Archive for February, 2011

My usual preference for brussel sprouts is to roast them in the oven with some olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper.  This is one delicious way to enjoy this winter vegetable.  However, I had a lovely pasta dish at some friends’ house last month with sprouts.  When they first told me about it, I admit I was unsure about brussel sprouts in pasta, but the result was delicious!  This is great way to get those who say they “hate brussel sprouts” to eat them too.  And if you cut them up small enough, those eating it might not even realize they’re consuming this hated vegetable!  My husband proclaimed his hatred of the vegetable as I was preparing our dinner…then proceeded to have two helpings, as well as the leftovers for dinner.

Pasta with Brussel Sprouts and Pine Nuts, makes 4 dinner-sized servings

  • 3/4 pound Brussels sprouts, trimmed
  • 1/2 pound dried egg fettuccine
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 3 tablespoons pine nuts

Slice Brussels sprouts in a food processor fitted with slicing disk.

Cook fettuccine in a pasta pot of boiling salted water (3 tablespoons salt for 6 quarts water) until al dente.

Meanwhile, heat butter and oil in a large heavy skillet over medium heat until foam subsides, then cook garlic and pine nuts, stirring, until golden and fragrant, 1 to 2 minutes. Add Brussels sprouts, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper, then sauté over medium-high heat until tender and lightly browned, about 4 minutes.

Reserve 1/2 cup pasta-cooking water, then drain pasta and add to skillet, tossing with enough reserved water to moisten.  Top with grated Parmesan.



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Vodka & vanilla beans, that’s all it takes.  Clotilde of Chocolate and Zucchini gives a nice in-depth description in her post here, however the whole process is really quite simple.  1 cup of  alcohol to 3 vanilla beans.  Most people use vodka because of it’s mild flavor.  However, I do think rum would be nice too.  I love the look of the flecks from vanilla beans in things like ice cream, frosting and custard, but I hate the process of scraping and steeping to get those little seeds out.  Enter vanilla bean paste.  You can use it interchangeably with extract, and no scraping!  Anyway, I don’t like to waste the paste on things like breads and cakes, where you can’t even see the vanilla bean seeds.  Enter vanilla extract.  I had some vanilla beans in the pantry from my pre-paste days, and decided to make my own extract!  You do have to cut open the beans, but no scraping is necessary…

Vanilla Extract, makes 1 cup

1 cup vodka (or rum)

3 vanilla beans

Cut open vanilla beans lengthwise and put inside an air-tight container.  Store container in a cook, dark place and shake every couple of days, or whenever you think of it.  It will gradually turn a dark brown color over time.  It takes about 8 weeks for the extract to be ready.

This is what it looks like after two weeks: 

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I often buy things at the grocery store that catch my eye, but have no idea what I am going to do with them once I get home.  I usually find something creative to do with these ingredients, but it has caused my pantry to fill up with a lot of useless items too.  In this particular case, I had two cans of coconut milk in my pantry.  I knew I wanted to make something sweet, and I happen to have all of the other necessary ingredients ready in my kitchen for ice cream!  We’ve had a couple of warm days in the Midwest this week, so I feeling like something tropical was in order.  It wasn’t that warm, but we get excited about 50 in Chicago in February.  I adapted this recipe from Clotilde’s Chocolate and Zucchini blog.  She calls it Glace Coco du Placard or Coconut Ice Cream from the Pantry.

Toasted Coconut Ice Cream

– 1 cup unsweetened or sweetened dried grated coconut
– 1 1/2 cups light whipping cream
– 1 small can (13 fl. oz.) good-quality unsweetened coconut milk, I used Trader Joe’s Light Coconut Milk
– 1 to 2 tablespoons light rum, to taste
– 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
– 3/4 cup sugar (use 1/2 cup sugar if using sweetened coconut)

Makes about 1 liter (1 quart).

Pre-freeze the bowl of your ice cream maker.

Toast the grated coconut in a dry skillet until golden and fragrant; set aside to cool completely.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the cream, coconut milk, rum, vanilla, and sugar until blended. Refrigerate until well chilled.

Whisk again before using, and freeze using your ice cream maker. Halfway through the churning, when the mixture has thickened to a custard-like consistency, pour the toasted coconut into the ice cream maker so that it blends into the ice cream.

The husband and I enjoyed this right out of the container, but a nice serving suggestion would be to make an “Almond Joy” sundae by topping a couple of scoops with chocolate syrup and sliced almonds…because sometimes you feel like a nut.

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The onslaught of winter weather calls for comfort food.  My husband, who is a teacher, had two snow days this week so I decided to make something that reminded me of snow days when I was a kid.  Macaroni & cheese and chicken fingers.  I love mac & cheese right out of the box, but the homemade version is so much more decadent, and you can be more creative with the flavors.  The recipe below is pretty basic, but feel free to mix up the cheeses and toppings.

Three-Cheese Macaroni and Cheese, based on a recipe from Cooking Light

Yield: 8 servings (serving size: 1 cup)

  • 1/4  cup  all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/3  cups skim milk
  • 1/2  cup Swiss cheese
  • 1/4  cup  grated fresh Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2  cup  (2 ounces) shredded extra-sharp cheddar cheese
  • 3  cups  cooked elbow macaroni (about 1 1/2 cups uncooked)
  • 1/8  teaspoon  salt
  • Cooking spray
  • 1/4  cup  panko bread crumbs
  • 1  tablespoon  reduced-calorie margarine, softened

Preheat oven to 375°.

Place flour in a large saucepan. Gradually add milk, stirring with a whisk until blended. Cook over medium heat 8 minutes or until thick, stirring constantly. Add cheeses; cook 3 minutes or until cheese melts, stirring frequently. Remove from heat; stir in macaroni and salt.

Spoon mixture into a small casserole dish coated with cooking spray. Combine bread crumbs and margarine in a small bowl; stir until well-blended. Sprinkle over macaroni mixture. Bake at 375° for 30 minutes or until bubbly.

Baked Chicken Fingers, adapted from http://allrecipes.com//Recipe/buffalo-chicken-fingers/Detail.aspx

yields 8 tenders

  • 8 chicken breast tenderloins or 4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves – cut into finger-sized pieces
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup bread crumbs (I like to use panko or Japanese breadcrumbs)
  • 2 egg whites, beaten
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • Directions

    1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Coat a baking sheet with a nonstick spray.
    2. In a bag, mix together flour, 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder, 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper, and 1/4 teaspoon salt. On a plate, mix the bread crumbs with the rest of the garlic powder, cayenne pepper, and salt.
    3. Shake the chicken pieces with the seasoned flour. Beat egg whites with 1 tablespoon water, and place egg mixture in a shallow dish or bowl. Dip seasoned chicken in egg mixture, then roll in the seasoned bread crumb mixture. Place on prepared baking sheet.
    4. Bake for about 8 minutes in the preheated oven. Use tongs to turn pieces over. Bake 8 minutes longer, or until chicken juices run clear.
    5. Serve with your choice of dipping sauce.  I like to drizzle with Frank’s brand Buffalo Wing sauce or the Buffalo Barbeque Sauce.

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    Snow day!  Stuck at home with nowhere to go, so I decided to make something nice for breakfast.  This post is for my brother in law, Anthony, who is a vegan and needs to branch out from his daily Chipotle routine.  This is a quick, easy, recipe that is great for a weekend breakfast or a snow day like today!  I added some caramelized bananas as a topping, which tasted great with maple syrup and the spice of the cardamom.

    Coconut Cardamom French Toast, adapted from www.shareable.net 

    • 1 can coconut milk
    • ½ cup almond milk (or other nondairy milk)
    • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
    • 1 teaspoon ground cardamom
    • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
    • ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
    • 1 teaspoon salt
    • ½ tablespoon cornstarch
    • a loaf of bread – I prefer Challah or brioche for French toast
    • some oil (olive, canola, coconut) or non-hydrogenated margarine for the pan

    Combine all the ingredients except the bread and the oil in a casserole or large, shallow bowl and mix well.

    Heat a skillet or griddle pan over medium-high heat and add some fat.

    Dip slices of bread into the mixture; make sure they are soaked through.

    Put them in your hot skillet. Check them after a few minutes, and every minute or so after that. Flip them when they’re browned to your liking.

    Serve with any combination of maple syrup, fruit compote, margarine, coconut butter, or chopped nuts that suit your fancy.

    I topped the French toast with a drizzling of maple syrup and caramelized bananas.  To caramelize the bananas, and keep it vegan, use margarine.  For us non-vegans – butter is best!  🙂  For one banana, heat about 1 tablespoon of margarine in a pan, add 1 1/2 tablespoon of brown sugar and heat until sugar starts to melt.  Add sliced banana and saute until browned.  Top French toast immediately.

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    I love fresh homemade pasta.  The taste is so above anything you will buy in the store, that it is well worth the bit of extra time it takes to make it.  I’m still in search of my go-to pasta dough recipe, so this gave me another chance to try yet another one! Keeping in theme with my recent Cooking Light recipe kick, and I came across a recipe for Linguine with Clam Sauce. Below is the recipe I used for the pasta dough as well as the dish.  Both turned out wonderfully – 2 thumbs up at our house!

    Basic Pasta Dough, about 1 pound of pasta, Adapted from Jam it, Pickle it, Cure it, by Karen Solomon 

    3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling out the dough

    1 teaspoon kosher salt

    4 large eggs

    1 tablespoon olive oil

    In a large bowl, mix 3 cups flour and the salt.  Shape a deep well in the middle of the flour; it should look like a white volcano.  In another bowl, beat the eggs, then beat in the oil.  Slowly pour the egg mixture into the center of the flour, stirring it into the flour.  Keep incorporating the eggs into the flour until the mixture gets too stiff to mix with a fork.  Switch to your hands and add enough flour, 1 tablespoon at a time, to mix it together into a sticky dough. 

    Once your dough has come together, turn it out onto a well-floured work surface.  Work the dough by pushing the sides into the middle, then bringing the bottom over the top and down, in a repetitive motion.  With a steady flow of motion, this should take 8 to 10 minutes of kneading.  You’ll know it’s ready when the dough feels somewhat elastic and it no longer cracks and crumbles while being handled.  It will also take on a bit of a subtle shine.

    Dampen a clean kitchen towel and wrap the dough in the towel.  Let it sit at room temperature for 30 minutes.

    Unwrap the dough and, with a scraper or a knife, cut it into equal quarters.  Roll the first piece into a ball, flatten it with your hands, then roll it out into a 12-inch square about 1/8 inch thick.  Keeping the work surface and rolling pin well floured.  You can also run it through  pasta maker or mixer attachment for pasta.  Then cut with a pizza cutter to make linguine.

    Linguine with Clam Sauce, yields 6 – 1 1/3 cup servings of pasta & 6 clams

    • 1/4  cup  olive oil, divided
    • 2  garlic cloves, minced
    • 1/3  cup  clam juice
    • 1/4  cup  chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
    • 1/2  to 3/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
    • 1/2  teaspoon  salt
    • 1/4  teaspoon  freshly ground black pepper
    • 3  dozen littleneck clams
    • 8  cups  hot cooked linguine (about 1 pound uncooked pasta)

    Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add garlic; cook 3 minutes or until golden, stirring frequently. Stir in clam juice and next 5 ingredients (clam juice through clams). Cover and cook 10 minutes or until clams open.

    Place pasta in a large bowl. Add 2 tablespoons oil; toss well to coat. Add clam mixture to pasta; toss well.

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