Monday, September 19, 2011

Spaghetti with Fresh Tomato Sauce and Basil

Tonight I let Brian pick what we had for dinner (I owed him one). I actually prefer for him to pick, deciding what to make isn't my favorite thing unless I have a new recipe I want to try. I gave Brian some suggestions and he settled on pasta but requested that we try a new recipe. Brian is a huge fan of Anthony Bourdain, host of No Reservations on the Travel Channel. I watch the show with Brian, and Anthony is usually in some crazy country trying out the local cuisine. Every once in a while he'll do a show where he shows a few recipes of his own, and tonight Brian wanted to try out a pasta recipe from the show.

I followed the recipe pretty closely, but I'm sure the changes I made are not Anthony approved. The good news is I'm pretty sure he doesn't read my blog and will never find out about the changes I made! The recipe is very simple and gets its flavor from fresh tomatoes. Brian's dad gave us some fresh tomatoes from his garden and I was thrilled to use them for the sauce. He didn't, however, give us 20 tomatoes like the recipe calls for, so I supplemented with stewed tomatoes. (Cue Anthony rolling his eyes.) I think the stewed tomatoes worked out fabulous, I just think the over all flavor probably wasn't as "fresh tomatoes" as it was supposed to be. If you didn't know otherwise, you wouldn't know the difference. Don't be scared off by the boiling and peeling the fresh tomatoes. It is relatively simple and quick, and I quite enjoyed the process.

An important step to this pasta is to mix the spaghetti, cooked just shy of al dente, with the pasta sauce on the stove. Cook over the heat, while mixing to finish cooking the pasta. I liked that better than just pouring the sauce on freshly drained pasta because the sauce just slides off. Cooking the pasta with the sauce made the sauce and the pasta stay together much better. About the process, Anthony says, "...this technique not only coats the pasta evenly with the sauce, but it also introduces a little air into the process making the dish feel lighter and brighter." And who can argue with that.

This is a great little recipe, doesn't even call for onions or garlic. Brian absolutely loved it! We have no left overs. I asked him if he needed the salt and pepper and he said, "it doesn't need it." And if you know Brian, he never says that! This is for sure a make again, and soon. (Even though my doctor said to lay off the starches if I don't want to gain too much baby weight!)

Spaghetti with Fresh Tomato Sauce and Basil

About 20 ripe plum tomatoes (I used 5 fresh tomatoes and 2 cans of stewed tomatoes)
About 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more to finish the dish
Pinch of crushed red pepper
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tbs. unsalted butter 1 oz. freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (about half a cup)
6 to 8 fresh basil leaves well washed and dried, stacked and rolled into a cylinder and cut thinly crosswise
1 lb. spaghetti (I used about 3/4 of a pound)

To peel the tomatoes: Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Have a large bowl of ice water nearby. Cut a small X on the bottom of each tomato. Ease about 5 tomatoes in the pot and cook. Let boil for about 15 seconds and then promptly move them to the waiting ice water (do this with the remaining tomatoes). Pull off the skin with the tip of a paring knife. If the skin sticks, try a vegetable peeler using a gentle sawing motion. Cut the tomatoes in half and use your finger to flick out the seeds.

To cook the tomatoes: In a wide pan, heat the 1/3 cup of olive oil over medium-high heat until hot. Add the tomatoes, red pepper flakes, and season lightly with the salt and pepper (I always start with a light hand with the salt and pepper because as the tomatoes reduce, the salt will become concentrated).

Let the tomatoes cook for a few minutes to soften. Then, using a potato masher, chop the tomatoes finely. Cook the tomatoes for 20 to 25 minutes, until the tomatoes are tender and the sauce has thickened. Refrigerate for up to 2 days or freeze it for longer storage.

To serve: Bring a large pot of amply salted water to a boil. Cook the spaghetti until just shy of al dente. Reserve a little of the pasta cooking water. Add the pasta to the sauce and cook over medium-high heat, gently tossing the pasta and the sauce together with a couple of wooden spoons and a lot of exaggerated movement (you can even shake the pan) until the pasta is just tender and the sauce, if any oil had separated from it, now looks cohesive (If the sauce seems too thick, add a little pasta liquid to adjust it). Take the pan off the heat and toss the butter, basil and cheese with the pasta in the same manner (the pasta should take on an orange hue) and serve immediately.

Source: Anthony Bourdain: No Reseverations, Travel Channel

Monday, September 5, 2011

Carmel Frosted Pumpkin Cookies

The temperature has dropped slightly around here, and with every other food blog posting up yummy pumpkin recipes already, I figured it was my turn. Yesterday I tried two new pumpkin recipes. I had to try two because the first one only called for a half a cup of pumpkin, so I just had to use the other left over cup!

The only pumpkin cookies I've made before are your basic pumpkin chocolate chocolate chip cookies. These caught my eye because they were frosted. And unlike most frosting on pumpkin treats, this wasn't cream cheese based. The frosting is caramel flavored, and it is delicious. The frosting definitely makes the cookies. I wanted my frosting to be more than just a glaze, so I added more powdered sugar than the original recipe called for. You can thicken to your liking, just don't skip it! The cookies are a moist, cake like cookie, and the recipe only calls for your basic ingredients.

I ate three of these as soon as they were frosted. And few more that night. I did manage to give some away, and there are just a few left for Brian and I to munch on. I made the mistake of storing them in a ziplock bag and the bag stuck to the frosting and pulled some of it off. I was so sad, that's the best part! But of course, I ate them anyway. I will for sure be making these a part of my must make again pumpkin goodie collection. I'm wondering if next weekend is too soon to whip up another batch! I think not.

Carmel Frosted Pumpkin Cookies


1 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 cup canned pumpkin
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cloves
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups all-purpose flour

3 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
Pinch of salt


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugars. Add eggs and vanilla and mix well. Stir in pumpkin. In a medium bowl, sift together the baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, ginger, salt and flour. Add to pumpkin mixture and mix well. Drop by heaping tablespoons onto a lightly greased cookie sheet. Bake for 10-12 minutes.

To make frosting: In a medium saucepan, combine butter, cream, and brown sugar over medium heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until mixture just begins to boil; remove from heat and stir in vanilla. Cool then stir in confectioner's sugar. Spread frosting over cooled cookies.

Source: Let's Dish

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Happy Birthday Sugar Cookies

I made some sugar cookies last night for my friend Stacy's daughters 18th birthday. Her daughter really liked the last cookies I made for them, and of course I was happy to do something fun for the birthday. I enjoyed the colors I used, although being the amateur photographer that I am didn't get the best picture. I took these this morning before I left for work and there wasn't a whole lot of sunlight at 6:45 am, and I didn't have time to mess with it. But the colors were much brighter than they appear. I also love the look of the flat dots on the cookies. This is easily done by adding the dots while the frosting is still wet. Super easy! My piping of numbers could be improved though! I am a little out of practice.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Slow Cooker Chicken Parmesan

Tonight for dinner it was just me and Brian. It was a nice, quiet evening, but this rarely happens on Sunday nights. We usually head up to his parents house or have dinner with my sisters. Today, however, everyone was out of town. We should have invited some friends over for dinner, but with me headed back to school tomorrow, a low key evening was just what I wanted. To make our laid back evening even better I decided to do a slow cooker meal that was easy to prepare, easy to serve and super easy to clean up. I decided to do a chicken parmesan and sauce in the slow cooker. My mom stopped by this morning on her way out of town and I told her of my plan and she told me she did the same thing just a few weeks ago and the result was amazing. I took some tips from her and was very pleased with how it turned out.

I've written the recipe below, but here's a brief run down of what I did and what I would change for next time. I started with a little olive oil in the bottom of the slow cooker and added chicken breasts that I dipped in egg and then in plain bread crumbs mixed with Italian seasoning. I put mozzarella cheese on top of the chicken then added my tomatoes, sauteed onions and garlic, parsley and basil. Lets talk about the chicken. It was super tender and juicy, but of course the breading wasn't crispy at all, so while it did stay on the chicken and added some flavor this could definitely be skipped. Also, adding the cheese on top of the chicken just got mixed up in the sauce and I think would be better added at the end when serving. I left my stewed tomatoes pretty chunky, but if you prefer you could cut them or use a blending method to make them smaller. I used fresh chicken breasts so I could bread them, but another way to do this faster, if skipping the breading, would be to use frozen chicken breasts.

That's about it, Brian said this was for sure a make again, and it was definitely easy enough. Too bad I didn't have any family in town to partake with us. You missed out! (And going along with not turning on my oven I bought Sprinkles cupcakes for dessert! The key lime one is to die for!)

Slow Cooker Chicken Parmesan

Chicken breasts -as many as you need
plain bread crumbs mixed with Italian seasoning (If breading chicken)
1 egg, well beaten
2 cans stewed tomatoes
2 cans stewed tomatoes, Italian style
1 can diced tomatoes with peppers and onions (or Italian, not Mexican!)
1 yellow onion diced and sauteed
4 cloves of garlic, diced and sauteed with onion
2 Tablespoons parsley
2 Tablespoons basil
1 box thin spaghetti

Drizzle olive oil over bottom of slow cooker. If breading chicken, thaw and using two different bowls dip chicken first in beaten egg and then in plain bread crumbs. Place on bottom of slow cooker. Open all cans of tomatoes and pour on top of chicken. Add onions and garlic, parsley and basil. Stir gently.

Cook time: on high 3-4 hours, on low 6-7. (More cooking time may be required if using frozen chicken.)

Serve chicken and sauce over spaghetti (or pasta of your choice).

Friday, August 19, 2011

Asian Noodle Salad


This week I went to a Summer Salad Soirée and I wanted to bring a salad that was new to me and my friends. I was feeling like maybe a pasta salad, something with noodles and vegetables. I had been wanted to make an Asian salad, I just needed to find a dressing. So I searched around and ended up using the dressing from Pioneer Woman's Asian Noodle Salad. I included a lot of the same vegetables as she did, but in fewer quantities. I had read a lot of her comments and everyone said the salad made a ton! I wasn't looking for quite that much so I cut back on my vegetables and left some of hers out. You could definitely add more of whatever you like and less of what you don't. There are very few vegetables I think wouldn't be good in this salad. I tried to think of the most colorful ones! My produce department didn't have orange bell peppers, so I used green instead. I cut the original dressing recipe in half because, like I said, I didn't want to make mass amounts of salad. Double what I listed below for more, but I had plenty of dressing to generously coat the salad. A quick tip on the ginger for the dressing: to peel the ginger, just scrape it with a spoon. The skin comes right off. I used my Microplane to grate the ginger, super easy! In the end I thought it was a delightful, light, perfect summer salad. This is the kind of salad my mom would love, so I'll have to make it for her next time she's in town! Enjoy.
Asian Noodle Salad

Salad Ingredients:
1 package Linguine Noodles, Cooked, Rinsed, And Cooled
1 cup sliced purple cabbage
1 whole red bell pepper, sliced thin
1 whole yellow bell pepper, sliced thin
1 whole green bell pepper, sliced thin
1/2 bag bean sprouts
3 whole green onions
1 whole cucumber, peeled and sliced
Handful of pea pods
1/2 bunch chopped cilantro

Dressing Ingredients:
1 whole lime, juiced
4 Tablespoons Olive Oil
4 Tablespoons Soy Sauce
1 Tablespoon Sesame Oil
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 Tablespoons fresh grated ginger
1 large clove garlic, chopped
chopped cilantro, to taste

Mix salad ingredients together. Wish dressing ingredients together and pour over salad. Mix well with tongs. Note: Dressing will keep for up to three days in fridge before serving, without cilantro.

Source: Adapted from Pioneer Woman

Monday, August 8, 2011

It's been a while...


After months and months of not blogging, I'm not sure there is anyone reading this. But that's ok. I think my mom still loves me. I do have a bit of an excuse as to why I haven't blogged in the past four months. I'm pregnant. And long about April my first trimester sickness started to kick in and the last think I wanted to do was cook. Nothing sounded good to me and the thought of handling raw meats or dealing with fragrant onions or spices was enough to make me head for the bathroom! So my poor husband was on his own for a few months, but did an excellent job in taking care of me. As I started to get over that portion of the pregnancy summer hit. I was done teaching school and feeling well enough to be out and about. My cooking always declines a bit in the summer. Our little apartment gets so hot when I turn on the oven, we stick to very basic dinners.

I'm now 25 weeks pregnant, with a little baby boy, feeling great and so ready to get back in the kitchen. I hate that my summer ends in three weeks, but I won't be waiting until then to start cooking again. And with the cooking will hopefully come a few blog posts a couple of times a week.

So to get started again, I'll post about homemade brownies. Friday was my father-in-laws birthday, and he doesn't like cake. I know, seems like a crime not to like cake, but I told him I'd make him a non-cake birthday treat. Brian said his dad loves brownies, so I was searching around for some fancy brownie recipes when Brian said he really just likes chocolate. I came across a recipe on Annie's Eats that she adapted from the Baking Illustrated cookbook. I'll admit that I haven't made too many batches of brownies from scratch. Brian loves the Ghirardelli box mix you can buy at Costco that we almost always have on hand. And for how quick, easy and good they are, you really can't beat them. But these homemade ones were almost as quick and the deep, rich chocolate flavor was out of this world. The texture was very soft, but not too cake like. I prefer my brownies chewy, and these definitely were. I also loved that little bit of flakiness on the top.

I used semisweet chocolate chips for the semisweet chocolate, it was easy and what I had on hand. I found I had a bag of milk chocolate chips and thought it would be fun to mix up the chocolate combination next time. And there will be a next time. I loved that the recipe didn't call for anything too special, I didn't have to go to the store before I made these. I love that. And my father-in-law loved them too.

Triple Chocolate Brownies

5 oz. semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped
2 oz. unsweetened chocolate, chopped
8 tbsp. unsalted butter, cut into quarters
3 tbsp. cocoa powder
3 large eggs
1¼ cups (8¾ oz.) sugar
2 tsp. vanilla extract
½ tsp. salt
1 cup (5 oz.) all-purpose flour

Place an oven rack in lower-middle position and preheat the oven to 350° F. Line an 8-inch square baking dish with foil and spray lightly with nonstick cooking spray; set aside.

In a heatproof bowl set over a pan of barely simmering water, melt the chocolate and butter, stirring occasionally until smooth. Whisk in the cocoa powder until smooth. Set aside to cool.

In a medium bowl, combine the eggs, sugar, vanilla and salt; whisk until combined, about 15 seconds. Whisk in the warm chocolate mixture until incorporated. Then stir in the flour with a wooden spoon until just combined. Pour the mixture into the prepared pan and spread with a spatula to make an even layer. Bake until slightly puffed and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with a small amount of sticky crumbs clinging to it, 35-40 minutes. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let cool to room temperature, about 2 hours.

Remove the brownies from the pan using the foil and transfer to a cutting board. Cut into squares as desired. Store in an air-tight container.

Source: Annie's Eats

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Newport Harbor Baseball Cookies

This past week I had the opportunity to make some baseball sugar cookies for my friend, Stacy. I work with her, and her son plays on the Newport Harbor baseball team. Stacy was hosting the team dinner before the game this week and asked if I'd make some cookies for dessert. I was more than happy to help her out, and since I had already made baseball cookies once before, I was excited to improve them. She wanted a bigger cookie, I used Ateco 3.5 inch round cutter, so I thought I'd dress them up with a little blue anchor in between the laces, Newport Harbors logo.

It always seems that when I know I'm making sugar cookies I plan out in my head what days I'm going to do what so I don't end up making the dough, baking the cookies, making all the frosting and frosting them all in the same day. On Tuesday night I decided that I was going to make the anchors piped on wax paper like I did these, because it worked out so well last time. I also thought this to be a time saver, as I wouldn't have to wait as long for the frosting to dry before applying them. Well, I must have had some beginners luck with those O's, because I couldn't get one anchor off the wax paper without them breaking. There goes my plan ahead plan. So Wednesday night I bribed my sisters with dinner to have them come help me assess what the problem was. Turns out the process was fine, I had just made the anchors too thin. Brittany actually ended up piping the new, thicker, anchors while I piped the outline and Mikken filled in the centers.

After the white frosting had dried a bit, I piped on the red laces. The next morning I got up early and applied the anchors, which peeled off perfectly. I just used a small paint brush and applied a small amount of water to the cookie where the anchor would go.

Anchor crisis aside, I think they turned out cute. I hope the team liked them! Thanks again Stacy!

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