One Pot Spaghetti

This recipe appealed to me because, in my small mind, spaghetti is always best as a left over. Kind of like meatloaf. I do not like warm meatloaf on a plate (isn’t meatloaf just such a strange word?), nor do I like spaghetti with sauce the day I make it. It does not really matter if it is my pasta sauce (vegetarian) or a meat sauce – it is always way (!) better when it sits in the fridge for a day or two.

My favorite way to eat spaghetti, which was always with a meat sauce when I was growing up, was a day later, reheated in a small pot on the stove – and then at the end, my mom would stir in small chunks of cheddar (a cheese she never skimped on – ever). So melty cheddar, meat sauce, soft noodles, and lovely goodness.

This recipe gets right down to that point. Cooking the pasta in the sauce makes a big difference, but I will still argue that waiting that one more painful day will make it just perfection. Let us just say, that I am right because I did it that way and it was just about everything I remember from the left-over spaghetti-ness of my childhood.*

1 lb lean ground beef
1/2 large sweet onion (softball-sized onion)
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 1/2 cups water
15 ozs can tomato sauce
15 ozs can diced tomatoes with juice
1 Tbs dried oregano
1 Tbs dried basil
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
12 ozs spaghetti, broken in half
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
2 Tbs chopped parsley

In a large potter medium high heat cook beef and onion until soft. Add garlic and stir for a minute or two. Drain fat (there was not much).

Add water, tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, oregano, basil, salt, and pepper. Bring to boil. Add spaghetti and stir. Reduce heat to simmer and cover. Cook, stirring often, until noodles are cooked through, 15 minutes or so.

Stir in Parmesan and parsley before serving.

3 November 2017 – Tasty, but in my opinion needs more tomato flavor. Maybe use crushed tomatoes instead of diced. The Boy like the taste of it. Maybe a bit of tomato paste while adding the garlic?

Hoping the reheat on the next day will make it even better. This certainly will not be the last time I make it. And I can report now – yes – later is always better with spaghetti.

Can not wait to take it to lunch with some shredded extra sharp cheddar. That should just be the thing. This apple does not fall far from my childhood tree. D&D_2234

*Why does this come up so often? Because childhood food is really good food. That is why.

My Favorite Mushroom Asparagus Pasta … so far.

This is a recipe that I got from Giada Delaurentiis. No, I realize that I am so spelling that wrong. I am sure, maybe. I have eliminated walnuts from the original recipe and added garlic and some onions but the basic recipe is still the most important part: 1/2 pound of ridged pasta – penne. Lots of mushrooms – about a pound and then a pound of asparagus cut into pieces. And the most part is the mascarpone. Heavenly. Of course & Parmesan as always, and with me some fresh lemon zest and lemon juice to brighten up any creamy kind of pasta. You really do not need salt for this, in my mind. If you do the lemon thing. Which pretty much do every time. I do need a lemon zester at the office – who does that – no. one. except, maybe, me. Is that a bad thing or does that just make me the food snob that everyone thinks I am? Not sure. Sigh.D&D_2242

8 ozs penne pasta
olive oil
2 Tbs unsalted butter
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 small-ish yellow onions
1 pound cremini or button mushrooms, sliced*
1 bundle of asparagus, a pound or s,  trimmed and cut into bite-sized pieces
8 ozs mascarpone
Parmesan, for serving
Lemons

Heat a pot of boiling water, and salt well. Add asparagus and cook until bright green and crisp tender – kind of the al dente of asparagus. Remove asparagus from water and set aside. Once the asparagus is finished, add the pasta and cook until al dente.

In a sauté pan, melt butter and add a little olive oil. Add the sliced mushroom and sauté until they’ve released their juices and most of that liquid evaporates. Add garlic and sauté for another minute more.

Add the asparagus to the mushrooms. Then add the container of mascarpone cheese. Stir until it is melted and coats the vegetables . Add cooked pasta and mix together. Add a handful of freshly grated Parmesan cheese and stir again.

Serve with extra Parmesan for serving. A lemon wedge would not go amiss here.

*Buy whole mushrooms and slice yourself. Pre-sliced mushrooms are an abomination. Purchase cremini if you have the option. Just saying.

BBQ Braised Beef Sandwiches

This is a Cooking Light recipe from 2005 (I think). I have modified it a bit, kind of a lot, but the flavors work really well. It makes a great sandwich. And great leftovers and if you are lucky there will be some to put in the freezer for a few weeks from now and a very easy dinner – or lunch.D&D_2215

1 medium yellow onion, sliced
2 garlic cloves, whole
2 Tbs canola oil
1 Tbs McCormick Montreal blend (can’t say enough good things about this)
15 ozs can beef broth, low sodium
4 pound boneless chuck roast, trimmed
1 cup sweet hickory barbecue sauce (Bull’s Eye)
1 can whole-berry cranberry sauce
~~~
Rolls – French Hamburger Buns
Slaw (homemade) – see below

In a large cold pot, put 2 Tbs of oil and add sliced onions and garlic cloves. Heat on low until onions are soft but not browned. Add McCormick Montreal blend, beef broth and chuck roast (cutting it in half if necessary). It does not look like enough liquid, but we are braising people. Not boiling. Bring to boil and reduce to simmer. Cover. Simmer three hours, turning the meat every half an hour or so. This is rather forgiving.

When the beef is just falling apart, remove from heat and let sit for 15 minutes. Shred with forks and add barbecue sauce and cranberry sauce and stir well to combine. Heat over low until heated through.

Serve on buns, or cool and refrigerate for the next day (good idea!).

Okay – now for cole slaw. Another no recipe recipe – sorry – sometimes this is just the way I cook.

Equal parts Duke’s mayonnaise and sour cream – a pinch of salt, a couple grinds of black pepper and a splash of apple cider vinegar. Taste. Then add enough sugar to balance the vinegar – this is a total personal preference thing. Now here is where things get interesting. I always make the dressing first and then add in enough cole slaw mixture to make it – not sure how to word this – not too soupy and not to dry. Is that helpful? I think not.

D&D_2208It is, however, the way my mom made cole slaw and it works for me. Although I purchase cole slaw mix instead of shaving a whole cabbage, like my mom did. I do tend to make a bunch of small batches of slaw instead of a big bowl because, to my mind, cole slaw gets messy after a day or so. By using a small bowl, it helps with proportions and makes enough for a day or two – then you can do it all again and make more later in the week.

30 October 2017

Yellow Cake with Fudge Frosting

So one of my friends had birthday a few weeks ago and we got her a small (6″, 3 layer) cake. Yellow cake with fudge frosting. It reminded me of my mom’s best cake. The one we all loved. But I haven’t tried to make it – yet. But I saw this and thought — okay, single layer – yes; frosting seems pretty simple – yes. I was going to try it and so a few days latter, I did. I am beyond pleased with it. MotH and the Boy both liked it though they are not big sweets fans. The office seemed to really like it too and that makes me happy. I will make this again. Really simple for a great tasting cake and frosting. Next time cupcakes??!!
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CAKE:
1 cup granulated sugar
8 Tbs. unsalted butter, room temperature
2 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 2/3 cups King Arthur all-purpose flour
1 cup sour cream (8 ozs)

FROSTING:
5 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
1/4 cup vanilla yogurt (2 ozs)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly spray a 9″ round cake pan with cooking spray. Line the pan with a parchment round and spray again.

Beat together the sugar and butter until thoroughly combined.

Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat at high speed for 2 minutes; the batter will lighten in color and become fluffy. Yes, very fluffy. Set your iPhone timer for this.

Add the vanilla, salt, baking powder, and baking soda, stirring to combine.

Starting and ending with the flour, alternately add the flour and sour cream to the mixture. Beat gently to combine after each addition. Scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl. Do not overwork.

Pour batter into the pan and smooth with a spatula (a Get it Right ultimate spatula). Bake the cake for 30 to 35 minutes turning the pan half way through, until it’s golden brown on top, the edges are beginning to pull away from the sides of the pan, and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, or mostly clean

After 10 minutes, turn the cake out of the pan onto a rack to cool completely before frosting.*

Sift the confectioners’ sugar into a medium mixing bowl. Melt the butter in a small saucepan. Stir in the cocoa and vanilla yogurt. Bring the mixture to a boil, then remove from the heat. Stir in the vanilla. It may look like it is seperating, but just hang in there. Add the butter mixture to the confectioners’ sugar in the bowl, beating until smooth. Quickly pour over the cooled cake, while the frosting is still warm. Smooth with an off-set spatula.**

* You can make the cake up to this point and wrap in plastic (as long as you are sure it is cool) and refrigerate for a day or two before frosting. I did it – and it worked really well.

** This is a very simple frosting, but it works really well. I am stunned at how simple this whole cake is to make. Really. This could surely be a weeknight cake.

D&D_2196I will say, I would eat this cake any day without frosting. It is that good. Like a snack cake – wonder what it would take to put it in a loaf pan and decorate with a little powdered sugar when it is finished and cool?

Guess I will be chatting with the bakers from King Arthur Flour again. I love that you can just chat and ask the questions you need answers to – a great service to the KAF customers.

Sometimes (Often Times) I have this in my bag …

Actually (and I hate to use that word – really hate it*), this is not terribly exciting, but it makes my day at the office (how sad is that?). It is a lemon – I know, So. Very. Exciting. sigh.

I have this habit of bringing together odd bits of food from home for my breakfast / lunch to cobble together and occasionally make a great lunch hack. I just prefer it to buying lunch out. Snob that I am, I like my cooking better than most others. Probably because I make the things I like – like right now, I am on a pan-roasted mushroom trip. Not sure why, but it works for me.

I tend to eat crackers for breakfast just to choke down the stupid mess of meds for the equally stupid lupus that has become a very crappie part of my life recently – hello, medical field – not impressed so far. Okay – enough of that.

Back to it – It is amazing what a fresh lemon can do – just the juice, since I do not have a zester at the office. Although I probably should think about getting one. Fresh lemon (or lime) zest is just lovely. What about grapefruit zest – now there is an idea. Also need a pepper grinder too, if I really want to make the lunch hack thing special (and we all want it to be special, don’t we?)

We have the “Real Lemon” juice in a bottle in the office fridge, but it is just so lame compared to fresh lemon – even if the lemon is kind of a lame, old-ish lemon from the back of my fridge at the house – that juice makes all the difference. The difference is really very telling – not a joke. cropped-dd_1784

So I have some left over rice, maybe with some artichoke hearts in it, and then I add my favorite garlicy pan-roasted mushrooms on top and heat it up. What makes it perfect? Fresh lemon juice. You see where this is going, right?

Just put a lemon in your bag. It will be fine. And it is kind of cool. Kind of like a fez.~

* Inspector Morse always hated that word too and I love my Morse (John Thaw). That’s a post for a whole other time. Or as Dr River Song would say, “That’s a whole other birthday.” Yes, a cool Dr. Who reference~. My total geek is showing.

When you get right down to it  – it is the author of the Morse stories, Colin Dexter that, I think,  hated “actually.” Understandable. But I do have to quibble with his use of “sludgy” green eyes – seems to be a recurring theme that I resent because my green eyes are said to be lovely. I was going to say hot, but only blue eyes and brown eyes are hot and to be honest, no one knows what to do with hazel eyes. Genetic randomness right there.

The Boy has lovely blue eyes that can turn grey depending on what he is wearing or even what kind of mood he is in. I did not know that could happen. But how does a child with two green-eyed parents end up with a blue-eyed child. Apparently blue eyes can stay hidden from previous generations, so I expect that is it. Way to much science for me. Hello, Gregor Mendel and principals of inheritance. See, I did learn some science in Jr. High School. Who knew?

““

Well, we just went for a wander, didn’t we? Or, I guess it was me that let this tiny brain of mine wander a bit.

Back to lemons, in your bag, to make you desk meal (lunch hack) a real treat vs. a total bore. Your call.

 

Sun-Dried Tomato Rice with Pecorino

So the Publix had a large-ish jar of oil packed sun-dried tomatoes on sale a bit ago and I went for it. I usually get the dry ones and rehydrate them, but figured I might as well try this because it was a good deal. So then I had to figure out what to do with them and this was an early thought. And one I liked quite a bit and made for an easy and great lunch. Though I will say I added, once again, some fresh lemon juice to enhance the flavors of everything. This also keeps me from adding salt, and I just can’t help but think that is a good thing.D&D_2188

2 Tbs sun-dried tomato oil
1 Tbs canola oil
1 medium shallot, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup short grain rice
2 cups water with 1 tsp vegetable bullion (Better than Bouillon)
1/3 cup oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, minced and patted very dry – yes, very dry
Pecorino or Parmesan – it is for the salt, mostly.

Heat oils to medium and add shallots and cook until soft. Add minced garlic and let get soft, but no color – about 1-2 minutes. Add rice and stir to coat with oil. Stir for one minute, then add water/bouillon mixture. Bring to boil and then, cover and reduce to a simmer – just like you regularly cook rice – until liquid is absorbed. Remove from burner and let steam with lid on. I just push it to the back of the stove where there are no burners on. That little bit of steaming helps a lot. I do this for every pot of rice I make – and I make a rice quite often – all different types – long grain, jasmine, short grain, arborio. You get the idea.

Add sun-dried tomatoes and mix in grated Pecorino. And there is lunch. Simple.

21 Oct 2017
This was a crap shoot recipe. I made it with what I had on hand at the time because I needed some breakfast/lunch at the office. I prefer my own food to going to a restaurant in most cases. At the office, I added some fresh lemon juice, just to brighten the flavor.
There is something about sun-dried tomatoes I love, but you have to use them with restraint because they can make things really sweet. I have only recently started using the oil packed ones just to try something different. So far, so good, but acid and salt need to be balanced with the sweetness.

This worked, but I think I will work on it some more because it is just not quite there – at least for me. Maybe some artichokes or blanched asparagus – not sure, but a little more veg could be a very good thing. Mushrooms?

This is why lunch hacks are so cool. Just bring what’s in the fridge at home to the office and then sort it all out – try different combinations. See what you can pull together from the random things at the office. It is like a work place version of the Food Network show, Chopped. “Here are some random items – now make yourself some lunch.”

Really, that is a more accurate description than I had ever considered.

Tomato Soup

I am hard pressed to think of a tomato soup I won’t at least try^. It is my favorite kind of soup to make, granted I prefer a bisque and in my mind, most bisques do fine with out the cream. Somehow when you get to the point of adding cream, I taste the soup, and it does not seem necessary. Also, this makes reheating a little less precarious.D&D_2185

2 Tbs olive oil
3 small yellow onions, sliced
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tsp dried thyme
2 tsp dried basil
32 ozs water with about a heaping tsp of Better than Bouillon* (veg)- heated
2 – 28 oz cans of whole tomatoes with the juice
1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil, drained and chopped
1 1/2 Tbs balsamic vinegar

garnish – chives? parsley? scallions? chevre? croutons? grilled cheese croutons?

In a large pot heat olive oil. Add onions and cook until soft, add garlic and cook, stirring, for 1 minute until soft, but not browned. Add dried herbs and stir for 30 seconds. Add broth and tomatoes with juice and crush the tomatoes with a potato masher. Bring to a simmer over medium high heat. Reduce to low, add sun-dried tomatoes and simmer 30 minutes. Let cool briefly, add balsamic vinegar, and then purée with an immersion blender. Taste and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper as needed. A little swirl of good olive oil can be very nice.

Garnish with chives and cheese toasts. Or what ever floats your boat.

Serves 6 (I really think more than that)

^Exception – any tomato based soup with meat in it. I am a real vegetarian when it comes to soup – just don’t like the texture of meat in a soup. Blech.

*This stuff keeps forever the fridge. Thanks America’s Test Kitchen for the recommendation.

Well, this soup seemed to be made just in time. The Boy had a head cold with a sore throat and this was just the thing for him. It also made plenty enough that I could take two meals worth to the office. It became my favorite lunch hack of October I think. I made a blue cheese/cheddar toast to put into the soup at work and it was really very good.

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Tomato Soup Lunch Hack

Next time, I’ll see if someone would like to split it with me, because it is quite a lot for just me and The Boy. But sharing is always a good thing, I think.

I think my only problem were the tomato seeds – maybe I should press it through a fine mesh strainer next time. We’ll see. There are so many other tomato soup recipes to try, it might be a while till I get back to this one. But it will definitely stay in the rotation, especially since it can be made any time of year – yeah – canned tomatoes!