Tag Archives: dinner

Sausage Carbonara

10 Dec

What do you when you have 1 egg? Or even worse, 1 egg yolk? Make pasta alla carbonara of course! Pasta alla carbonara is traditionally made with bacon (usually something like pancetta or guanciale), but I had sausage still in my freezer (remember my Sausage and Warm Potato Salad?) so I decided to use sausage instead. Why buy more food when I have food in my freezer to use up? So I opened my Cooking Light cookbook and found a recipe to base my cooking off of. Their recipe calls for egg substitute and reduced fat milk,  but I had a real egg to use so I also googled the traditional recipe and found one on Food Network here from the fabulous Jamie Oliver that I liked since it also used sausage (although I didn’t use it the way they say, sorry Jamie). Remember, don’t be afraid to experiment in the kitchen. You never know what kind of creations you’ll make because you decide to take a chance. Examining the two recipes I knew I could do a version that included items in my fridge. So I sent a message to my friend Erin to see if she wanted to have a girl’s night in and she agreed: she’d bring the wine and we’d watch a movie and catch up.

Dinner is served! Pasta all Carbonara with Sausage

Dinner is served! Pasta all Carbonara with Sausage

PASTA ALLA CARBONARA WITH SAUSAGE (serves 2)

  • 4 oz Fettuccine (or round spaghetti if that’s what you have)
  • 4-6 oz Sausage (depending how much you want per person)
  • 1 Egg (or 1 Egg Yolk if that’s all you happen to have, lol)
  • 2 oz Half & Half
  • Salt & Pepper to taste
  • 1-2 Tbsp Olive Oil
  • Chopped Fresh Parsley (optional)
  • 1 garlic clove (optional)
  • Sliced mushrooms (optional, used above)
Chopped Garlic, Parsley and sliced Mushrooms ready to go in the pan.

Chopped Garlic, Parsley and sliced Mushrooms ready to go in the pan.

I started water on the stove to boil for my pasta. Meanwhile, I first sliced up my sausage into about 1/4 to 1/3 inch thick slices and set aside. Then I chopped my parsley, garlic and sliced a few mushrooms that I had leftover. In a medium saucepan I heated the oil and then sautéed the garlic and mushrooms and then added the sausages. In a small to medium bowl I whisked together the half and half and egg. By this time the water should be boiling and I added in my fettuccine. Pasta takes about 7 minutes to cook al dente, but for this, drain it at 5 minutes and add to your sausage and mushrooms and reduce heat to low and stir altogether, adding salt and pepper to taste. Add your egg mixture to the pan and stir constantly so that the eggs don’t scramble, but it becomes a thick sauce. Cook for about 5 minutes. Serve and garnish with fresh parsley. Enjoy! (I apologize that I can’t recall the wine, I thought I saved the bottle, but alas, I did not.) In 2013 I will make traditional pasta alla carbonara, as it’s also a yummy and easy dish!

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Stuffed Chicken With Friends

12 Oct

Angel is very excited!

Cooking is fun. Cooking for others is even more fun. Food is communal, but with more and more of us on the go these days a sit down dinner can be rare. Even rarer, home cooked meals with friends. It’s easier to go out somewhere with friends, and you can be sure I’ll be sharing those events as well, but today I want to share my dinner with my friends Angel and Eric (their son gave me my first award). Angel and I struck a deal, I cook them dinner and she dyes my hair. (I’m a natural blonde, but am loving being a red-head these days!) This was my third time over and the previous times I cooked two of my favorite dishes that I’ve been cooking since college, Chicken Vallarta and Chili Mac (both of which I’ll cover in future posts). This time I decided to try something I had only done once, Chicken Breasts Stuffed with Caramelized Onions and Brie. Doesn’t that just sound yummy?

Stuffing chicken is not easy. It’s not difficult, but it’s something that takes practice. Well this girl needs more practice. Because you have to create a pocket in the breast, many times you’ll cut in too far. For us home cooks that’s okay because we’re not being reviewed by the LA Times, but I still want to perfect it. So don’t fret if you cut through accidentally, the stuffing will still be in the chicken and give it a delicious flavor!

For a side dish I made oven fried rosemary potatoes. Super easy and they cook while you’re working on the chicken (which takes time). Before I get into the recipes, be sure you have the time to do this one, it took about an hour from prep to dish, but worth every minute of waiting (and smelling).

The final product-yum!

CHICKEN BREASTS STUFFED WITH CARAMELIZED ONIONS & BRIE (serves 4)

  • Four 4-6 oz. boneless chicken breasts
  • Half a small to medium onion
  • 4 oz of brie
  • 6 garlic cloves
  • Fresh Sage (a few leaves)
  • 1 can of chicken broth
  • 2/3 cup white wine
  • Olive oil
  • Salt & Pepper to taste

In a medium saucepan heat about a teaspoon of oil on medium heat (I always make sure the bottom of the pan is coated). Slice the onion and toss 3/4 of it into the pan. (Set the other 1/4 of it aside as you will chop up for the sauce.) Stir occasionally. While you wait for the onions to cook down (they should be getting glossy and almost translucent), take 4 garlic cloves and slice finely. Be sure to remove the skin first! Use a small paring knife and be very careful-I don’t want you slicing your finger off! Side note: easy way to remove the skin, cut off the butt end of the clove and the skin will peel off easily. Stir in 1/3 cup wine and continue cooking until most of the liquid has evaporated (about 4-6 minutes depending on the heat of your stove). Take your brie and cut the rind off and stir into the pan. Salt and pepper to taste. Once the brie has melted down pour the mixture into a soup bowl. It will be easier to spoon into the chicken this way.

Take your small paring knife (make sure it’s sharp) and cut about a two inch slit in the thickest part of the chicken breast, just don’t cut through

Chicken breasts stuffed with caramelized onions and brie mixture before cooking

(hard, I know).  Keep the chicken on a cutting board and be sure to cut parallel to the board. You want to create a pocket to put your stuffing mixture into, so use the knife to carve out that pocket. If you do cut through, don’t stress, I promise it will still work, it just might be a little messier in the pan. Spoon as much of your onion-brie mixture as you can fit in the pocket. If you did cut through any of the sides by accident, try to use other pieces of the breast to “plug” the hole. When you cook it, it will “fuse” so it won’t leak. Weird sounding, I know, but trust me. Once they’re all stuffed put another teaspoon of oil in the pan over medium-high heat and place the chicken in the pan. Cook each side about 5-7 minutes.

While the chicken is cooking, chop the sage finely so you have about a tablespoon of fresh sage. Next, take the other 2 garlic cloves and chop those finely as well. Side Note: a trick to chopping garlic, cut the butt end off (like above), then take the flat side of your knife and place on the large side of the garlic so it sits on the chopping board. Press down with the heel of your hand so the clove “opens”, then chop finely. Take the rest of your onion and chop finely. Once the chicken is done, remove to a plate and cover to keep warm, then pour in the other 1/3 cup of wine, chopped sage, onion and garlic and cook for about 2 minutes, again over medium-high heat. (If you have any extra of the onion-brie mixture, throw it into the pan to be part of the sauce-double yum!) Stir in the chicken broth and bring to a boil and let it reduce to about 3/4 to 1 cup. Put your chicken back into the pan and reduce heat to low. Let the chicken warm up again while you prep your plates (and probably your side dish). Serve with sauce and enjoy!

ROASTED ROSEMARY or SAGE POTATOES

  • 1/4 lb per person of small red potatoes
  • Fresh Sage or Rosemary
  • Olive Oil
  • Salt & Pepper to taste

Eric enjoyed his dinner the following night and was ready! Leftovers are yummy too!

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Get out an oven safe pan (I use a cookie sheet, you can also use a cast iron pan) and spread the fresh sage/rosemary around along with olive oil, salt and pepper. Cut the potatoes in half (or in thirds if especially large) and spread out with the cut side down. If you like garlic you crush some up and add that to the pan. Kosher salt, white pepper or herbs de provence also work really well! Stick them in the over and cook for about 30-40 minutes depending on how crunchy you like them. With the above chicken recipe, I put the potatoes in after I started the onions.

Pan Fried Tilapia

1 Oct

Frying the first side, almost ready to be turned.

I always thought cooking fish was hard and my dad always laughed when I said that. The first time I made salmon I realized why he laughed. Fish really is pretty easy. But until tonight I had only ever cooked salmon or tuna. For tonight’s dinner I wanted to do fish, but I wanted to do something different. Tilapia filets were on sale at my grocery store, and after much consideration (I even thought about doing chicken instead) I bought one filet for myself.

Then I visited the produce section and grabbed a handful of green beans (one of my favorite side dishes) to cook up. They’re easy and a great side dish to any fish. I had bread crumbs at home and various seasonings so I came in at about $2 for dinner. Can’t beat that.

Most fish goes best with a white wine, especially a white fish like tilapia, so I paired mine with another Riesling (my go to white wine), this time from Hedgeline Vineyards (2010). I had never tried their wine before, but it sounded delicious! It was a crisp fruity wine that I really enjoyed and will probably purchase again. And yes, the plate is from IKEA! For dessert I had a treat from a sweet shop I discovered in Atwater Village, Sweets for the Soul. The Peanut Butter Brownie Shot (click for picture!). If you like brownies and if you like peanut butter, you’ll like this. It’s the brownie version of a mudpuddle (a future post for sure!).

Pan Fried Tilapia with Green Beans and a glass of Hedgeline Riesling

PAN FRIED TILAPIA AND GREEN BEANS

  • 3-4 oz Tilapia filet
  • 1 Tbsp very fine bread crumbs (approximate)
  • 3 Tbsp oil (olive, vegetable, canola, your choice)
  • Salt & Pepper to taste
  • Rosemary leaves to taste
  • Handful of fresh green beans
  • Half a lemon or lime (optional)

1 Serving
(if using more than 2 filets, add another tablespoon or two of oil as needed, and only cook 2 filets at a time. Add additional green beans as needed)

Turn the oven to 300 degrees (this will be to keep the fish warm while you cook the green beans). In a medium saucepan heat the oil on high. While that’s heating, on a plate or the wrapping the fish came in, sprinkle the bread crumbs on either side of the filet along with salt, pepper and rosemary leaves to taste. Before the oil is at a full boil but a couple of bubbles have started, place the filet in the hot oil. Fry for about 2 to 3 minutes. While waiting, nip off the ends of the green beans, this should take up the time for side one, then flip the filet (carefully, you don’t want to splash the (very) hot oil on yourself) and fry the other side for 2-3 minutes. While you’re waiting for that side to finish, take out a cookie sheet or other oven safe pan and place a paper towel on it. Once the fish is done place it on the paper towel pan and stick it in the oven.

Sautéing the green beans in the oil used for the fish.

Turn the heat down to medium and throw the green beans into the oil. Yes, the oil that you just cooked the fish in. Why waste it and why dirty another pan? Salt and pepper the beans and saute for about 5-7 minutes or until they are as done as you like them. Remove the fish from the oven and squeeze your half lemon/lime over fish and beans. Enjoy!

Experiments In The Kitchen-Part 1

28 Sep

When you enter the kitchen do you enter with a cookbook? With a specific recipe in mind? I’m sure most of you answered yes. And most of the time I do the same. But every now and then I love to go into the kitchen without a real plan (and yes, my OCD does freak a little, but because I know I’m creating something new I’m able to push past the voice screaming in my head, lol). I usually have a few veggies in my fridge that I need to cook or they’ll go bad, so I come up with something that works, or doesn’t.

Tonight I got home early from work and I was planning on making some tortellini I had bought on my last grocery trip, but I knew I would need to make sauce for it. Lucky for me, my roommate Janelle had already been up to something in the kitchen. She still had some fresh kale and she wanted to do something with it before she went away for a week, so she decided to make a pasta sauce (not knowing I would be making pasta that night). Well she was worried that it didn’t turn out right. She chopped up kale and added onion, garlic (both powder and fresh), basil (finely chopped), can of tomato paste, can of diced tomatoes and a diced bell pepper for texture.

Okay, I’m not a fan of kale (ie, this may be the only time you see kale in quite a while), but I will try anything once. Janelle said it didn’t taste right, but she wanted a second opinion. I told her I would taste it when I got back from my run. The pot had been simmering on very low heat for over 20 minutes by the time I got back. I dipped a piece of olive bread in and was pleasantly surprised!  To be on the safe side since I can eat olive bread dipped in olive oil or with melted butter on it, I tried the sauce by itself. And you know what? It wasn’t half bad! It didn’t taste like kale, it tasted like a yummy pasta sauce. I poured it over my tortellinis and topped it with shredded Parmesan cheese and voila-dinner! I’m looking forward to seconds!

So I realize that not everyone knows exactly what kale is. And as someone who doesn’t eat it very often, I can only tell you it’s a form of cabbage. So what do I do? I Wikipedia it of course! It’s always been said that kale is one of those super foods, and you know what, they’re right. With over 700% of your daily dose of Vitamin K and half your Vitamin C needs and potentially anti-cancer properties, I think “super food” probably fits. Don’t be afraid to try new foods. I believe any food can be prepared to make it yummy (yummy is a technical cooking term), as evidenced by the many episodes of Chopped where they turn things like canned hagus and edible flowers into meals.

So next time you’re worried about veggies going bad but you’re not sure what to make, have some fun, be bold and start throwing stuff in a pot or pan and have some fun! I do recommend doing this only for yourself or a close friend the first time, just in case it doesn’t turn out the best, lol. I’d love to hear your experiments in the kitchen! Leave a comment below! And look for more “Experiments In The Kitchen” in future posts!

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Greek Inspired Pasta Dish

26 Sep

Pasta is one of the easiest and most malleable dishes to make (so you can expect to see many pasta dishes). It’s kinda like Meryl Streep, that woman has so many characters and such a broad range, but underneath it all is a familiar face. But I digress, back to pasta. You can put just about any meat you want in it, or no meat at all and it’s still filling. Same goes for the veggies, it all depends on what you like and if you’re going for a theme. Everything goes with pasta, or at least, I haven’t found anything that hasn’t. So don’t be afraid to take a risk and add any veggies/meats you like! I had half a bell pepper left over so I chopped that up as well. The recipe for the Chicken Greek Pasta is below. I paired it with a Riesling by Fetzer. I love their wine by the way. It’s reasonably priced and has such a wonderful flavor. I’m a big fan of Rieslings and since I’m on a tight budget, Fetzer fits the bill. Oh, and the dish is from IKEA. For those of you on Facebook you may recognize this dish from a few weeks ago. After a friend asked for the recipe and then reported back success, I knew I wanted to start the blog off with this!

Greek Inspired Pasta Dish

Linguine with spinach, sun dried tomatoes, onion, bell pepper, grilled chicken and Feta Cheese.

CHICKEN GREEK PASTA WITH FETA (makes 2 servings)

4 oz Linguine (or any pasta of your choice, 2 oz for each person)
3 oz Grilled Chicken (I used pre-cooked to cut down on prep & cooking time)
Fresh Baby Spinach, 2 handfuls
2 Spoonfuls of Sun Dried Tomatoes soaked in Olive Oil (I used julienne cut)
1/4 Small Onion, chopped
1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
Dried Basil to taste (optional)
Salt & Pepper to taste

In a medium pot boil about 3 qts of water. I usually salt the water. (Yes, there’s a big debate about salting pasta water which I will save for another post.) Cook the pasta for about 7 minutes. Drain, but save about a tablespoon of water and mix back in with pasta.

While you wait for the water to boil work on the fixings.
In a medium saucepan saute the onions in the olive oil, after a few minutes throw in the spinach. Once the onions and spinach start to cook down, toss in the chicken. I scoop a couple spoonfuls of jarred sun dried tomatoes into the pan. Salt, pepper to taste. I also use about a teaspoon or two of dried basil. Mix together with drained pasta. Sprinkle with feta and enjoy!

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