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Here are the tastingspoons players. I’m in the middle (Carolyn). Daughter Sara on the right, and daughter-in-law Karen on the left. I started the blog in 2007, as a way to share recipes with my family. Now in 2021, I’ll still participate, but the two daughters are going to do more posting from here on out – well, I hope that’s not wishful thinking. They both lead very busy lives, so we’ll see.

We participate in an amazon program that rewards a little tiny $ something (pennies, really) if you purchase any books recommended (below), or buy products occasionally mentioned on the blog with an amazon link. 

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BOOK READING (from Carolyn):

At the moment I’m reading Amor Towles’ new book, The Lincoln Highway: A Novel. Literally I’ve just started it, but it’s a page turner. I think it’s still on the best seller list. A young man, Emmett, is released from a youth work camp (back in the day) and is returned home (by the camp warden) following the death of his father, to find that the home they’d lived in was in foreclosure. His mother abandoned them years before. His intent is to pick up his 8-year old brother and they will head off for Texas, but then he discovers two of his work-camp-mates had hidden themselves in the trunk of the warden’s car. Oh my goodness, such a tangled web. Fascinating, and Amor Towles has such a way with words. His sentences are like blooming flower vines, with metaphors in nearly every sentence. Such a gifted writer. Loving it so far.

If you’d like a mystery read, try Dete Meserve’s The Space Between. It’s just the kind of page-turner I enjoy – a wife returns to her home after being away on business for a few days, to find her husband missing and what he’s left for her is an unexplained bank deposit of a million dollars, a loaded Glock in the nightstand, and a video security system that’s been wiped clean. Oh there are plenty of twists and turns. Couldn’t put it down.

Read Alyson Richman’s historical novel called The Velvet Hours. Most of the book takes place in Paris, with a young woman and her grandmother, a very wealthy (but aging) woman who led a life of a semi-courtesan. Or at least a kept woman. But this grandmother was very astute and found ways to invest her money, to grow her money, and to buy very expensive goods. Then WWII intervenes, and the granddaughter has to close up her grandmother’s apartment, leaving it much the way it had been throughout her grandmother’s life, to escape the Nazis. Years go by, and finally answers are sought and found. An intriguing book, based on the author’s experience with an apartment that had been locked up similarly for decades, also in Paris.

Susan Meissner is one of my favorite authors. This book, The Nature of Fragile Things tells a very unusual story. About a young Irish immigrant, desperate to find a way out of poverty, answers an ad for a mail order bride. She moves to San Francisco and becomes the bride, and mother to the man’s young child. But all is not right with the world. Sophie senses an undercurrent about her husband’s life. He’s elusive, leaves her alone for days on end, doesn’t share her bed, and she begins to feel the only reason he wanted a wife was to care for the child. Then the world turns upside down with the 1906 earthquake. And then there’s more. . . and more. . . very gripping read.

Also read Rachel Hauck’s The Writing Desk. You could call this a romance. A young professional, a writer of one successful book, has writer’s block. Then she’s asked to go to Florida to help her mother (from whom she’s mostly estranged) through chemo. She goes, hoping she can find new inspiration. Oh the various twists this book can give you. There’s a guy she meets, but she’s keeping her boyfriend at home on the string, sort of. Then there’s the desk itself, that has history. Oh my, does it have history. Really interesting story, light reading.

One of my book clubs has us reading Matt Haig’s The Midnight Library: A Novel. What a premise for a book. About a library you can whiz to in the middle of the night and discover other lives you could have lived. And experience them. To find out the answers to those questions we ask ourselves sometimes, “I wonder what would have happened if I’d . . . .” taken that other job, gone out with that guy, taken that trip. That kind of thing. You’ll find out what happened to one particular woman who thought she had nothing left to live for. Good read. Very different. A bit space-agey. Sort of time travel, but not really. But yes, maybe.

James Shipman has written an intriguing book, It Is Well: A Novel, about a man who has lost his wife. And about a woman who has lost her husband. But their relationship stalls, big time, because the guy made a promise to his wife, and he feels duty-bound to honor it. There is much angst about it all. Much wringing of hands, some tears on her part. Nice book; good read.

I wrote up a post about this book: Most Spectacular Restaurant in the World: The Twin Towers, Windows on the World, and the Rebirth of New York by Tom Roston. Go read the full write-up if you’re interested. The book is a complete history of the famous restaurant on the 107th floor of one of the Twin Towers.

Also recently finished The Weight of Ink by Rachel Kadish. The book goes backwards and forwards in time, from the 1600s in London with the day-to-day lives of a group of Jews (who had to be very careful about how they worshiped) to current day as an old house is discovered to hold a treasure-trove of historical papers. The story is mostly about a young woman, educated, a Jew, who is the scribe (in secret) to an aging religious leader (in a time when women would have been verboten to hold such a position). And about her own curiosity about her religion and how she eventually begins writing letters (using a male pseudonym) to various Jewish leaders abroad, questioning their religious beliefs. The book is extraordinarily long – not that that kept me from turning a single page! – and complex with the cast of characters from the 1600s and the cast in today’s world of highly competitive experts analyzing the ancient papers. Altogether riveting book. Loved it from beginning to end.

I’m forever reading historical novels. The Lost Jewels: A Novel by Kirsty Manning is a mystery of sorts, going back in time in London in the time of aristocrats and their jewels (pearls, diamonds, gems of all kinds) sometimes made it into the hands of the digger or a maid. Then to current time as a young woman tries to ferret her family history and particularly about some old-old jewelry that they can’t quite figure out – how the grandmother came to have them. Fascinating tale.

Not for the faint of heart, Boat of Stone: A Novel by Maureen Earl tells the true tale of some misplaced Jews at the tale-end of WWII who ended up on Mauritius.

Colleen Hoover has written quite a book, It Ends with Us: A Novel, with a love story being the central theme, but again, this book is not for everyone – it can be an awakening for any reader not acquainted with domestic violence and how such injury can emerge as innocent (sort of) but then becomes something else. There is graphic detail here.

Erin Bartels wrote quite a complex story in The Words between Us: A Novel. We go alongside a young girl as she goes to high school, trying (somewhat unsuccessfully) to be anonymous (because her mother and father are both in prison), taking on a fake name. She meets a guy and they share a bond of reading and some romance. Years go by and she’s now owner of a failing independent bookstore (and married, or separated) and suddenly begins receiving a used book (that she recognizes) every day from a different place in the country. A message for sure, but where will it lead? Yes, it’s a romance. Lots of introspection going on. Enjoyed it.

Nicolas Barreau’s novel Love Letters from Montmartre: A Novel  is very poignant, very sweet book. Seems like I’ve read several books lately about grieving; this one has a charming ending, but as anyone who has gone through a grave loss of someone dear knows, you can’t predict day to day, week to week. “Snap out of it,” people say, thinking they’re helping.

Another very quirky book, that happens to contain a lot of historical truth is The Phone Booth at the Edge of the World: A Novel by Harry N. Abrams. Set in Japan just after the tsunami 10 years ago when 18,000 people died. At a private park miles away, some very special people installed a phone booth, with a phone (that didn’t work) at the edge of the park, and the survivors of the tsunami began wending their way there to “talk” to their deceased loved ones. Very poignant story.

No question, the most quirky book I’ve read of late, a recommendation from my friend Karen, West with Giraffes: A Novel by Lynda Rutledge. Back in the 1930s a small group of giraffes were brought across the Atlantic from Africa to New York, destined for the then-growing San Diego Zoo. The story is of their journey across the United States in the care of two oh-so-different people, both with a mission.

Riveting story of post-WWII- Japan in Ana Johns novel, The Woman in the White Kimono: A Novel. About a young Japanese girl who falls in love with an American serviceman.

Also read Rishi Reddi’s novel, Passage West: A Novel with a very different take on the migration of Indians (East India) to the California agricultural lands east of San Diego during the 1920s and 30s.

Maybe not everyone’s cup of tea, but the Mary Morris book, A Very Private Diary: A Nurse in Wartime tells the true day to day life of a young Irish girl who becomes a nurse, in England, France and Belgium in the midst of WWII and immediately after the war.

Could hardly put down Krueger’s book, This Tender Land: A Novel. Tells the harrowing story of a young boy, Odie, (and his brother Albert) who became orphans back in the 30s. At first there is a boarding school, part of an Indian (Native American) agreement, though they are not Indian. They escape, and they are “on the run.”

Just finished Kristin Hannah’s latest book, The Four Winds: A Novel. What a story. One I’ve never read about, although I certainly have heard about the “dust bowl” years when there was a steady migration of down-and-out farmers from the Midwest, to California, for what they hoped to be the American Dream. It tells the story of one particular family, the Martinellis, the grandparents, their son, his wife, and their two children.

Brit Bennett has written quite a book, The Vanishing Half: A Novel. It’s a novel, yet I’m sure there are such real-life situations. Twin girls are born to a young black woman in the South. Into a town (that probably doesn’t exist) that prides itself on being light-skinned blacks.

What a book. The Only Woman in the Room: A Novel by Marie Benedict. A novelized biography of Hedy Lamarr, the famous actress.  Very much worth reading.

Also read The Secret of the Chateau: Gripping and heartbreaking historical fiction with a mystery at its heart by Kathleen McGurl. There are two stories here. The historical part is just prior to and up to the French Revolution, and the second in current day as a group of friends purchase a crumbling chateau. Very interesting. I love historical novels like this, and this one in particular does have quite a mystery involved, too.

Also finished reading Sue Monk Kidd’s recent book, The Book of Longings: A Novel. It is a book that might challenge some Christian readers, as it tells the tale of Jesus marrying a woman named Mary. I loved the book from the first word to the last one. The book is believable to me, even though the Bible never says one way or the other that Jesus ever married. It’s been presumed he never did. But maybe he did?

Jeanine Cummins has written an eye-opener, American Dirt. A must read. Oh my goodness. I will never, ever, ever look at Mexican (and further southern) migrants, particularly those who are victims of the vicious cartels, without sympathy. It tells the story of a woman and her young son, who were lucky enough to hide when the cartel murdered every member of her family – her husband, her mother, and many others. It’s about her journey and escape to America.

Also read JoJo Moyes’ book, The Giver of Stars. Oh gosh, what a GREAT book. Alice joins the Horseback Librarians in the rural south.

Frances Liardet has written a blockbuster tale, We Must Be Brave. I can’t recommend this book highly enough. Although the scene is WWII England, this book is not really about the war. It’s about the people at home, waiting it out, struggling with enough food, clothing and enough heat.

William Kent Krueger wrote Ordinary Grace. From amazon: a brilliantly moving account of a boy standing at the door of his young manhood, trying to understand a world that seems to be falling apart around him. It is an unforgettable novel about discovering the terrible price of wisdom and the enduring grace of God. It’s a coming of age story.

Follow the River: A Novel by James Alexander Thom. This one is also based on the history of a woman (married, pregnant) who was captured by the Shawnee, during the early settlement days east of the Ohio River, about 1755. And her eventual escape.

A Column of Fire: A Novel by Ken Follett. It takes place in the 1500s, in England, and has everything to do with the war between the Catholics and the Protestants, that raged throughout Europe during that time, culminating in the Spanish Inquisition.

My Name Is Resolute by Nancy Turner. She’s the author of another book of some renown, These is my Words: The Diary of Sarah Agnes Prine, 1881-1901 (P.S.). Resolute is what I’m discussing here. It’s fiction, but based some on a true story. Resolute, as a young girl from a privileged life on a plantation in Jamaica, was taken captive by slavers, eventually ended up in Colonial America.

The Shepherd’s Life: Modern Dispatches from an Ancient Landscape by James Rebanks. This is a memoir, so a true story, of a young man growing up in the Lake District of Northern England, who becomes a shepherd. Not just any-old shepherd – actually a well educated one. He knows how to weave a story.

 

Tasting Spoons

My blog's namesake - small, old and some very dented engraved silver plated tea spoons that belonged to my mother-in-law, and I use them to taste my food as I'm cooking.

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Posted in Chicken, Pasta, on December 23rd, 2021.

Oh goodness, is this good. Easy to make, and sensational to eat.

A post from Carolyn. This recipe is such a winner. Really quite easy to make – the creamy white sauce starts it off, but then you add cream cheese to it, and Caesar salad dressing. Not a lot of the dressing, but just enough that you can barely taste a hint of Caesar flavor. If you’re into EASY, then do buy a rotisserie chicken, which yielded about 3 cups of shredded chicken for me, just the right amount for this casserole.

After that, it’s the usual kind of lasagna, cooked noodles (I undercooked them slightly), layered with the cheeses and the creamy sauce and chicken. Plus some baby spinach added into each layer. Originally this recipe came from A Pinch of Yum (from 2013!), but I altered it a bit – increasing the sauce quantity and another layer of noodles, and I used a grated cheese blend. Although I’m more of a traditionalist about cheeses (almost never using pre-grated cheese because they put something on it so it won’t clump), this time I was into speed, so I bought Kraft’s Italian blend of cheeses in 8-ounce bags. I used 1 1/2 bags for this recipe. My only caution: make sure you have enough cheese left over to put on the top layer of noodles – you don’t want crispy edges. I also added a pinch of freshly grated nutmeg to the sauce – certainly not traditional! In savory dishes like this with a creamy sauce, I just think nutmeg is a sure-fire winner. You don’t really taste the nutmeg.

I made this the day before I wanted to serve it, and just let it warm up to room temp for about 45 minutes before I put it in the oven. It took a little longer to get it all heated through. I cut it into lunch-sized portions (for one of my ladies’ book groups, a potluck), so use a sharp knife to cut the slices evenly. Do let it cool about 10 minutes before serving.

What’s GOOD: oh gosh, the creamy sauce; altogether deliciousness. It’s easy to put together; can be made ahead too. Loved the leftovers as well.

What’s NOT: not a thing. This recipe is a keeper.

printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook file (click link to open recipe)

* Exported from MasterCook *

Cheesy Chicken Caesar Lasagna

Recipe By: Adapted from Pinch of Yum, Nov. 2013
Serving Size: 12

3 tablespoons butter
3 1/2 tablespoons flour
1 3/4 cups whole milk
4 ounces cream cheese — cut into 1/2″ cubes
1/2 teaspoon salt
ground black pepper to taste
1/8 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1/2 cup Caesar salad dressing
12 ounces grated cheese — Kraft’s Italian cheese blend, comes in 8 ounce packages
12 lasagna noodles
3 cups chicken, meat only — from a whole rotisserie chicken, shredded
3 cups fresh spinach — baby spinach
1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes, oil-packed — chopped

NOTE: the original recipe called for 1/2 cup grated Parmesan and 3 cups shredded Mozzarella. The purchase of the Kraft pre-shredded Italian blend worked beautifully in this recipe, and simplified the work.
1. Melt the butter over medium high heat. Stir in the flour and cook for 2-3 minutes. Add the milk, a little bit at a time, until the mixture is smooth and creamy. Whisk in the cubes of cream cheese, nutmeg, and Caesar dressing until smooth and creamy. Continue cooking over low heat until cream cheese has melted. Taste and adjust seasonings as necessary.
2. Cook the lasagna noodles a minute or two less than the package directions (noodles will continue to cook in the oven). Add the chicken to the sauce mixture and keep over medium low heat.
3. Grease a 9×13 pan and preheat the oven to 375°F. Cover with 3 lasagna noodles. Top with 1/3 the chicken mixture, a third of the spinach, 3 tablespoons of the sundried tomatoes, and a quarter of the cheese. Cover with 3 more noodles. Repeat layers, ending with another layer of noodles and the remaining 1 cup cheese. Make sure you leave enough cheese to cover the top layer.
4. Bake for 30 minutes covered with greased foil. Remove the foil and bake for another 5-10 minutes to brown the cheese. Let stand for 10 minutes before cutting. Can be made ahead and refrigerated. Remove from refrigerator for about 45 minutes before baking.
Per Serving: 673 Calories; 26g Fat (35.6% calories from fat); 34g Protein; 74g Carbohydrate; 3g Dietary Fiber; 94mg Cholesterol; 539mg Sodium; 5g Total Sugars; trace Vitamin D; 292mg Calcium; 4mg Iron; 537mg Potassium; 457mg Phosphorus.

Posted in Pasta, Vegetarian, on March 30th, 2021.

corn_poblano_chile_lasagna_baked

A combination that is positively made in heaven. Lasagna with a Southwest twist.

Linda_T2My good friend Linda, who lives about 50 miles south of me, (pictured at right) spent a few days with me out in Palm Desert. (We’ve been friends for about 30 years.) We agreed ahead of time that we’d maybe go out to lunch, and would cook dinner in. She cooked dinner one night, and I did it the following evening. This is what Linda made – and oh my goodness – is it ever good. There are a number of recipes here on this blog from my friend Linda, who is an excellent cook. If you do a search (search box top left on my home page) for “Linda,” all of her recipes should come up.

corn_poblano_before_baking

There’s the casserole before baking.

Since I try to reduce carbs, this was a super-treat for me. Lasagna in any form is a treat. But corn and poblano sounded so good. Linda said she was served this lasagna at the home of a friend, and she was SO enamored with it, she wouldn’t leave until the hostess gave her the recipe. Linda has made it many times since then, and has altered the original recipe a little bit.

The original recipe came from Marcela Valladolid (Food Network). In the comments many people increased the number of zucchini, onion, and increased the corn too. And increased the peppers. She did all of those things, and Linda also added just a little bit more to the corn and cream mixture too.

corn_poblano_lasagna_servingSo what is it? It’s lasagna noodles layered with roasted poblano (pasilla) chiles, thinly sliced (and cooked) zucchini, a mixture of corn and cream, and plenty of grated Mozzarella cheese. Linda had made it the morning we went to Palm Desert. She took it in a Rachael Ray Lasagna Lugger, Marine Blue Stripe Casserole Carrier, 13X9. If you don’t own one of these, you should – they are just the best out there. I bought the carrier for her several years ago. I own one too, and it’s rated highly for keeping the temp of things (both hot or cold) better than most other carriers out there.

mex_chop_saladSo I didn’t see all the work that went into making this (yes, it’s a lot), but then making any kind of lasagna is a labor of love, I think! It went into the oven and baked for about 50 minutes, then we turned on the broiler, and it took only a few minutes to get the top really golden brown.

Linda also made Mexican Chopped Salad, a Phillis Carey recipe (picture at right) I’ve had on my blog since 2007. I hadn’t made that salad in a long time, and it went so well with the Southwest style lasagna.

What’s GOOD: the unusual flavors for a lasagna. SO tasty. Different. Worth all the work, Linda says. I absolutely love the unique flavor of poblano/pasilla chiles, so this was a winner in my book!

What’s NOT: This recipe takes a lot of time to make and assemble, requires the use of lots of pots and dishes, plus it’s high fat with cream. The carb count on this is off the charts. You could try to cut this into 10 servings, but I assure you, hungry eaters will go back for a second portion if you do that.

printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook file (click link to open recipe)

* Exported from MasterCook *

Corn and Poblano Lasagna

Recipe By: Marcela Valladolid, Food Network
Serving Size: 8

4 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 cloves garlic — minced
2 1/2 cups frozen corn — thawed, may use fire-roasted style
2 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 teaspoon fresh thyme
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 large white onion — thinly sliced (on Mandoline preferably)
8 medium poblano chiles — also called pasilla, charred, peeled, stemmed, seeded and cut into 1-inch strips, or use 4-5 if they’re very large
2 medium zucchini — halved crosswise, then thinly sliced, preferably on Mandoline
12 lasagna noodles — plus a couple extra in case of breakage during cooking
3 cups mozzarella cheese — grated, or Oaxaca cheese, reserving 1 cup for the top of the casserole.

1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
2. Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a medium, heavy saucepan over medium heat. Add two-thirds of the garlic and the corn and saute for 5 minutes. Stir in the cream. Add dried thyme. Cook over medium-low heat for 5 minutes for the flavors to incorporate. Turn off the heat and let cool slightly. Transfer to a blender and season with the thyme and some salt and pepper, and puree until smooth. Pour out into a 6-cup measuring cup/bowl, so you can measure how much you pour onto each layer.
3. Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons butter in a small, heavy skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and sauté until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the remaining garlic and cook for 1 minute. Mix in the poblano strips and zucchini and cook for 5 minutes for the flavors to incorporate. Season with salt and pepper. Turn off the heat.
4. Reserve one cup of the grated cheese to put on the top.
5. Spread about one-quarter of the corn mixture over the bottom of an 11-by-8-inch baking dish. Cover with a layer of 3 lasagna sheets. Spread one-quarter of the poblano mixture and one-quarter of the cheese over the pasta. Repeat the layering three more times. Add cheese to top layer. Place a piece of parchment paper on top of the casserole (inside dimensions – this is to keep the cheese from sticking to the foil) then cover casserole with foil.
6. Bake until the pasta is cooked and tender, about 50 minutes. Remove the foil and turn up the oven temperature to broil. Broil until golden brown and bubbly, 5 to 8 minutes. Let stand for 15 minutes before serving.
Per Serving (this calorie count is too high – I think the recipe program doesn’t interpret the pasta correctly – I think it’s more like 750 calories per serving – still high, but more reasonable than this): 1138 Calories; 55g Fat (43.1% calories from fat); 42g Protein; 121g Carbohydrate; 7g Dietary Fiber; 169mg Cholesterol; 466mg Sodium; 9g Total Sugars; 2mcg Vitamin D; 542mg Calcium; 5mg Iron; 685mg Potassium; 668mg Phosphorus.

Posted in Pasta, Pork, on November 18th, 2020.

pasta_alla_gricia_plated

Ever had this one? The Italians haven’t quite determined which definition they agree on for the word “gricia,” other than it’s for this pasta dish.

Curious as to what gricia meant in Italian, I found out it was a dish created waaaay back in Roman times, 400AD, they think. The other day I was watching a Rachel Ray show and she prepared this. It just spoke to me – since I had radicchio; I had ample mushrooms, although not the type Rachel used. She used hen-of-the-woods – I had just ordinary white mushrooms. I had shallots. I had pancetta too. mushrooms_for_griciaShe talked about guanciale, the fatty sister to pancetta, but she prefers pancetta – mostly, she said, because her husband wants chunks of meaty bits in any pasta she makes. The original of this dish is just shallot – maybe garlic too – and the pork, either pancetta or the guanaciale – pepper, plus pasta, of course. That was it, but Rachel described several riffs she makes on this dish. I took the original recipe and added the radicchio and the lemon zest that she mentioned. I didn’t have any Pecorino, so had to use Parm. I also had leftover Capello’s almond flour pasta (linguine) and certainly wanted to use it, as it’s quite dear. My house smelled so wonderful – the shallot, the garlic, the pancetta plus EVOO.

First up was to roast the mushrooms. See photo above left. They took about 20 minutes in a very hot oven. They were dried out mostly, but still had some moisture inside. And what they did have was concentrated flavor.

gricia_cookingThen I started cooking the sauce. Well, not really much of the sauce part as the only liquid is a little bit of cooking water (from the pasta) added to this. The pancetta was added to a large skillet along with a bit of EVOO, and the pork was rendered down, but leaving the fat that came from it in the pan (for flavor). Then I added shallot and continued to cook that (I forgot to add it to the mushroom pan).

pasta_alla_gricia_pan_mixedThen the sliced radicchio and lemon strips were added and stirred often as it cooked. That really takes but a few minutes. I ladled out some of the pasta water and added that to the pan too. Some cheese is added in the pan when you add the pasta and that’s stirred well (which is why you want to undercook the pasta a little bit). Serve and add more lemon zest and grated cheese on top. I will mention that this dish is very rich. Probably from the pancetta – meaning it has a bit of fat, but that’s what gives it so much flavor. And, I think if you made the full recipe, it would serve more than 4 people.

What’s GOOD: Oh my. SO very delicious. I loved this dish. It’s big on flavor – mostly, I suppose, from the mushrooms, shallots and pancetta. Did I mention how fragrant my house smelled? I had to go out to run an errand immediately after I ate my dinner (leaving my kitchen still in a mess) and when I returned and walked through the door, oh golly did it smell good. This recipe is a keeper. It’s beautiful to look at too, with the dark purple from the radicchio, and the pasta, contrasted with the mushrooms and the bright yellow from lemon strips.

What’s NOT: I can’t think of anything. As I said, this one’s a keeper.

printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook file (click link to open recipe)

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Pasta Alla Gricia

Recipe By: Rachel Ray, on her TV show, 9/20
Serving Size: 4 (maybe 5-6)

12 ounces mushrooms — hen-of-the-woods (maitake) pulled into thin strips, or any other type of mushrooms
2 large shallots — halved lengthwise, then peeled and very thinly sliced
Olive oil cooking spray
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme
1/2 pound pancetta — or meaty guanciale
1 tbsp. EVOO
3 cups radicchio — sliced
3 tablespoons lemon rind — minutely sliced
1 pound spaghetti — or linguine
1 cup Pecorino Romano cheese — grated, or Parm

1. Arrange a rack in the upper third of the oven; preheat to 475°. Line a large baking sheet with parchment. Arrange the mushrooms and shallots on the baking sheet in a single layer. Spray evenly and liberally with the cooking spray and season generously with salt and pepper. Sprinkle the vegetables with the thyme. Roast, stirring halfway through cooking, until the mushrooms are crispy and fragrant, about 20 minutes.
2. Place the pancetta or guanciale in the freezer for 10 minutes. Once it’s firm, slice it into thin 1/2-inch-long pieces.
3. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to boil for the pasta.
4. Heat a large skillet over medium low heat. Add the EVOO, one turn of the pan, then add the pancetta. Cook until the fat renders, about 10 minutes. Then add the radicchio and lemon zest and continue cooking for about 5 minutes, or until the radicchio is barely tender. Season with pepper and remove from the heat.
5. Salt the boiling water, add the pasta, and cook for a minute or two less than the package instructions. Reserve 1 1/2 cups of the cooking water, then drain the pasta.
6. Add the pasta, half the cheese, and 3/4 cup pasta water to the skillet. Toss the pasta for a minute to coat, adding more pasta water if needed to thin the sauce. Transfer the pasta to a large bowl and top with the remaining cheese, a pile of crispy mushrooms and shallots, and a little lemon zest.
Per Serving (yikes): 972 Calories; 42g Fat (38.8% calories from fat); 49g Protein; 99g Carbohydrate; 7g Dietary Fiber; 78mg Cholesterol; 1172mg Sodium; 7g Total Sugars; 1mcg Vitamin D; 777mg Calcium; 6mg Iron; 1259mg Potassium; 868mg Phosphorus.

Posted in Pasta, Vegetarian, on November 8th, 2020.

pasta_alla_vodka

Ever had vodka sauce over pasta? SO delicious.

Back last month when my grandson Vaughan was staying with me, he prepared an additional dinner. His signature dish. Can you imagine a 13-year old having his own “signature dish?” He’s prepared it for many sections of the family, and to family friends too. I’d not been there on any of those occasions, so he offered to make it for the two of us. He asked if I had any sausage to serve along with it – I did. You can see the Italian sausage coins in the back side of the plate above. It was not cooked with the sauce, but provided some protein for the meal.

He prepared the sauce. I had a box of Capello’s almond pasta (which is the best non-wheat pasta I’ve had) in the freezer, so I used it (in photo above). I didn’t use all the pasta, so had enough to make a second pasta dish (up soon), a Rachel Ray dish with pancetta and radicchio. Vaughan really prefers rigatoni with this (because the large tubes will hold a lot more sauce per bite); I didn’t have any, so we used penne for his.

vaughan_making_pasta_vodka_sauceAnyway, what I will say is that my kitchen was a big mess when we got done. Vaughan did the sauce; I cooked both of the pastas and prepared the Italian sausage. We had 4 burners going (because my pasta needed to be cooked separately from the penne). Today I discovered a splatter of vodka sauce on a container somewhat near the kitchen range – I hadn’t noticed it at the time. That sauce went everywhere.

There’s Vaughan at left – he was grating Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. I suggested to him that we get everything out and ready, so when he started making the sauce, we’d be prepared to serve when it was done. The recipe calls for a shallot, garlic, tomato paste (not tomato sauce), red pepper flakes, cream (not a lot) and the grated cheese. The sauce is prepared in a large skillet – and a warning – don’t stir too vigorously or you, too, will get sauce in various places near your stove.

vodka_sauceThe sauce comes together very quickly once you begin. First the shallot and garlic cook over a very low heat in butter (you do not want even golden browned garlic). If I were making this, I’d cook the shallot first and add the garlic during the last minute so there would be no chance of burning the garlic. Then you add the tomato paste, red pepper flakes and the vodka (only 2 T). At the last you add in the cream and some of the pasta water to thin out the sauce a little bit, and some Parm. The pasta is stirred into the sauce on the stove, but off heat (NOT poured on top on your plate), and when you serve it, add more Parm on top and if you think of it, sprinkle a few basil leaves for garnish. I had some, but didn’t realize the recipe called for it.

The sauce takes little time – Vaughan was very diligent keeping the sauce stirred frequently. That’s a ceramic pan, so nothing stuck to it at all. Thank you, Vaughan, for making dinner! So delicious!

What’s GOOD: such a flavorful sauce. The tomato paste gives it lots of character. Vaughan said he’s made it using tomato sauce and it’s definitely not as good. So be sure to use tomato paste.

What’s NOT: nothing at all. Fabulous pasta sauce.

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Pasta alla Vodka

Recipe By: Adapted slightly from Delish
Serving Size: 4

3 tablespoons butter
1 large shallot — minced
2 cloves garlic — minced
1/2 cup tomato paste — do not use tomato sauce
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons vodka
kosher salt
1 pound pasta — such as penne or rigatoni
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese — grated, plus more for serving
2 tablespoons basil — torn, for garnish

NOTE: It’s important to save the pasta cooking water as some of it is used in the sauce.
1. In a large skillet over medium heat, melt butter. Add shallot and garlic and cook, stirring frequently, until softened, 4 to 5 minutes. Add tomato paste and red pepper flakes and cook, stirring frequently, until paste has coated shallots and garlic and is beginning to darken, 5 minutes.
2. Add vodka to pot and stir to incorporate, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pot. Turn off heat.
3. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook pasta until al dente. Reserve 2 cups of pasta water before draining.
4. Return sauce to medium heat and add 1/4 cup of pasta water and heavy cream, stirring to combine. Add half the Parmesan and stir until melted. Turn off heat and stir in cooked pasta. Fold in remaining Parmesan, adding more pasta water (about a tablespoon at a time) if the sauce is looking dry. Season with salt if needed. Serve topped with more Parmesan and torn basil leaves.
Per Serving: 647 Calories; 21g Fat (30.3% calories from fat); 17g Protein; 93g Carbohydrate; 5g Dietary Fiber; 57mg Cholesterol; 105mg Sodium; 8g Total Sugars; trace Vitamin D; 64mg Calcium; 5mg Iron; 637mg Potassium; 266mg Phosphorus.

Posted in Pasta, Vegetarian, on April 12th, 2020.

broccoli_spaghetti

This recipe has such an interesting story. I hope you’ll read it to learn why it’s called “Stop Trying So Hard” Broccoli Spaghetti.

Reading other blogs is a favorite pastime for me. And Food52 is one of them, with the staff there posting sometimes 4-6 stories a day. And perhaps because I had so much time on my hands the day I read this story, I read more of them than usual. I might have breezed by it just because I don’t eat much pasta. But I did click through (and am so glad I did, as the story is just so fun) and read the short saga of a young chef, James Park, who moved away from his home in South Korea to New York City. Some years had past and he hadn’t made the time to fly home to visit his family. Finally, his family decided to visit him. He went into semi-panic mode. He lives in a tiny, tiny Manhattan apartment and he needed to house them (his mother, father and brother) in the space. And he needed to cook for them. As the arrival became closer he mapped out what he would do with them, partly being tourists and he thought he’d take them to some of his favorite restaurant haunts, assuming they’d be impressed not only with the food, but with his now-prodigious knowledge of food. Uh, no. It didn’t happen that way. They didn’t want American food at all. They wanted to eat Korean food.

The chef never mentioned how difficult it must have been to sleep everyone in his small home space, but he did mention the various restaurants he took his family to, encouraging them to order particular dishes that were his favorites.

But I’ll back up. Arriving at his apartment from the airport with his family in tow:

“. . .per my mother’s request for pasta, I made my signature dish of penne, rosemary-infused oil, charred Italian sausage, and lots of Parmesan cheese—a weeknight go-to for me. This pasta was, in many ways, a reflection of various flavor-building techniques I had learned in culinary school. I wanted them to taste it, to see what their new chef son had learned during our years apart. Aiming to impress, I plated the pasta with extra Parm and garnished with fried rosemary, a flourish of freshly cracked black pepper.”

Her response (he obviously wanted, desperately, to impress his mother) was that this certainly wasn’t what she had been hoping for. She took a bite and said this is good, but she wanted that “other thing.” The one that was white and creamy. She said, you were eating it once when we were FaceTiming.

“. . . To many older Koreans, especially those of my mom’s generation, “pasta” is a dish with long noodles, pretty much always spaghetti, drenched in either tomato or cream sauce. Koreans love their cream pastas. Now that I think back on it, oil-based pastas, like the one I had just made, were not something my family would’ve ever associated with pasta.”

So, on their last morning there, he dug into his memory and tried to recall what he might have been eating during that long-ago phone call and pulled ingredients from his pantry and frig. His mother took a bite and made a satisfying sound of contentment. Yes, this is it, she said. It rated a 10 out of 10 in his mother’s eye. So Chef Park named this Simple Stop-Trying-So-Hard Broccoli Spaghetti, obviously referring to his wanting so hard to impress his family (mother) and finally resorting to something he threw together.

broccoli_spaghetti_cookingWith that kind of story, the recipe had been percolating in my head for the last 2 weeks or so. I had a big bunch of broccoli. I had some thin linguine (my fav). I had milk. And I had lemons. (My Meyer lemon tree is absolutely drooping from the weight of so many lemons.) This recipe is kind of incongruous – adding milk into a pot full of broccoli and onion? Doesn’t even sound good (oh, but it is).

Really, the only change I made was to double the amount of broccoli, and I also cut some of the stem to add in as well. So mine had more broccoli per serving. Not a bad thing.

What’s GOOD: how easy it is to make as long as you have broccoli. This is a dish you could throw together in less than 30 minutes. I don’t buy frozen broccoli, but I’m sure you could make it with that as well. Good flavor, although it’s somewhat bland (just know that if you make this) – with the only highlight the red chili flakes that give this a little zip. I think I’d try to make more “sauce” if you can call it that. When you add in a bit of the pasta water, usually it helps thicken some of the liquid, but mine didn’t do that very well. Since I’m into comfort food these days, this definitely filled the bill, so to speak. The milky consistency was actually quite good. Next time I might add just a tetch of chicken broth granules to the milky broth, but it wouldn’t be a necessary thing. It’s good just the way it is.

What’s NOT: not a thing as long as you have broccoli, pasta, lemon zest and milk. Everything else will likely be in your pantry already (onion, red chili flakes, Parm, garlic powder, butter, oil, fresh garlic). I noticed the leftover pasta had soaked up all the remaining milk, so I may need to add a bit more for reheating.

printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook 15/16 file (click link to open recipe)

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Simple Stop-Trying-So-Hard Broccoli Spaghetti

Recipe By: James Park, NYC chef
Serving Size: 4

8 ounces pasta — like spaghetti
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
4 cloves garlic — half sliced and half crushed
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 medium onion — sliced
2 cups broccoli florets
1 teaspoon lemon zest — or more
2 cups whole milk
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 pinch freshly cracked black pepper
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1. Melt butter and olive oil in a large heavy pot over medium-low heat. When butter is melt, add sliced and crushed garlic and red pepper flakes until they are fragrant. Stir occasionally to make sure garlic and red pepper flakes don’t get burnt.
2. Once they are fragrant, add sliced onion and broccoli florets. Season them with salt and pepper. Toss everything until onions are translucent and florets are tender but still firm, for 3-4 minutes. Add lemon zest at the end and quickly toss everything again until it’s fragrant.
3. Add whole milk to the pot with salt and garlic powder and let it simmer over medium heat for 5 minutes.
4. Meanwhile, cook pasta in heavily salted water, occasionally stirring, until very al dente (2–3 minutes less than package directions). Reserve 1/2 cup of pasta water.
5. Using tongs, add pasta to milk broth. Cook everything over high heat and bring everything together with pasta water and Parmesan for a minute, or until the pasta is cooked when you taste, “al dente” if you can.
6. Serve pasta with freshly cracked black pepper and more grated Parmesan cheese.
Per Serving: 391 Calories; 13g Fat (29.6% calories from fat); 15g Protein; 54g Carbohydrate; 3g Dietary Fiber; 28mg Cholesterol; 404mg Sodium.

Posted in Pasta, Vegetarian, on August 8th, 2018.

mushroom_asparagus_garlic_sauce_shirataki

You know about shirataki noodles? They’re a pseudo-pasta. They contain zip-zero-nada carbs.

Many years ago when shirataki noodles became more widely available, I bought some for my DH and me to try. Since he was a Type 1 diabetic, any suggestions on how to reduce carbs was a good thing in his world (and hence, mine). We prepared them according to the package directions, and I served them with some kind of sauce (don’t remember what). We thought they tasted awful. They had a kind of musty taste and the texture was mushy. Yuk. Well, since then, since I’ve gone on the Gundry (Plant Paradox) diet, I’ve learned more about these shirataki noodles (Gundry calls them fool-dles) and have followed his method of preparation (which isn’t much more work, but there are 3 steps to it – rinsing, cooking, drying). I decided to give them another try, and was very surprised at how good they tasted this time. You can find them in most mainstream grocery stores, usually in the refrigerated Asian section – they come in a flat pack, clear. There are a few brands out there – I used Miracle Noodles. They also come in a spaghetti shape and rice shape. What’s nice, is that the noodle becomes zero calories (they are made from an Asian yam and apparently they just slip through your digestive track without metabolizing, hence zero calories).

Now, you need to know, I love mushrooms. I’ll eat them just about anytime, although I rarely eat them raw (like in a salad). But cook them in a little oil and butter, salt and pepper, and I’m a happy camper. I love mushroom soup, and this came about because I had about a cup of mushroom soup without cream in my refrigerator. So I started with that and enhanced the mixture with more ingredients, and this soup was created. Since you won’t want to prepare a whole recipe of that soup, I’ve re-arranged it here with all the ingredients from the soup, plus the enhancements I added.

When I made it, it served two and I was tickled to have a second portion to have as leftovers. But here, I’ve started you off with 2 packages of shirataki noodles (I used the fettuccine shape) so it will make 4 portions, I believe. If you’re feeding a starving teenager, then this amount of shirataki may not satisfy. You can easily make this with regular pasta. I’m just telling you how I’m able to eat it with this carb-free diet I’m on.

This sauce comes together in a hurry – although you DO want to utilize some dried mushrooms in this (they have a LOT of flavor, believe it or not), and they need to be soaked in warm water for at least half an hour. But the rest of the preparation is just chopping and slicing the various ingredients. And then combining them at the right time. You don’t have to use asparagus, but I had some in my refrigerator and thought they added a lovely texture and flavor to the dish.

What’s GOOD: the mushroom flavor is very prominent (a good thing for me anyway), and I loved all the different textures of the different mushrooms. And the asparagus. And the shirataki. As long as you don’t overcook the shirataki, they also have good texture. Overcook them, and they become mushy. Obviously, don’t do that!

What’s NOT: there is a bit of prepping – all the slicing and dicing, but truly it’s not that time consuming.

printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook 15/16 file (click link to open recipe)

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Mushroom and Asparagus Shirataki [Pasta]

Recipe By: my own concoction
Serving Size: 4

12 ounces shirataki noodles — (I used fettucine shape) 6 ounce packages serve two
SAUCE:
2 tablespoons EVOO
1 medium onion — diced
1 large shallot — minced
1 large leek — cleaned, chopped
1 ounce dried mushrooms — cleaned, reconstituted in water for 30 minutes
1/2 pound crimini mushrooms — cleaned, sliced thickly
4 ounces shiitake mushroom — stems removed, chopped
1 tablespoon low sodium soy sauce
1/2 pound fresh asparagus — (use small stemmed ones) cleaned, chopped in 1″ lengths
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
1 large garlic clove — minced
1 cup low sodium chicken broth — or more if needed
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup heavy cream — or half and half
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese — optional
3 tablespoons Italian parsley — minced EVOO to drizzle on top (optional)

1. NOODLES: Drain fluid from shirataki noodle package. Place noodles in colander and rinse well under tap water for 1- 2 minutes, using your fingers to move the noodles around. (Alternately, rinse for one minute, then place them in a clean bowl, fill with cold water and allow to rest for about 5 minutes, swishing them around once or twice.) Drain noodles.
2. Bring a pot of water to a boil, add a sprinkle of salt and cook the noodles for 1-3 minutes (read package directions) until they are not quite done. If you overcook them they will be mushy. Cooked just under-done, they’ll be similar to al dente pasta. Drain and place noodles out on paper towels to dry. Move them around a little so they all will dry. Allow to sit at room temp while you prepare the sauce.
3. SAUCE: In a large skillet over medium heat, pour in EVOO and when hot add onion and shallot. Cook, stirring frequently, until both are translucent and mostly cooked through. Add fresh mushrooms and dried mushrooms (discarding the soaking liquid) and cook for 1-2 minutes until mushrooms have begun to cook through. Add fresh garlic and cook 3-4 minutes, then add chicken broth. Add fresh asparagus. Allow sauce to cook for 2-4 minutes, simmering. Test the asparagus to see that it is tender. Add salt and pepper to taste. Add butter and cream and bring to a simmer. Add the noodles and allow mixture to simmer until the noodles are hot throughout.
4. SERVE: Using tongs, scoop up equal portions of noodles on plates and then spoon the sauce on top, dividing equally. Grate fresh nutmeg over the top, then sprinkle with Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and fresh parsley. Serve immediately. You may also add a drizzle of EVOO on top as extra flavor.
Per Serving: 389 Calories; 24g Fat (51.6% calories from fat); 10g Protein; 41g Carbohydrate; 9g Dietary Fiber; 56mg Cholesterol; 366mg Sodium.

Posted in Pasta, Pork, on October 28th, 2016.

First off, I have to tell you about one of my birthday gifts. I happened to mention to my daughter in law, Karen, about Rachel Ray’s pasta pot, about how it’s an elongated oval in shape so you can plunge the entire length of linguine or spaghetti or whatever long pasta you’re using and you don’t have to stand there over the steam facial trying to stuff the pasta down into the boiling water. Always seems to me like that’s problematical at times. I thought my DIL would want one for herself, since she makes pasta with some frequency for her family. I never thought she’d buy it for ME! But she did – for my daughter Sara (our birthdays are 5 days apart) and for me. Then she went shopping and bought some lovely California olive oil and several packages of long pasta and some high-end tomato sauces and wrapped it all up in cellophane and gave it to us. What a fun gift.

rachel_rays_pasta_pot

This is Rachael Ray Porcelain Enamel II Nonstick 8-Quart Covered Oval Pasta Pot with Pour Spout, Red Gradient– it’s quite long – oval in shape. Comes in 3 or 4 colors. It’s available at Amazon – click the link.

This new pot is SO great. I just LOVE LOVE the long oval shape and I made pasta last night just so I could use it and try it out. On the far side – the edge – you can barely see it, there’s a pour spout. The handles (can’t see them in the photo, sorry) have soft red covers so they don’t get too hot to handle. The pot is nonstick, though I don’t know that I’ll use it for actual cooking. It’s not a super heavy pot, not like cast iron. I was gleeful as I decided to make some pasta since I consider it a real treat.

I’ve been working on a project – it’s taken me weeks and weeks – sorting through and throwing away most of my old-old recipes that I’ve been collecting (these are clippings from numerous magazines and newspapers, 3×5 cards sometimes, a few from the early internet days and some stray cooking class recipes on which I’d made no notes whether the dishes were good, bad, etc.) since the mid-1960s. Most of them I’d never made, but they were sorted into categories and I’d rarely dip into the folders. Some of the pocket folders I haven’t touched for 5 or more years. Definitely time to do something about them. None are in my recipe software. So I’d dump out a pile of recipes – somewhere between 50-300 in each folder and standing at my kitchen island I’d start a discard pile and a few would go the other way to be input into MasterCook. In the pasta pocket folder containing about 100 recipes I saved out 5 recipes, of which this was one.

creamy_sausage_sauce_pastaThe recipe I decided to try comes from one of the Café Beaujolais (Mendocino, California) cookbooks. Don’t know which one. It called for andouille sausage or linguisa. I had regular Italian sweet sausage instead. And it might be really good with chorizo too. And I added onion which wasn’t in the original recipe. Otherwise it’s mostly Margaret Fox’s recipe. I used less cream, more cheese and maybe a few more slivered peppers.

What’s GOOD: oh my goodness, was it good. Maybe I was just over the moon at having pasta in any way, shape or form, but I loved the combo of sausage and cream – which is what Margaret Fox wrote in the original recipe, about the affinity of the two; something she’d never tried before until her husband created this dish. I used half a cup of cream for the whole dish which serves at least 3, maybe 4 small servings. So, not too bad. Loved this. I’d definitely make it again. And, it came together in a jiffy.

What’s NOT: not exactly a low calorie or low fat dish, sorry to say. It satisfied all my cravings for sausage and pasta and then some. Seems like I dirtied up a bunch of pots and pans, but really only two; it’s just that they were both big ones.

printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook 15/16 file (click link to open recipe)

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Spicy Creamy Sausage Sauce

Recipe By: Adapted from a recipe from Cafe Beaujolais, Mendocino (from Margaret Fox, the original owner/chef)
Serving Size: 3

2 tablespoons olive oil
3/4 pound Italian sausage — cut into chunks
1/2 yellow onion — slivered
1/2 cup bell peppers — slivered
1/4 teaspoon red chili flakes
2 cloves garlic — minced
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup green onion — chopped
1/2 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese — grated
1/2 cup Italian parsley — chopped
8 ounces linguine
1 teaspoon salt — for the pasta water
Save some of the cooking water

1. Set aside some of the chopped green onions and parsley for garnishing.
2. Heat a large skillet and add olive oil. Add the Italian sausage and brown well on all sides (helps develop flavors). Add onion and saute for 3-4 minutes, then add peppers and continue cooking for 2-4 minutes until onion is cooked through. Add garlic and red chili flakes and stir for about a minute. Don’t let the garlic brown.
3. Add the white wine and cook for 2-4 minutes to let the flavors marry.
4. Meanwhile, heat a large stock pot with water and add salt. Cook linguine until barely tender (al dente).
5. To the sausage pan add heavy cream, the green onions, parsley and grated cheese. Stir as you heat the sauce through.
6. Drain pasta and add to the meat mixture, stirring to combine. Add some of the pasta cooking water as needed to make the mixture fluid. Immediately serve and garnish with the reserved parsley and green onions.
Per Serving: 942 Calories; 61g Fat (59.7% calories from fat); 28g Protein; 64g Carbohydrate; 3g Dietary Fiber; 141mg Cholesterol; 1574mg Sodium.

Posted in Beef, Pasta, on September 25th, 2016.

meatballs_tomato_cream_sauce

This post is more about the sauce than the meatball. I’m not even including a recipe for the meatball. It’s the quickest sauce you can imagine. If you have some meatballs (beef or turkey) on hand (or not – it can be served without), this dinner can be on the table in 30 minutes or less.

I’d come home with a “doggie bag” of food from an Italian dinner at Filippi’s in Poway (I had their ricotta and mozzarella lasagna with vegetarian red sauce). I’d also ordered a dinner portion of lasagna to freeze at home (because I don’t have that restaurant chain in my neck of the woods). My dinner came with a side of a meatball, which I’d planned on bringing home anyway. This was a big, honkin’ meatball – enough for a dinner for me!

I had polished off the other half of my lasagna dinner (the other full order one is still in the freezer), and had the meatball. What to do with it?

Over the last several weeks I’ve been working on a project or two  . . . detour here . . .

First, I purchased the MasterCook software for my daughter Sara as a gift (her birthday) and my real gift to her was to input ALL of her collected recipes into the program. That took me about 20 hours of time, I’d guess. I drove to Poway (near San Diego, where she lives) and spent an afternoon there getting it all set up for her (I typed in all the recipes here at home, put the “cookbooks” divided by category onto a thumb drive and just uploaded them to her kitchen computer where the MasterCook program lives). Then I spent an hour or two teaching her how to use the software. She has many cookbook recipes that need to be input, so perhaps I’ll go down there sometime to help her with that too.

While I was at it, though, I looked at my own recipe collections . . . I have hundreds upon hundreds of recipes in my MasterCook software. And over the years I’d collected clippings and printed recipes that I had slipped into plastic sleeves and kept neatly in binders – recipes to try (but NOT input into the software). The binders are huge and because of some work I’m having done in my family room, the storage place for these disappeared. What to do? Well, input all those hundreds of recipes into the software, of course. While I’m at it, I’m looking at each and every recipe and wanting to determine will I REALLY make this? I’ve tossed out about 150 recipes, but I’ve input probably 250. Nearly all of them I’ve found online, which makes it pretty easy to grab them to insert into my software program (there’s a really neat online tool that grabs the recipe and a couple clicks of the mouse and it’s input into my software, including the photo if there is one, without hardly having to touch my fingers to the keyboard). I’m down to my last category, Veggies, and I’ll be done. THEN I have a rattan stand thing that holds hanging folders, and in it are several dozen pocket file folders filled with hundreds more clippings, 3×5 cards, notes – those are older recipes. All ones I’ve never made. I’ll do a bigger culling job on them – if I haven’t looked at these in 5 years, how likely will I be to even make any of those recipes? I mean, really? There are a few family recipes there, so I’ll have to go through each folder. I could probably toss it all out, except for those 3×5 cards that I’d probably want to keep, just for nostalgia’s sake.

SO, back to last night’s dinner . . . I ran across the recipe for the Pasta with Tomato Cream Sauce that has been in my software (I double-checked) AND it’s here on my blog too. I had all the ingredients to make it – some cream cheese, canned tomatoes, garlic, red wine vinegar, fresh basil, fresh grated Parmigiana and some pasta. Usually the sauce sits some hours before using it – I made a smaller batch, just kind of threw together the ingredients and let it sit for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, I boiled some penne pasta, warmed the meatball in the microwave (cut into slices) and combined it and out onto my plate it went. I had enough to serve to my D-I-L Karen and grandson Vaughan and me the following evening.

I’m pretty sure I’ve posted this sauce more than once here on my blog – it is such a winner of a recipe. It is also wonderful as a side dish for a summer barbecue – it’s served at room temp – although mine was slightly warm from the hot pasta. I devoured it. SO good. It’s a great thing to take to someone’s house too. Easy to make. It just needs fresh basil, really.

I’ve re-done the recipe below for a quick meal version. If you have some meatballs that need using, throw them in (heat them first, though).

What’s GOOD: this recipe is nothing short of genius. It’s already on my Favs list (see tab at top of my blog, under the photo, far right) which means it met my standard of an outstanding recipe, worthy of making over and over. This version just made it easier to do for a quick meal. I really don’t make pasta very often, but now and then I crave it, don’t you? Make this, okay? Even if you don’t have some left over meatballs.

What’s NOT: absolutely nothing.

printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook 15/16 file (click link to open recipe)

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Meatballs with Quick Pasta & Tomato Cream Sauce

Recipe By: Original from Mary Anne Quinn, a friend of a friend and I’ve adapted it here to serve with meatballs
Serving Size: 4 (average servings)

15 ounces diced tomatoes — canned, with juice
2 cloves garlic — smashed
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1/4 cup EVOO — or less if you’d prefer
4 ounces cream cheese — chopped up some
1/4 cup fresh basil — shredded or sliced
1/2 pound penne rigate
1/2 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese — grated, for garnish
4 large meatballs (ready made, or make your own), optional

1. In a medium sized non-metalic bowl combine the canned tomatoes, garlic, vinegar, EVOO and cream cheese. Set aside to blend the flavors. (Can be made several hours ahead – just cover the bowl and allow it to sit at room temp for up to 3 hours.)
2. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil; add salt (about a tablespoon per gallon of water). Add pasta and cook to al dente (slightly resistant to the tooth, but without any crunch).
3. Have the cheese and basil ready. Drain the pasta and add to the bowl with the tomato sauce. Stir around until you don’t see any streaks of cream cheese.
4. If serving with meatballs, warm them in the microwave. Scoop pasta portions onto plates and top with a hot meatball and the grated cheese and basil. Serve. The pasta mixture (with sauce) can also cool to room temp. Serve portions with a heated meatball on top and garnish with cheese and basil.
Per Serving: 455 Calories; 25g Fat (48.3% calories from fat); 10g Protein; 49g Carbohydrate; 3g Dietary Fiber; 31mg Cholesterol; 99mg Sodium.

Posted in Pasta, Vegetarian, on May 16th, 2016.

pasta_alla_trapenese

Oh my goodness, was this stuff delicious. Mostly it’s eggplant (see it on the bottom?) – with tomatoes, almonds, garlic, some good Italian cheese and crispy bread crumbs. Lick the plate good! It’s vegetarian (no protein) and the eggplant is the star of the show.

As you know if you’ve read my blog for a long time, I don’t post pasta recipes very often. Not that I wouldn’t like to, but I convince myself that pasta’s not good for me when I’m trying to eat lower carb. But then, a month or so ago I posted a delicious recipe for linguine with cauliflower and peas. It was SO good too. Now, here I am, a month later and I’m craving pasta.

Rachael Ray prepared this on her show. I’ve been recording her show for awhile now, and I glance at the show notes to see if the recipe looks interesting, or the guests. Half the time I delete before I’ve even pressed the “play” button. This one, though, I watched to get to this recipe. Rachael explained that this is Sicilian (her heritage). And it’s not only prepared a bit differently, but it’s also served differently. The PESTO isn’t pesto like we know it – ground up mushed stuff – no, the “pesto” is just a cooked mixture of fresh tomatoes, herbs, almonds, and garlic. And oil, of course. But first, you prepare the eggplant – Rachael specifically mentioned that you need a very FIRM eggplant, so I sought out one. I used more eggplant than the recipe indicated – I wanted this to be more about the eggplant than the pasta. The eggplant is cut into small bite-sized planks – about 2” long by 1/2” wide, and browned in just a tiny bit of oil, it was just cooked through to the soft, silky stage. The other difference in this dish was the serving – you put the eggplant into the pasta bowl first, then the mixed up pasta on top, then garnished with cheese and toasted bread crumbs.

From the photo, you can hardly tell the pasta was mixed with anything – there isn’t much sauce, as we might be used to. Almonds are toasted (she used whole almonds – I used slivered ones) and set aside, bread crumbs are toasted and set aside, then you cook some fresh tomatoes with olive oil, herbs, crushed red pepper flakes and basil. The almonds are added back in and cooked briefly – THEN you add in some of the cooking water from the pasta – it helps spread the flavors of the tomato almond pesto. Next time I make this I’ll add in more tomatoes. Rachael’s recipe calls for 4 plum tomatoes – I just think it needs a bit more than that.

But, you see, as an American, I probably like the sauce more than I like the eating of the pasta. Italians eat pasta to savor the flavor and texture of the pasta itself. The sauce is an aside! Only there to slightly enhance the pasta. This dish has quite a bit of eggplant in it, however, so since you serve it with the eggplant on the bottom of the bowl, it seems more likely the eggplant is the star of this dish. It sure was for me. I didn’t have any Pecorino cheese – only Parmigiano – but they’re very similar.

And whatever you do, don’t eliminate the bread crumbs. I used panko, and they were toasted in olive oil and they add such a different dimension to the dish. No flavor particularly, but with every bite I got a little bit of crunch. Loved it all.

What’s GOOD: As I said – I loved the whole dish. Love-loved the eggplant. Wanted more of it, so next time I will nearly double the amount – just cuz it was so delicious. The whole dish came together in about 30 minutes, even with the cooking of the eggplant and heating the water for the pasta. I also loved the crunch of the toasted panko crumbs.

What’s NOT: There is a bit of chopping and mincing, and brown this, and brown that, removing, setting aside, etc. But IF you have everything set out and ready when you start, it comes together very quickly.

printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook 15/16 file (click link to open recipe)

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Pasta alla Trapenese with Almond Pesto and Eggplant

Recipe By: Adapted a bit from a Rachel Ray show, 2016
Serving Size: 4

1 large eggplant — very firm, cut into planks then pieces 2-inches long by 1/2-inch wide (see NOTE in directions)
1 tablespoon salt — to sprinkle on the eggplant
8 plum tomatoes — or vine tomatoes [I prefer double this amount]
4 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil — divided
1/2 cup panko — or homemade breadcrumbs
3/4 cup almonds — peeled
4 cloves garlic — chopped
2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves — chopped
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 cup basil leaves — torn into small pieces
3/4 pound strozzapretti — or other short-cut pasta [I used penne rigate]
1/4 cup Pecorino cheese — freshly grated
1/2 cup starchy pasta water — saved from the pasta pot

NOTE: I prefer more eggplant – the original recipe called for a medium one, but the eggplant shrinks a lot – so use more is my advice. Don’t eliminate the bread crumbs – they give a lovely crunch to nearly every bite.
1. Salt eggplant and let drain on a kitchen towel for 20 minutes; press off excess liquid.
2. Bring a pot of water to a boil. Score the tomatoes on the bottom with an X and blanch them for 30 seconds; cold shock and peel. Seed the tomatoes and finely chop. (You may also use canned tomatoes, drained and hand crushed if you prefer.). [If using smaller tomatoes, cut them in half, then scoop out the seeds, then chop – this method doesn’t require the blanching.] Reserve pot of blanching water to cook the pasta.
3. Heat 2 tablespoons oil, 2 turns of the pan, in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Cook eggplant until golden brown, turning them at least once, about 10 minutes, remove and reserve. Add another tablespoon of oil to pan and toast breadcrumbs to golden; remove and reserve.
4. Add nuts to the skillet to toast; remove and set aside.
5. Add final tablespoon olive oil and garlic, and stir 30 seconds. Add chopped tomatoes and season with thyme, salt and pepper. Stir 2 minutes.
6. Add almonds to the tomato/garlic mixture. Stir in chili flakes, basil and EVOO, about 1/4 cup.
7. Turn the heat back on under the pot of blanching water. Salt water and cook pasta to al dente, reserve 1/2 cup of the starchy cooking water and add it to pesto. Drain pasta and toss with pesto.
8. Arrange the eggplant in shallow bowls and top with pasta. Combine cheese and breadcrumbs and sprinkle over pasta to serve.
Per Serving: 921 Calories; 57g Fat (54.1% calories from fat); 20g Protein; 88g Carbohydrate; 10g Dietary Fiber; trace Cholesterol; 1646mg Sodium. (This is high in sodium because of the salt on the eggplant; most of that is wiped off. But Pecorino is also salty.)

Posted in Pasta, Vegetarian, on April 14th, 2016.

linguine_cauliflower_peas_butter_pepper

If you’ve been reading my blog for a long time you already know that I don’t post very many pasta recipes. I love pasta, but when my DH was alive (he was a Type 1 diabetic), he/we were convinced that pasta just wasn’t a good dining choice for him – he could never seem to regulate how much insulin to take based on the size of the pasta portion (even though I measured it sometimes). I’m not a fan of whole wheat pasta, so I just don’t order pasta much, and you can count on one hand how many times in the last year I’ve eaten it or prepared it. Sad, huh? I’ve convinced myself that pasta just isn’t a very healthy thing for me to eat (too many carbs). But once in awhile . . . .

So, I was looking for recipes to use up a whole head of cauliflower I’d purchased. I went to Eat Your Books, where I have an account, put in cauliflower, and up came 200+ recipe titles from my own cookbooks. In 15 minutes time, I’d spread out 4 cookbooks and was trying to decide which one to make. This recipe just called my name, although I altered it just a bit. The original came from Deborah Madison’s Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone. She had any number of cauliflower recipes, but the pasta one seemed to be the one I gravitated towards. I decided to add peas (for color mostly). And I didn’t use Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese – only because I had 2 packages of Gruyere pasta_cooking_pan_on_topbegging to be used for something. And, I added in some olive oil at the end also. Her recipe called for spaghettini, and I didn’t have any of that, so small linguine seemed the closest. I suppose any pasta would do, though.

The cooking technique is quite standard EXCEPT for how you keep the cauliflower and other ingredients hot while you cook the pasta. See the contraption at left – I used my All-Clad deep sauté pan and it nestled on top of the big, wide Le Creuset pot, with room to spare around the edges. That’s what you want/need to keep everything hot. That worked like a charm!

Once the pasta is cooked al dente, drain it and toss in with the veggies, scoop a portion onto a plate or bowl, top with cheese and you’re done. My dinner came together in about 20 minutes time.

What’s GOOD: well, let me just tell you, I gobbled that dinner down in nothing flat, and I went back for a tiny scoop of seconds. I cut the recipe in half and still have a generous portion for another dinner. The cauliflower and pea mixture gave nice texture to the dish, and the butter and oil added in certainly gave it nice richness. Next time I’ll add a few more red pepper flakes – it’s easy to make things too hot with those little things. Do use a generous amount of pepper, too.

What’s NOT: nothing at all – this was a very easy meal, providing you or your family won’t miss a big hunk of protein. You probably could add some leftover chicken. Or bacon perhaps. I liked it just the way it was.

printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook 15/16 file (click link to open recipe)

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Linguine with Cauliflower, Peas, Butter, and Pepper

Recipe By: Adapted from Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone, Deborah Madison
Serving Size: 5

1 whole cauliflower — cut into tiny florets
3 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup parsley — chopped finely
1 teaspoon coarse mustard
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 cups frozen peas
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 pound linguine — or spaghettini
1/2 cup Gruyere cheese — shredded, or Parmigiano-Reggiano and/or Pecorino
1/2 cup fresh bread crumbs — optional

1. Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil. Salt it to taste, add the cauliflower, and cook for 3 minutes. Select a large bowl or saute pan that will sit on top of the pasta pot, but doesn’t seal around the edges – I chose a saute pan with handles and the handles propped up on each side. Scoop the cauliflower into the bowl or pot and add the butter, parsley, mustard, peas and pepper flakes.
2. Add the pasta to the salted boiling water and once you’ve maintained the high simmer point, set the bowl or pot over the pasta to keep it warm. Watch the pasta pot during the cooking time that it doesn’t boil over. Cook until pasta is al dente.
3. Drain pasta and add it to the cauliflower. Add a generous tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil. Grind a generous amount of pepper over all, then toss with the cheese and crumbs, if using. Add salt it needed. Serve immediately.
Per Serving: 531 Calories; 15g Fat (25.6% calories from fat); 19g Protein; 79g Carbohydrate; 6g Dietary Fiber; 31mg Cholesterol; 225mg Sodium.

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