, chopped- to taste Sea Salt & Black Pepper- to taste 2 Tbs. butter (cut into small pieces), divided 2 eggs, beaten Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a large skillet, over medium heat, brown your sausage. Add onions and garlic and cook until they begin to soften. Add mushrooms and cook for a few minutes longer, until veggies are all tender. Pour in wine and let it cook down for a minute or two. Plop in squash and stir it all around until it is a thick-ish sauce...add up to 1/2 c. or so of water if it seems to thick. Okay, while you've got all of this goodness going on, be sure to cook your pasta until al dente. Dot the bottom of a 9x13 pan with 1 Tbs. butter. Grate your cheddar and Parmesan into dish next. Sprinkle with 3/4 c. cottage cheese. Once your pasta is drained, toss the squash mixture with the pasta. Pour all into your prepared baking dish, packing down as necessary. Beat up your eggs and bit and pour them over the top of your pasta mixture. In fact, do this before you even put it in the pan...because I bet it would work better. Mix it up and spread in dish. Top with remaining Tbs. of butter. Put in oven and bake for...shit, don't remember how long I baked it...as long as it takes for it to look done. It'll be a bit dry on top and around the edges, maybe around 15 or 20 minutes. Scoop onto a plate and sprinkle with parsley, sage and remaining cottage cheese...and more Parm...why not!? Enjoy. I am sending this over to Haalo of Cook (Almost) Anything at least once...who is hosting Presto Pasta Nights this week!


Sunday, October 25, 2009

BloggerAid-CFF~ View & Review: Slow Cooker Comfort Food

I feel like I should give you fair warning. This may very well be the longest post in the history of the world. Seriously. But everything in it...I needed here! If you know me at all...you know that I love photos. I need to show you photos. I tried really did to do this post without all of the photos, but there was just something tugging at me inside...willing me to add the photos. I did.

No apologies...just fair warning. But as far as subject matter for incredibly long posts goes...I think that BloggerAid-Changing the Face of Famine is one that deserves a little extra wind. You probably know that I am a member of BA-CFF (just smile and nod)...so I have 3 things related to this fact to share with you today.

The first thing is a fun program we have within BA-CFF called View & Review. Thanks to the generosity of different publishers and food purveyors, our members are given the chance to, well, view a certain cookbook or food product and then give our review of that product. Obvious, but I'm tellin' ya anyway. I was the lucky recipient of the latest cookbook by Judith Finlayson, Slow Cooker Comfort Food from the publisher mdg + associates.

I must say...this is the perfect time of year to receive a slow cooker book! I did take a bit longer than I should have to post this review, and for that I want to apologize...things spiraled a bit out of control for me due to college football season at work and I ran a bit slow, if you will. Finlayson starts the book with an informative chapter about using your slow cooking. She lays out basics, time management, understanding and food safety. Believe it or not, this is really helpful. Yes, I've been using a slow cooker for years, but I don't think I ever really considered as much of a kitchen tool as I should have. Yes, I adore my mixer, baby my blender and cherish my food processor...but trusty old slow cooker just had food thrown in and forgotten. For hours. And that's the way I liked it.

I think that's why this book came as such a surprise to me. To be honest, at first I wasn't really sure if I liked it. I mean...a slow cooker means set it and forget it. Right? Not necessarily! Consider your recipe...size matters, utensils matter, time and tools matter. Finlayson lays that all out for us in this guide! She throws in tips on halving recipes...tips on what can be made ahead...as well as things to "watch out" for and fun tidbits. I chose 3 recipes to make and share today. They are all different and none of them required "extra" equipment (like ramekins, baking dishes or basins)...because as I said...I'm easing into the whole slow cooker as an actual kitchen appliance thing.

I want things to be simple. The first 2 recipes, I'm gonna be mean and just show you photos...you'll get the idea of the basic ingredients from them...remember I'm trying to control the length of this post somewhat. I'll throw you a bone and give the recipe for my favorite of the 3 recipes, though...

The first recipe I chose was: Fruit-Spiked Chicken Curry Fruit curry...it was sweet with a wonderful spiciness sneaking up underneath...plus, I got to use my Homemade Curry Powder! Good, not my favorite curry...but definitely worth trying at least once.

 Next up, I made: Chile-Spiked Hominy Ragout with Collard Greens except I used spinach:This was earthy and rustic and delicious with some avocado, cilantro and crema as garnish....and it only got better with time! Next recipe up was my favorite...and the last one I made.

It was a dessert...my first time making an actual slow cooker dessert:
Caramelized Apple Upside-Down Spice Cake
serves 8
~lightly greased slow cooker stoneware
~large (~5 qt.) oval slow cooker

Topping 1/4 c. (50 mL) melted butter
1/2 c. (125 mL) Demerara or other raw cane sugar
6 c. (1/5 L) sliced peeled apples, about 8 small

Cake 1 c. (250 mL) whole wheat flour
1 c. (250 mL) AP flour
2 tsp. (10 mL) baking soda
1 Tbs. (15 mL) ground ginger
1 tsp. (5 mL) ground cinnamon
1 tsp. (5 mL) ground allspice
1/2 tsp. (2 mL) ground cloves
1/2 tsp. (2 mL) salt
1/2 c. (125 mL) Demerara or other raw cane sugar
1 egg, beaten
1 c. (250 mL) apple butter
1/2 c. (125 mL) buttermilk
2 Tbs. (25 mL) molasses
1/4 c. (50 mL) oil Vanilla Ice Cream for serving Topping: In a small bowl, combine butter and sugar. Spread over bottom of prepared stoneware. Arrange apples on top. Cake: In a bowl, combine ww & AP flours, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon, allspice, cloves and salt. Mix well and make a well in center. In another bowl, whisk together sugar and egg, then whisk in apple butter, buttermilk, molasses and oil. Pour mixture into the well and mix just until combined. Pour over apples. Place 2 tea towels, folded in half (so you have 4 layers), over top of stoneware to absorb moisture. Cover and cook on High for 2 1/2 to 3 hours or until it passes the toothpick test.When read to serve, slice and invert onto a plate I inverted before slicing. Serve with vanilla ice cream. Yes, it was fabulous with vanilla ice cream.. I loved it because the cake was warm and spicy and actually not very sweet at all. It tasted more of a beautiful spice bread with a gorgeously caramelized apple topping to me!My slow cooker will definitely be making this one again! Oh, and did I mention that there are both U.S. and metric units of measurement listed throughout the book? There are. And there are still 272 more recipes in the book for me to try! If you are interested in putting that slow cooker to use for more than just simple set it and forget it recipes, I suggest you check out Slow Cooker Comfort Food! What if I served up this dish in a red cup? Would you think twice about why it was in this red cup? What if I told you that there are children who count on a red cup to give them their nourishment? BloggerAid-CFF is united with the Friends of the World Food Program to help end childhood hunger. Please read the following message from the World Food Progam...

"The “Fill the Cup” campaign aims to raise funds and awareness for WFP’s school meals program. The red cup is a symbol of hope, representing WFP’s approach to addressing child hunger. School meals often come in the form of porridge, served in a cup. WFP encourages people to “Fill the Cup” by making a donation or volunteering to help raise awareness. It costs as little as 25 cents to provide a healthy meal to a child in school; $50 will feed a child for the entire year." 

 Please visit World Food Program for more info or to find out how you can help. Okay...one final thing...you may remember hearing talk about the BloggerAid-Changing the Face of Famine cookbook. Well, guess what!? It is almost here! We are finished...and we have a cover! BloggerAidCookBookCover
Watch for the actual release date...all proceeds from the sale of this book...written, tested, edited and photographed by your fellow foodie bloggers...will go to the School Meals Program! Please help us feed the children.


Saturday, October 24, 2009

Have you ever marinated your meat after cooking it!?

There's just something about a potluck that excites me. And not the kind that would have excited young(er)-hippie-girli-90's me...well...not entirely true. There was never really a time when I didn't like food. But there was a time when Pot Luck would have taken on an entirely different meaning. Where food would have been MORE than welcome afterward, actually. Anyway. Our theme this week over at IHCC is Potluck...without trying to finagle it enough to fit into our chosen theme for the week. No muss, no fuss. Put that in your pipe and smoke it. I have had this recipe...among many others...marked since I first purchased Nigella Express. Finally I decided I was making it. That is actually what I love about certain cooking clubs/memes/events. They force no prod no push me to make things I've been meaning to make but have just been too otherwise detained to actually get around to. Since I am already running on at the mouth...can I just ask a question that often weighs heavy on my mind? What reason under the stars could I ever have had to dislike sweet potatoes? They are gorgeous, delicious, filling little powerhouses! I suppose I should just be glad that I've seen the light. And they're pretty without any makeup at all. I like 'em au naturale...with a little moisturizer. Nigella's Steak Slice with Lemon & Thyme from Nigella Express 1 rump steak, 1" thick ~1 1/4 lbs. 5 stalks thyme, to give 1 Tbs. stripped leaves 2 cloves garlic, bruised I used 4 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil zest and juice of 1/2 lemon 1/2! Guess I read this wrong...I used the whole darn thing...and I liked it 1 tsp. kosher salt or 1/2 tsp. table salt You guessed it...I used sea salt good grinding of fresh pepper First off, I couldn't locate an actual rump steak...plenty of rump roasts, though. So, if you can only find a roast, grab it, cut it into 1" thick slices...like so... If there is excess fat around the edges, trim it off now. Brush the steak with a little olive or vegetable oil to prevent it from sticking to the griddle o pan,and then cook for 3 minutes a side plus 1 minute each side turned again (for grill marks) for desirably rare meat: the lemon in the post hoc marinade "cooks" it a little more. If you like it more done...just pop the pan into the oven until it's the desired temp. While the steak is cooking, place the thyme leaves, garlic, oil, lemon zest, juice, salt and pepper in a wide shallow dish. Once the steak is cooked, place it in the dish of marinde for 4 minutes a side. Remove it to a board and slice thin on the diagonal. One of the many things that I love about sweet potatoes. Aren't they beauties? I just washed, pricked and roasted at 350 degrees F for just under an hour...then cut in half to serve. Serve up the sliced steak with a bit of the marinade drizzled over the top. And your au naturale sweet potato...with just a slathering of moisturizer.The flavor of the meat after sitting in the "post hoc" marinade was fabulous...the point of marinating after cooking was to keep the meat tender...well, I'd hate to see it marinated before hand! This is one chewy cut of meat. It tasted good. I ate it. Next time I'll use a different cut...but I'll still use the post hoc marinade!! Wanna see what everybody else brought to the potluck? IHCC


Friday, October 23, 2009

Twisty and skinny and fat...Oh My! or should I say Kitties and spirals and tubes...Oh My! PPN# 136 Roundup...

Oh what a week it has been! How many days in a row can a girl take ooohing and aaahing over pasta? Seven. That's it...senses are in overload...must give them a rest. A couple hours should do. But seriously, I have truly enjoyed being the host of Presto Pasta Nights this week! Thanks so much to everybody who submitted a dish...and in turn contributed to my carb-induced coma. It was a pleasure...If you remember, I kicked it off by faking it…because our house experienced a solid couple weeks of dealing with the icks…and I still wasn’t up to making something that required patience…or time. I used a recipe from a Foodie-blogger friend to throw together a quick version of one of my favorite pasta dishes…Fake it, don’t Bake it Lasagna. I don’t know your thoughts on it, but I go ga-ga over truffles…and when you put a new twist on an old classic like Natasha from 5 Star Foodie so creatively did…you wind up with a simply gorgeous plate of Truffled Macaroni and Cheese. Truffles, cream, salt, cheese, macaroni….HEAVEN! And on a side note, if you have a great twist on this old classic, definitely go check out Natasha’s post…because she’s rounding them up!
I am a sucker for fun-shaped pasta…so just imagine my delight when I saw the adorable Hello Kitty shapes in Julie from Blukats entry! Julie combined the squash, tomato and mushroom bounty around her with spices and cheese and tossed it with this fun pasta to make her Squash on Pasta. She likes this dish because the flavors combine to make so much more than you started with! Plus, this is Julie’s first time playing along with Presto Pasta Nights…great way to dive right in, Julie!
Another first-timer this week is Rene of From One Stove to Another. Sprung from her love for Balsamic Vinegar and fresh basil, Rene created a Caprese-esque Pasta featuring rotini (to hold all the goodness in its crevices), tomatoes, cheese and 2 of her favorite ingredients! And now I miss the flavors of summer…
If you visit me enough, you know how much I love chiles…so I am itching to try this dish, Penne with Dried Peppers, that Elizabeth of blog from OUR kitchen made! Not only did she make a pasta sauce from fried, dried chile peppers (can you say earthy, rustic perfection)…she adapted it from a recipe she found in my favorite magazine of all time, Saveur! This is one I will be trying…soon!
Puglia e Fieno Papalina or Straw and Hay is next up! Mary from One Perfect Bite was inspired by a pasta entrĂ©e that she had at Romeo Salta’s (no longer there) restaurant in NYC. It is a simple dish that she often prepares tableside for company…impressive! It uses 2 types of gorgeous, fat fettuccini noodles along with some other simple, flavorful ingredients. Delicious.
Prosciutto, mushrooms, butter, Marsala, chicken…what else can I say? Well, how about Whole Wheat Pasta!! Yup, I said it…and in turn all of those little glands in my mouth opened up and started to water. And if this can fuel you up for running an OUTSTANDING 26-odd (and I mean that in every way possible...because I find running just for the "fun" of it very odd...maybe I'm just jealous) miles like it did for Joanne of Eats Well with Others…sign me up! Joanne found a version of Chicken Marsala that was worthy of making over and over and over again. Can I join you next time, Joanne? No marathon for me, though…but I’m a fabulous cheerleader. Give me a J…
I can just taste the flavor explosion that results from mixing Thai Green Curry Paste and mint…can’t you!? Well, do you know Ann from PigPig’s Corner? She makes a mouth watering Thai Green Curry Penne with mint…and mixes in asparagus and beef and tosses it all with some penne. “Fast, simple and super duper tasty.” I’d have to say that I agree…how ‘bout you?
I love it when people use ramen noodles to make meals. Seriously, I do. Toss out that (delicious) salty seasoning packet and add in your own flavor profile. Well, that is exactly what Bob from Cooking Stuff did when he recreated a dish he enjoys from a Chinese place around the corner from him…Garlic Pan Fried Noodles. Who could resist “spectacular, garlicky and rich with some bits of noodle crispy and some still soft”? Not me…you had me at garlic, Bob! Another one for the ever-expanding recipe/idea file.
Chaya of The Comfy Cook whipped us up a simple, yet tasty dish of Spiral Veggies and Cheese. Havarti Cheese!! This sounds like a fabulous weeknight (or any time, really) meal that is open to substitutions if you don’t have any of the particular ingredients…but I say…don’t skip the Havarti!! What a well-rounded dish (pasta, cheese, veggies…those are all of the essential food groups, right?).
Going on a clam dig is something I have always wanted to do. Imagine me in my waders with my jeans rolled way up…wading into the surf (are clams in the surf, maybe not…but if not, imagine they were)…with my netted bag…watching the kiddos frolic and gather seashells, all the while yelling to look at their treasures. Hair whipping in the wind, salt spray my face (yes, I’m digging salt-water clams)…well, picture me “happy as a clam”. Well, that is exactly what Little Inbox of Eating Pleasure DID do!! And then she the clams she found to make a gorgeous Seafood Pasta. The photo alone is enough to make me weep…
While we’re at sea…perhaps we could find a regal swordfish to cook up this next entry from Graziana of Erbe in Cucina! This is another pasta dish that uses mint…I bet the contrast of the meaty swordfish, the salty capers and the fresh mint in your mouth with a fat rigati noodle is beyond satisfying! I bet this would go swimmingly (she‘s on a roll ladies & gentlemen) with a nice bottle of vino blanco...Swordfish Pasta with Mint!
“Fat and chewy noodle.” Yes, please!! It’s a fact…we eat with our eyes first…and my eyes are in sheer ecstasy! Would you just feast your eyes on this amazing dish that LK from Food4Tots came up with! LK created Stir-fry udon with prawns after experimenting with these versatile Japanese noodles…once discovering her son happily ate them up…and she came up with a “simple, nutritious yet tasty” concoction! I don’t know if all of my (used to be-)tots would have noshed on this…but I know that mama would have had no problem slurping my way through this dish while they happily finger-fed themselves the noodles and veggies alone. No qualms at all.
“Bacon? Garlic? Noodles? What's not to like?! This is simple, fast and really good. Cooking the bacon strips with the garlic and a touch of olive oil on a wire rack over a foil lined pan worked well, as it allowed the fat to drain off and I could control how much of it went into the pasta, (just a bit was enough).” This is what my friend Deb from Kahakai Kitchen thought of the simple Nigella Lawson dish, Linguine with Bacon. Deb is the master of making things healthier without compromising flavor, and she did it this time by using fresh, whole wheat pasta for extra fiber and organic, nitrate-free bacon. Plus, cooking her bacon on a rack. Genius…whether eaten in the bathtub like Nigella…or on the couch like Deb.
Ching from Little Corner of Mine decided to try making her own Singapore Fried Vermicelli after seeing it on menus at Americanized Chinese Restaurants. Although it was not the noodle she remembered from her time in Singapore, it sounds absolutely delicious to me. This recipe actually calls for yellow Indian Curry Powder (as opposed to red)…and is perfect for subbing/adding any veggie or meat you may have at home in your own kitchen. The flavors of this dish sound amazing and it’s another one I cannot wait to try!
I recently discovered the joys of eating pasta and eggs together…and my pal Martha from Menagerie just took it to a whole ‘nother level! I cannot think of a tastier way to use up my leftover cooked spaghetti noodles than throwing them into a Frittata!! Can you just feel the crunch of the noodle after it’s been fried up in a little butter with some other goodies thrown in? Simple, easy, frugal…delicious.
Fall in all of its splendor has inspired some gorgeous emotion in Muneeba of An Edible Symphony. As she embraces the flavors and smells of fall (a woman after my own heart)…and enjoys the simple beauty all around her and remembers to cherish “that special someone who still makes your toes curl”…she takes us to a whole new world with her Mushroom Bourguignon with Egg Noodles. If this dish is not the complete embrace of Fall, I don’t know what is. Love is in the air.
When can you enter a cheeseburger into a pasta roundup? When it’s deconstructed and mixed up with penne to become a family-pleasing Cheeseburger Pasta, that’s when! Teresa from A Blog About Food loves her guinea pigs family for allowing her to experiment and then eating with a smile on their face…even if it was not her best moment. But I’d say this fun dish was a hit and I know that it will be one in my house when I give it a try, too! But guess what…I’m adding the bacon Teresa…Bacon Cheeseburger Pasta. Just do it.
More Udon!! You have no idea how much haste I’m going to make once I’m done with this post…I am high-tailing it to market to buy some Udon noodles!! They’re so fat and gorgeous and I just need some after drooling over these recipes! Radha of Urban Bites cooks up some chicken in Cantonese-style, adds meaty Chinese mushrooms and crushed anacards (cashews) and few other flavorful additions to come up with this inviting Udon, Chinese mushrooms & chicken Cantonese.
And last…but definitely not least…we close with Good For What Ails You Pasta from the Pasta Queen herself, Ruth of Once Upon a Feast (creator of Presto Pasta Nights). Ruth has been dealing with the icks that have been making their rounds, as well. Since it’s hard to even think when you’re sick, this is more of a method…a guide if you will at putting together a gorgeous, healing dish for those days when you’re just not up to following a recipe. Although, I have those days even when I’m not under the weather, so actually this is fitting for any day! So, grab your pretty little bowl and get ready to feel better!
I'm hungry.
Cooking up some pasta this week? Be sure to head over to visit Haalo of Cook (almost) Anything, who will be your PPN#137 host next week! If you'd like more information on entering or maybe even hosting Presto Pasta Nights, head on over there and find out how!