Tag Archives: pasta

Spring Ahead

I’m so over winter that I don’t even care that I lost an hour of sleep to “spring ahead” yesterday.  I lost count somewhere along the way but I think this will be the second (or first?!) full Monday of school that M and O have had since the winter break ended.  Our front walkway is a never-ending battle of ice vs. salt, and ice is the reigning champion. I’m looking forward to seeing daylight when I leave instead of shuffling across a minefield of slush and ice in the dark. I will gladly give up one hour of sleep to have some more daylight (and if you know me personally you know how much of a sacrifice that is right now).

Winter means we’re home and indoors more often.  That means we have more time to cook up home improvement schemes, and for me to pore through my cookbooks to cook up some new recipes.  I have made chicken Parmigiana many different ways. Up until now, my favorite way was the one I previously shared here, which involves breading the chicken and pan-frying it in olive oil.  Then Lane gave me The Skinnytaste Cookbook for Christmas and the chicken Parmigiana recipe there is a game-changer.  The chicken is baked instead of fried but you’d honestly never know it.  I served this with homemade spaghetti and it was a complete crowd-pleaser.

skinny chicken parm

Skinny Chicken Parmigiana

Ingredients:

for the chicken:

  • non-stick cooking spray or oil mister
  • 3 (8 oz. each) boneless, skinless chicken breasts, fat trimmed
  • 3/4 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/2 C. seasoned whole-wheat bread crumbs
  • 3 Tbsp. grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 tsp. melted unsalted butter
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 9 Tbsp. part-skim mozzarella cheese

for the sauce OR use your favorite sauce:

  • 2 tsp. olive oil
  • 5 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 2 28-ounce cans crushed tomatoes
  • 3/4 tsp. kosher salt
  • ground black pepper to taste
  • 1/4 C. roughly chopped fresh basil

Directions:

Heat the oven to 450 degrees.

Lightly spray a large baking sheet with oil or non-stick cooking spray.

Slice each chicken breast in half horizontally to make 6 cutlets.

Sprinkle each side of each chicken cutlet with salt and pepper.

In a shallow bowl combine the bread crumbs and Parmesan cheese.

Combine the olive oil and butter in a small bowl.

Brush the butter mixture onto both sides of the chicken cutlet, then dredge the cutlet in the bread crumb mixture and place it onto the prepared baking sheet. Repeat until all cutlets are on the baking sheet.

Lightly spray the top of the chicken cutlets with oil or non-stick cooking spray.

Bake the chicken for about 20 minutes, until it is golden on the bottom.

Turn the chicken over and bake for 5-6 minutes until the chicken is cooked through and the bottom is golden.

While the chicken is baking, make the marinara sauce.

To make the marinara sauce, heat a medium-large saucepan over medium heat.

Add the oil and garlic and tilt the pan to one side so the garlic is covered in oil, then return the pan so it is flat on the burner.

Add 1/4 C. of water, the tomatoes, the salt, and black pepper to taste to the skillet.

Cover the pot, bring the sauce to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low.

Simmer for 10 minutes, until the sauce is heated through.

Remove from the heat, stir in the basil, and adjust seasonings to taste if needed.

To finish the chicken, spread 2-3 Tbsp. of sauce onto each cutlet and sprinkle the mozzarella evenly onto each cutlet.

Place the cutlets under the broiler for a few minutes, until the cheese melts, bubbles, and starts to brown.

Remove from the oven and serve with additional sauce and, if desired, over pasta.

Makes 6 servings.

Source: adapted from The Skinnytaste Cookbook by Gina Homolka.

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Ring a Ding Ding

The next film in this year’s 12 Days of Oscar series is the 1960 Oscar winner The Apartment.  In the film, Bud Baxter (Jack Lemmon) allows his superiors at work to use his Upper West Side apartment for their extramarital affairs.  He finds himself sharing a love interest, Fran Kubelik (Shirley MacLaine), with personnel director Jeff Sheldrake (Fred MacMurray). The Apartment won five Oscars:  Best Picture, Best Director, Best Writing (Story and Screenplay Written for the Screen), Best Art Direction, and Best Film Editing.  The Apartment was nominated for five additional Oscars: Best Actor in a Leading Role (Jack Lemmon who lost to Burt Lancaster for Elmer Gantry), Best Actress in a Leading Role (Shirley MacLane who lost to Elizabeth Taylor for Butterfield 8), Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Jack Kruschen who lost to Peter Ustinov for Spartacus), Best Black and White Cinematography (lost to Sons and Lovers) and Best Sound (lost to The Alamo).

In The Apartment, Bud makes spaghetti for Fran and ever the sterotypical bachelor he doesn’t have a strainer and so he strains the spaghetti with a tennis racket.  “You’re pretty good with that racket!” Fran tells Bud, to which he replies “Wait ’til you see me serve the meatballs!”  While I recommend more conventional ways for straining pasta, making your own pasta doesn’t have to be completely conventional at all.  There is no need to make a well of flour and knead in eggs by hand if you have a food processor.  Making pasta dough in the food processor takes about a minute.  If you are lucky enough to have a pasta attachment for a Kitchen Aid stand mixer then fresh homemade pasta is easy enough for a weeknight meal. Even using a manual-crank pasta maker, the time you save making the dough will help. No pasta machine? This dough is still easy to roll out into sheets for lasagna or to roll out and cut using a pizza cutter or sharp knife.

spaghetti

 Food Processor Pasta Dough and How to Turn it Into Spaghetti

Ingredients:

  • 2 C. all-purpose flour
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/2 tsp. salt

Directions:

Combine the flour and salt in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a blade (I use my dough blade but the steel cutting blade has also been fine when I used it accidentally).

Pulse a few times to combine.

Crack the eggs on top of the flour.

Put the lid onto the food processor and process for 30-60 seconds until the dough comes together into a rough ball.

If the dough is dry (if it doesn’t come together and resembles small pebbles) add a tsp. of water and process for 30 seconds.  Repeat the process until the dough comes together.

If the dough is sticky (it will smear on the sides of the food processor bowl), add a Tbsp. of flour and process again.  Repeat until the dough comes together.

Remove the dough from the work bowl and knead it against the counter a few times until it is a smooth ball.

Dust the dough with a little flour and place it into a small mixing bowl.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the dough rest at room temperature for 30 minutes before rolling it into pasta.

To make the dough into spaghetti using a Kitchen Aid pasta roller:

Remove the work bowl from the stand mixer, and attach the pasta roller attachment to the mixer.

Take a small portion of dough (a little smaller than the palm of your hand) and flatten it into a rough disk.  Feed the disk into the pasta roller attachment while the mixer is running on medium speed (I use “4”).

You may need to lightly flour the piece of dough if you find that it doesn’t go through the roller smoothly.  I like to put each piece through each setting twice before moving to the next setting. If the dough doesn’t come out smooth, fold it up and run it through again.

Turn the dial on the attachment to “2” and feed the dough through.  If the dough seems sticky flour both sides before feeding it through.

Repeat the process until the dough has gone through setting “4.”

When the dough has been rolled to the “4” setting, you can either put it on a parchment lined baking sheet, sprinkling liberally with flour on both sides (you will stack pieces of dough on top of each other and you don’t want them to stick together- I do not recommend this method), OR you can hang them on a pasta drying rack (Lane built mine, but you can order one of your own), OR you can lay a broom handle or long stick with each end on the back of a chair (like a limbo stick) and hang the pasta over that (line it with plastic wrap first).

Repeat this process until all of your dough has been run through the pasta roller at setting “4.”

Remove the pasta roller attachment and attach the spaghetti attachment.

Feed one piece of rolled pasta dough through the spaghetti attachment while the mixer is running on the “4” speed.

Collect the spaghetti as it comes out the bottom of the attachment and either arrange it into nests while you work with the rest of the dough, or hang it up.

Repeat with all of the dough until it is spaghetti.

To cook, heat a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil and add the pasta.  Pasta is done when it floats to the top (about 2-3 minutes).

Source: dough recipe from The Kitchn

cooked homemade spaghetti

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Anyone Else But You

Day four of 12 Days of Oscar brings us the first film in this year’s feature that did win an Oscar.  Diablo Cody won an Oscar for Best Writing, Original Screenplay for the 2008 film Juno.  Juno stars Ellen Page as Juno MacGuff, a snarky sixteen-year-old who discovers she is pregnant with her longtime friend Paulie Bleeker’s (Michael Cera) baby.  Juno makes a series of decisions throughout the course of the film including how she really feels about Paulie. Juno was also nominated for Best Picture (lost to No Country for Old Men), Best Actress in a Leading Role (Ellen Page, who lost to Marion Cotillard for her role in La Vie en Rose), and Best Director (Jason Reitman who lost to the Coen brothers for No Country for Old Men).

Juno’s hamburger phone or the jugs of Sunny Delight she chugs could have been some inspiration here but I had a better idea. At the end of the film (spoiler alert!), Juno describes Paulie as the cheese to her macaroni.  Macaroni and cheese are great together, and so are Juno and Paulie.  I love a good, classic macaroni and cheese that starts with a roux and gets baked with buttery bread crumbs on top.  I don’t always have time to do all of that, and when I’m pressed for time I make a simple stove top version instead. This is a quick mac and cheese but if you have a little extra time it does hold up to being topped with bread crumbs and baked.  Use whatever cheese you have on hand (I used smoked Gouda because I had some to use up and it was a little stringy but OMG so good), and while I suggest shells or elbow macaroni to really soak up the cheese sauce, you can go ahead and use penne or ziti or whatever else you have on hand.

stovetop gouda mac and cheese

Stovetop Macaroni and Cheese

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb. pasta, any shape
  • 1 1/2 C. whole or 2 % milk
  • 2 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
  • 2-3 C. shredded cheese (cheddar, Monterrey Jack, or C olby are best but I used Gouda here and it was great)
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. powdered mustard

Directions:

Bring about 4 quarts of water to a boil in a large pot.

Add pasta and a tablespoon of salt to the boiling water.

Cook for about 8 minutes until the pasta is al dente.

Drain pasta and set aside.

When the pasta has finished cooking, warm 1 C. of the milk in the saucepan over medium heat.

Whisk together the remaining 1/2 C. of milk and the flour until there are no lumps.

When steam starts to rise from the warming milk, whisk in the milk and flour mixture.

Continue whisking gently for 3 to 4 minutes until the milk thickens slightly to the consistency of heavy cream.

Turn the heat to low and begin mixing handfuls of cheese into the milk.

Stir in the salt and mustard.

Stir until all of the cheese has melted and the sauce is creamy.

Taste and adjust the seasonings as desired.

Remove the sauce from the heat.

Combine the pasta and 1/2 of the cheese sauce in a large bowl and stir to coat the pasta evenly.

Add the second half of the sauce and any add-ins you like (cooked ham or cooked bacon are two of my favorites).

Serve warm.

Source: The Kitchn

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Memories Are Made of This

beet ravioli

The Opening Ceremonies for the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi took place yesterday.  All told, it was a pretty smooth start to an Olympics surrounded with controversy.  I know the ring didn’t light up, but considering Vancouver 2010’s cauldron mishap, maybe it’s best to concede that these things just happen sometimes.  In case you missed it yesterday, it’s worth finding footage of the Red Army Choir singing Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky.”  Today’s events include the men’s singles luge, the men’s 500 meter speed skating, and the team dance portion of the new team figure skating category.

Like I did for the Summer 2012 Games, I’ll be taking a look back at the Winter Games of past years, starting with 1956.  The 1956 Winter Olympics were held in Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy.  At the 1956 Winter Games, the Olympic Oath was sworn for the first time by a woman.  Thirty-two countries competed, sending 821 athletes to compete in twenty-four events.  This was the last Winter Olympics where the figure skating competitions took place outdoors.  Soviet athletes made their Winter Olympics debut at these games, with the USSR competing for the first time.

Located in the Dolomites, Cortina d’Ampezzo is home to some great skiing and cycling.  It is also home to a specialty dish called casunziei ampezzani, a ravioli with beet and ricotta filling.  At first, this idea was pretty intimidating.  I couldn’t remember the last time I ate beets, and I had never prepared them.  Luckily I found a recipe that made this dish much less daunting.  Also luckily, Lane gave me a pasta roller attachment for my stand mixer for Christmas, so rolling out the pasta dough was a breeze.  You can still make these without a pasta attachment, or a pasta roller, but you’ll have to roll the dough pretty thin using a rolling pin.  It’s not a lot of work, it just adds to the hands-on time.  Roasted beets are a fantastic ravioli filling.  They’re earthy and slightly sweet.  The poppy seed and butter sauce is the perfect light sauce for the rich ravioli.

Casunziei Ampezzani (Beet Ravioli with Butter Poppy Seed Sauce)

Ingredients:

for the filling:

  • 2 large red beets (about 12 ounces, greens removed)
  • 1/2 C. whole-milk ricotta cheese (preferably fresh)
  • 1/4 C. grated asiago cheese

for the pasta:

  • 2 C. all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 3 large eggs

for the sauce:

  • 1/2 C. (1 stick) butter
  • 1 Tbsp. poppy seeds

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Place each beet on a sheet of aluminum foil.

Drizzle each beet with olive oil, wrap with the foil and place it on a baking sheet.

Roast for about 1 hour, until the beets are tender enough to be easily pierced with a knife.

Carefully unwrap the foil and allow the beets to cool.

Peel the beets and grate them into the work bowl of a food processor.

Add the ricotta and grated cheese to the work bowl of the food processor.

Pulse until finely chopped, then season with salt and pepper to taste.

To make the pasta dough, combine the flour, eggs, and salt in the work bowl of a food processor fitted with the dough blade. 

Process for 30-60 seconds, until the dough forms a rough ball.

If the dough resembles pebbles or has the texture of cous cous, add  a Tbsp. water to the food processor and process again.  Repeat this process until the dough comes together.

Knead the dough a few times until it forms a smooth ball.

Sprinkle a little flour onto the dough and place it into a small bowl.  Cover it with plastic wrap and allow it to rest at room temperature for 30 seconds before rolling it out.

To roll out the dough using a stand mixer attachment or other pasta roller, roll the dough following the manufacturer’s instructions to a thickness of 4 or 5. To roll it out by hand, roll the dough out on a floured surface to 1/8 of an inch thick.  Work with one sheet of dough at a time and keep all others covered with a clean kitchen towel to prevent it from drying out.

Use a drinking glass or biscuit cutter to cut rounds out of the sheets of dough.

Spoon 1 tsp. of the beet filling onto each round.

Moisten your fingertip with water (it’s handy to keep a small bowl of water next to you while you work), and fold the rounds in half, pressing to seal the edges together around the filling.

Place the formed ravioli onto a floured sheet pan and continue to cut rounds, fill, and seal them.  Re-roll the scraps of dough and continue the process until all of the dough is used.

When you are ready to cook the ravioli, melt the butter in a large skillet and stir in the poppy seeds.  Reduce the heat to keep the butter warm, but do not burn the butter.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat.

Add the ravioli in batches, cooking for about 2 minutes.

Remove the ravioli from the boiling water using a slotted spoon and place them into the melted butter mixture, tossing to coat.  Repeat until all ravioli are cooked and tossed in sauce.

Source: adapted from Italian Food, Wine, and Travel with pasta dough from The Kitchn

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Then Came Lo Mein

I feel like the summer just started and here we are approaching Labor Day.  I’m looking forward to fall getting here, because then we have some breathing room in the schedule again.  As much as I love simple grilled dinners, salads, or cookouts with friends all summer long,  I’m ready to be back in jeans and boots and comfy sweaters hovering over pots of soup and pulling roasts out of the oven.  Quick and simple dinners have been critical lately.  Just because a dinner is quick and simple doesn’t have to mean that it’s boring.

Lo mein is anything but boring.  On the rare occasions that we order Chinese takeout anymore, lo mein has always been a huge hit.  Using a frozen stir fry vegetable mixture helps to make chicken lo mein a quick weeknight meal.  No, it isn’t the same as cutting up all of those vegetables and sauteing them to perfection, but it does mean that we can have lo mein at home faster than we can order it and drive over to the local takeout place.   Really, this is marinated cooked chicken stir fried with steamed frozen stir fry vegetable mix, tossed with spaghetti and a tasty sauce.  What this lo mein lacks in authenticity, it makes up for with flavor.  The ginger is subtle, and there’s just enough heat to keep it interesting.

chicken lo mein

Quick Chicken Lo Mein

Ingredients:

  • 8 oz. uncooked spaghetti
  • 1 Tbsp. oyster sauce
  • 2 Tbsp. reduced-sodium soy sauce
  • 1/4 C. chicken broth
  • pinch of red pepper flakes
  • 2 tsp. sesame oil, divided
  • 2 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 8-10 oz. chicken), cut into strips
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 bag frozen mixed stir fry vegetables (my mixture included broccoli, red peppers, water chestnuts, baby corn, and mushrooms)

Directions:

Cook the spaghetti according to package directions until al dente, then drain and set aside.

In a small bowl, combine the oyster sauce, soy sauce, chicken broth, and red pepper flakes, then set aside.

Sprinkle the chicken strips with salt and pepper and set aside.

Cook the frozen stir fry vegetables according to package directions and set aside.

Heat a wok or large skillet over high heat.

Add 1 tsp. of the oil, then add the chicken and cook, stirring, until no longer pink in the center.

Remove the chicken from the wok and set aside.

Heat another tsp. of the oil, then add the cooked vegetables, stirring to coat the vegetables with the oil.

Add the chicken back into the wok and stir to combine with the vegetables.

Add the cooked spaghetti to the wok, and stir to combine.

Pour the soy sauce mixture into the wok and stir to thoroughly combine.

Stir until the mixture is heated through, and serve.

Makes 4 servings.

Source: adapted from Iowa Girl Eats

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Quiet Storm

It’s hard to believe that it’s been three weeks since I last posted here.  I freely admit that I haven’t done much cooking.  We have been doing plenty of anniversary partying, coffee date with friend-ing, camping, vacationing, amusement park-ing, and drive-in move going.  What we have not been doing plenty of is meal planning, grocery shopping, and cooking.  There’s been some cooking, just not blog-worthy cooking.  We’ve slathered pork chops with barbecue and grilled them, and enjoyed many a corn on the cob or a burger.  We’ve also enjoyed plenty of meals out either celebrating or due to time constraints.  So, while I’ve been completely neglecting my blogger duties, I have been completely busy loving my new job, loving time with Lane and the kiddos, and celebrating both our own milestones and those of the people we love.

With nothing planned or thawed out ahead of time and with no real plan in hand, I made a great dinner last night that took less than half an hour from start to finish.  The next time I come home from work and decide that it’s faster to order something or head to a restaurant, I am going to remind myself that in the amount of time it would have taken to peel M away from her Kindle and O away from his Legos, we could be sitting down to dinner.  I thawed some shrimp, boiled some water, and got to work.  It did help that I had a hunk of Asiago cheese on hand, so if you don’t I strongly suggest putting a hunk of any sharp Italian cheese on your next grocery list.  Just in case.  If you’re looking for a great macaroni and cheese recipe, you can follow the instructions and skip the shrimp and peas.  I love this pasta with bacon or ham and broccoli as well.

pasta with cheese sauce shrimp and peas

Penne in Cheese Sauce with Shrimp and Peas

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb. penne pasta, cooked to package directions and drained
  • 8 oz. sharp Italian cheese (such as Asiago), grated
  • 1 1/2 C. whole milk, divided
  • 2 Tbsp. flour
  • freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 1 C. frozen peas, thawed
  • 12 oz. uncooked large shrimp (25-30 per lb.), peeled and deveined
  • 2 tsp. olive oil

Directions:

While the pasta is cooking, prepare the shrimp.

Heat the oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat.

Add the shrimp in a single layer, sprinkle evenly with salt and pepper.

Cook the shrimp for 2-3 minutes, then flip them and cook for 2-3 more minutes just until they are pink and opaque.  Remove from the heat and keep covered.

To prepare the cheese sauce, warm 1 C. of the milk in a medium saucepan.

While the milk in the saucepan is warming up, whisk the remaining 1/2 C. of milk with the flour in a small bowl until there are no lumps.

When the milk in the saucepan is just starting to release steam, whisk in the flour and milk mixture and whisk constantly for 3-4 minutes over medium heat until the mixture resembles heavy cream.

Reduce the heat to low and add the grated cheese, a handful at a time, stirring until the sauce is smooth after each addition.

Continue until all of the cheese has been added to the sauce and stir until the sauce is creamy.

Stir in freshly ground black pepper to taste.

Stir together the cooked shrimp, pasta, and peas.

Pour the cheese sauce over the pasta mixture and stir to evenly coat the pasta mixture with cheese sauce.

Makes 6 generous servings.

Source: pasta and cheese sauce adapted from The Kitchn.

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