What have you been up to in the kitchen?

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Spinach Pasta with Homemade tomato sauce

Spinach Pasta with Homemade Tomato Sauce

I should clarify that my secret ingredient was: spinach pasta.
But also - though I have used most of these ingredients before, I have never used them together in this manner. This was my first time making sauce and melting the goat cheese.

Served with: French Bread with chive and herb goat cheese
Eiswein & Chocolate Vanilla Swirl Cheesecake.

1 package spinach pasta
4 lage roma tomatoes
1 large red pepper
1 package sliced mushrooms
4 cloves garlic
Basil, salt and pepper to taste
1/2 large yellow onion
1 bag of fresh baby spinach
1/2 loaf french bread
garlic and herb goatcheese
2 tsp sugar

Toss the tomatoes (cut up with the red pepper) in the blender until it becomes a liquid solidified mass. Add some EVOO to the pan and diced onions. Let the onions cook until they are almost clear and add the mushrooms and sauce. dice garlic and include that also. Add spices as you see fit, I added salt, pepper, garlic salt, sugar and basil. Cook until it boils and then reduce to a simmer.

Preheat the oven 350. Line baking sheet with tinfoil. Cut french bread into rounds and place on foil. Put goat cheese on top of the rounds.

Put the french bread in the oven for about 20 minutes. Goat cheese will not melt - much.

Boil water and add pasta, it only takes about 4-5 minutes to make it al dente.

I cooked my spinach in a pan with EVOO and salt and pepper on medium until it turns bright green and wilts slightly.

For dessert we will drink Eiswein and eat cheesecake. Good no?

I shared with with Brian - he didn't have anything left on his plate!

Here is Brian's Haiku about the experience:
Cooking with my gal
reminiscent of old world
yum in my tummy

Here is the review::
On a scale of 1-5 (5 being the highest)

1. Was this dish appetizing? (1-5) What were your first impressions? (smell, appearance)
The dish looked incredibly fresh, and smelled fantastic! 5

2. Did it taste good? (1-5) What stood out about it? (flavors, heat, textures)
It tasted better than expected. 5/ All fresh ingredients for sauce; robust, earthy flavors; very warm, not too hot; felt mushrooms, onions, garlic & pasta dancing in sauce. 5

3. Did the cook appear flustered or swear at all while making it - did this dish appear challenging? Were you apprehensive? (1-5)
Cook never felt or showed frustration or anger; dish did not appear challenging; I was not apprehensive at all. 5

4. Was the special ingredient new to you? How special do you think it was? (1-5)
Special ingredient was not new to me(spinach pasta), though I have seldom had it; in this dish, it wasn't too special, though it added extra flavor. 4

5. Would you eat this again? What is the leftover potential of this dish? (1-5)
I would definitely eat this again!; What leftovers? 5

Monday, January 28, 2008

Tasty Bruschetta Bread

More love from the Trader Joe's Cookbook!

You will need all of two ingredients:
1 bag of Trader Joe's Pizza Dough
1 jar of Trader Joe's Bruschetta (I like the sun dried tomato, others prefer the olive or the veggie)

Preheat to 425. On a floured surface, roll or man-handle your dough into a rectangle approx 6x15 inches (or whatever will fit on your pizza stone/cookie sheet). Spoon about a 1/2 cup of bruschetta down the middle of the dough. As a crowd pleaser, I usually make half olive, half sun dried tomato. Pull up and pinch the sides of the dough to make a long loaf-like thingie. Pinch well, every single one I've made so far has unpinched itself. Lay it on pizza stone (or cookie sheet) seam-side down. The recipe says to bake for 30-35 minutes, I say start checking in the 20 minute range. Pull it out when the loaf looks browny/done. Let it cool for a few, slice into sections and enjoy.

Like the Winter Frost
This Bread has something hidden
Just below the crust.

I think this recipe would be an EXCELLENT dessert if you swapped the bruschetta for a peanut butter/nutella mix. If someone beats me to the punch on this one, PLEASE POST IT. I have one bag of dough left, and peanut butter, but no nutella.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Blue Cheese, Pear & Carmelized Onion Pizza

This pizza was so good that between two of us we ate the whole thing before it had time to get cold. Goes great with beer and movies on the couch on yet another windy and rainy winter evening.

You will need:

1 recipe pizza dough - I cheat and use Trader Joe's pizza-dough, and for this recipe I used whole wheat - makes a medium pizza

1 pear, sliced into thin wedges - I can't imagine any variety of pear that wouldn't work, I had an asian pear which, sliced into smaller wedges, baked up sweet but still firm and juicy.

as much mozarella as you like, shredded - I ended up using one of those individually packaged balls

at least 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped or crushed

1/4 cup blue cheese, crumbled - I had a delicious Danish Blue on hand, and as this is the first time I have cooked/baked with blue cheese, I wanted to be sure the flavor would not overwhelm the sweetness of the onions and pear. The general consenseus was that the pizza needed a little more blue cheese, but not by much!

1 medium onion, carmelized - slice, cook in 1 tbls butter and 2 tbls olive oil over very-low-heat for about an hour (stirring/flipping occasionally), then cook over medium-high heat (stirring often) until golden brown

***optional*** about 1/2 cup broccoli, chopped small - I wanted a little extra filler but not too much flavor

Preheat oven to 450 degrees

If dough is refrigerated, leave out at room temperature for 1/2 an hour.

Mix in a bowl about two-thirds of the shredded mozarella with the chopped broccoli, add half of crushed/chopped garlic, mix, set aside.

Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface - as often as I try for a nice circular shape, I usually end up with a rustic rectangle, which fits better on my lightly oiled cookie-sheet anyhow. Once desired geometry is achieved, transfer dough to cookie-sheet, rub surface lightly with olive oil.

Spread all of the mozarella-broccoli mixture first. Then pears, onions, blue cheese. Top with the last of the mozarella and garlic.

Bake for about 10 minutes

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Spinach and Spicy Turkey Sausage

I tried this on my husband and a friend of mine and it turned out pretty tasty! The original recipe called for gnocchi or any other pasta you like. I tried a couple different types, finding a long thin noodle (like spaghetti or fettuccine) worked best for me.

2 Tb. Butter
1/2 yellow onion, finely diced
2-3 Spicy Turkey Sausages, casing removed
1/3 cup dry white wine
1 1/2 cups chopped Cremini mushrooms
1 package baby spinach
1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan or Romano cheese

1/2 to 1 lb. cooked pasta of choice

1. Melt butter in pan, then add onion. Cook onion until softened, about 5 minutes.
2. Add the sausage, breaking it up into bite-sized pieces as it cooks. They should be done in about 5 minutes.
3. Deglaze the pan with the white wine, add the mushrooms and let simmer for a minute or two.
4. Add the spinach and cook until wilted.

Serve the Sausage mixture over your choice of pasta. Season with salt and pepper, and (my favorite) a little fresh parmesan or romano cheese. Enjoy!

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Cooking Challenge: Fabulous Falafel

Well, I am a competitor.
Weather: BFC= Butt Freezing Cold.

Meal: Falafel with Cucumber Yogurt and Tahini Sauces.

Special Ingredient: Turmeric spice and Yogurt (I have truthfully never cooked with either, I have eaten both, but never cooked.)

It is best to start with the Cucumber Yogurt sauce as it should be cold when you finish the rest of the meal.

Cucumber Yogurt Sauce:
-2 small/medium cucumber
-2/3 Cup plain yogurt
-1/2 Tsp. Dill spice
Optional: 1 tsp fresh mint.

Mix together and chill.

Tahini Sauce:

-1 Cup tahini
-some Lemon
- 2 or 3 cloves garlic
- Salt and pepper
- Water

Finely chop the cloves of garlic. Mix together tahini and garlic. Add 1 tsb. of water at a time until the mixture is like a thick paste. Add lemon juice until delightfully tangy. Add salt and pepper to season to your taste. Set aside. Do no cool as it is better served warm.


1 (19 ounce) can garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
1 teaspoon dried parsley
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/8 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup fine dry bread crumbs
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cracked black peppercorns
1 cup vegetable oil for frying

Mix everything together except the oil. Duh. The mixture should be able to stick together, but should not stick to you. Add breadcrumbs as needed. Make little balls of the mixture that are about 1 1/2 inch long and slightly flatten.

Warm up the oil in your deep fryer or, if you're old skool like us, in your skillet. Wait until it's nice and hot. Plop in the falafels and cook until dark brown on the outside.

For serving: Warm up some pita bread, preferable the kind that opens up, and fill with about two spoonfuls of the cucumber yogurt sauce. Put a falafel piece or two inside and top with warm tahini sauce. It's delicious.

Now, you have all read my wonderful recipe, and Taylor, my good friend, was my guinea pig who filled out the survey. Here are her comments that we have posted together:

1. " Yes, this dish was very appetizing. Out of 5 points: 5. My first impression was that it looked and smelled exactly like falafels I've eaten in the past."

2. It tasted delicious. Out of 5 points: 5. It looked a little bit more crumbly that most falafels I'd eaten, but it tasted like a perfect mixture of garbanzo beans and crumbly bread. Also, it wasn't too spicy, which is a problem I have encountered in the past."

3. "No, the cook was very calm, although a bit bewildered when the falafel balls began to crumble. This dish appeared to have taken a lot of effort. Out of 5 points: 4."

4. "The special ingredient was yogurt which is not new to me, but I haven't come across it in cooking besides smoothies, for example. So it was 'special' in the context of the meal. Out of 5 points: 4."

5. "I would definitely eat this again. It was great! However, the leftover potential was not perfect for this size batch, because we finished everything, or maybe we were just really hungry. Out of 5 points: 3."

Meal: Falafels
By: Kelsey Otis
Eaten By: Taylor Norman

Friday, January 18, 2008

Easy Louisa's Tiramisu

This is my own original recipe, which I haven't made since last century, but I am going to make it today.

2 packages ladyfingers, or one sliced pound cake
1 small carton Cool Whip, or 1 pint whipped cream
1 cup sour cream
1 cup cold, strong coffee
2 Tbs. brandy, rum, or liqueur (Kahlua, for example)
1 package Jello flan mix
Powdered cocoa

Note: When I first developed this recipe, there was a product on the market called Jello Americana egg custard, which is what I used. Apparently that product has been discontinued (at least where I shop it has), but the custard mix in Jello flan is the same. So...

1. Prepare the custard in the Jello flan mix according to the instructions, and let cool to lukewarm.
2. Place half of the ladyfingers or pound cake slices on the bottom of an 8-inch square pan.
3. Mix coffee and liquor, and pour half of that mixture over cake.
4. Mix sour cream with Cool Whip or whipped cream, then mix that with the custard. Spread half of that mixture over the cake.
5. Repeat layers.
6. Sprinkle top with powdered cocoa.
7. Cover and chill 4 hours or overnight. That is, chill the tiramisu.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Kimberly's Entry

For the competition: Orzo Salad Soup
Desert to follow this: Chocolate Come Volcano Cake

Weather in Tacoma: Grey, cloudy and constant rain

Box of Orzo Pasta
Halved Slepdido Tomatoes
**Cut up Hearts of Palm- never used ingredient
Artichoke Hearts quartered
Perlini Mozzarella Cheese
Chopped Garlic
Cut Scallions
Olives- as many & as small as you want
Olive Oil- enough to keep the pasta loose
Cut up Sun Dried Tomatoes
Diagonally cut Carrots
Veggie Broth
Butternut Squash Soup
Last bit of pasta sauce at the bottom of the jar

Cook the Orzo in water, the bit of pasta sauce, and a bit of veggie broth. Have a large pot of Veggie broth, butternut squash soup (like half a cup, or as much as you like) and combine all the ingredients and mix. Serve warm with preferred kind of bread for dipping.

This will feed you, and another person for about four meals. You can add and subtract what ingredients you prefer. Jack added some Parmesan cheese on top of his. You can also save some of the mixture from the broth and have just Orzo pasta, if your weather is hot.

Come Cake Brownie Explosion

Box of Brownie Mix
Shredded Coconut
**Coconut Milk—never used ingredient
Powered Sugar

Add your preferred amount of shredded coconut to the brownie batter, and include a dash of coconut milk as well. Bake brownie batter in small bunt cake molds.

When brownies are done baking, let them cool for 15-20 minutes before removing from the mold.
Once removed sprinkle brownies with the powered sugar, follow with the shredded coconut. Fill the center of each brownie with the coconut milk- wala! You have make Come Cake Brownie Explosion! To make more indulgent pour warmed chocolate sauce over the top. Enjoy!!


A trader joe's cheater recipe- aka I had ants

So my kitchen is invested with black nasties that I CANNOT stand. My roommates are all MIA currently in foreign countries and we have a pretty big kitchen. so half the food we had has been infested and trashed. as a result - I had to make dinner while cleaning and it had to be safe.

Trader joe's battered tilapia from the frozen section

and 1 jar of Corn Tortilla Soup also from TJs

Together- it was good- but it gave me wicked heartburn, so I put it on a low scale. I think it was the soup -the fish was good...

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Holy Hotness!

So, here is my recipe for the Challenge!

Wicked Hot Pasta from Some like it Hot

1 7oz can of Chipotle Peppers in Adobo (I have never cooked with this before)
1/2 C Dry Red Wine
1 Tbsp Tomato Paste
1 1/2 Tbsp Pine Nuts

Cooked Spaghetti
Chunks of cooked chicken (optional)

Chop up the Chipotles. Put the chopped peppers, adobo sauce, wine, tomato paste and pine nuts into a sauce pan over medium heat until warmed through. Add to the pasta. Dump a bunch of cheese on top.

OH MY GOD. It's delicious. And roughly the hottest thing ever made! Review to follow!

Hotter than Hades,
the Cheese doesn't help to cut
Though the searing pain

January Challenge - Staying Ahead of the Weather

For the record, this is not a communist blog. All are not created equal. SOMEONE(S) has to run the show.
That said, the powers that be got together and decided we need to do something to help stimulate more frequent posting.
We are having a food challenge. Probably monthly. I realize its late in the month to start, but you have two weeks to get you crap together.
So here is the Challenge!


Create a dish that helps you beat the weather where you are at using an ingredient you have never used before. Serve it to at least 1 other person, and have them fill out a quick questionairre (we will provide that shortly). We will take an average of the scores given, and pick a winner. The prize will be a gift card to a somehow-approriate venue.

FOR EXAMPLE: Here in Virginia, temperatures are hovering near Absolute Zero on the Kelvin Scale. Co-incidentally, I received a cookbook called "Some Like it Hot". I plan to find a recipe that requires an igredient I have never cooked with before that will sear my senses so entirely that I won't be able to feel the cold till next winter.
If you live in a part of the country/world that is experiencing hot weather, perhaps a cold salad with some odd lettuce? The options are limitless.

To enter, simply post about your culinary adventure by midnight, January 31st. Have your tester rate from 1 to 5 (1 being the lowest, 5 being the highest) your dish in these categories:

1. Was this dish appetizing? (1-5) What were your first impressions? (smell, appearance)
2. Did it taste good? (1-5) What stood out about it? (flavors, heat, textures)
3. Did the cook appear flustered or swear at all while making it - did this dish appear challenging? Were you apprehensive? (1-5)
4. Was the special ingredient new to you? How special do you think it was? (1-5)
5. Would you eat this again? What is the leftover potential of this dish? (1-5)

Bonus if you somehow manage to get your guinea pigs to write a haiku about your dish.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Things I can't cook to save my life

Hashbrowns - the last attempt nearly brought me to tears. Perhaps I am using the wrong potatoes, perhaps I am simply not patient enough...whatever it is, even Joy of Cooking can't save me. I make hopeless hashbrowns.

And pancakes! So simple and yet, most batches come out somewhat edible but neither golden-brown fluffy nor shaped like anything resembling a pancake.

(Yet I was able to make an omelette beautifully for the first-time-ever a few days ago. Everything about it was perfect, and it almost looked too pretty to eat. What gives?)

So there you have it - breakfast is my weakness, and unless you like oatmeal or toast, I suggest you only come over for dinner.

What seemingly simple things have you been defeated by in your kitchen?

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Cha Shu Bao

I remember these Cantonese bread dumplings from childhood, but I currently live in a place where dim sum is nearly impossible to find. My nostalgia finally compelled me to dig into the very confusing Encyclopedia of Chinese Food and Cooking that I purchased at a garage sale. These tasty doughy treats can be stuffed with just about anything, and are great additions to your quick-meal reserves in the freezer. A short steam, and you've got a warm easy meal.

First, the dough:

Yes, it is a word problem of sorts. This cookbook makes me run in circles just trying to keep track of the next step. Let me translate...

Chinese Bread - Man To - recipe from Peking

4 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup sugar
1 1/4 cups warm water
2 tablespoons sugar
1 pkg. dry yeast
2 tablespoons melted butter

Sift the flour, salt, and 1/4 cup sugar in large bowl.

Mix the warm water and 2 tablespoons sugar in measuring cup. Stir in yeast slowly, mix well.

Add melted butter to the yeast mixture.

Hollow out center of the flour mixture, add the yeast mixture, mix thoroughly.

Knead lightly on floured board until dough is smooth and elastic. DO NOT OVER-KNEAD (like I did - the dough will be more chewy than fluffy)

Place dough in greased bowl, cover, and let rise at room temp. until it doubles in bulk, about 1 to 1.5 hours.

Divide dough into 20 3-4 inch round pieces and let rise again while you prepare the filling.

The Filling:

Traditionally, the filling is made up of red bean curd cheese (1 tbls) , sugar (1/2 tsp.), cornstarch (1 tbls.), water (3 tbls.), and chopped BBQ pork (2 cups). Stir fry, then let cool before filling each dough ball with 1 tbls. of the filling mixture, pressing it into the center of the dough and then smoothing over to seal it in.

I shredded some leftover pork rib meat, chopped up some leftover molasses-glazed sweet potatoes, and mixed it all in with a touch of plum sauce, salt and pepper. I imagine there are all kinds of tasty variations on this theme, and vegetarian options would be pretty simple as well.

If you want to freeze some dumplings for later, arrange them on a cookie sheet and stick it the freezer, once frozen toss them into a bag for easy storage.

To cook, simply steam in a steamer or steamer basket over rapidly boiling water for 15 minutes. I can recall microwaving the Cha Shu Baos my mother would buy, but have not yet tried to cook this home-made version that way.