Asparagus Mushroom Pasta w/Pecorino

I just keep modifying this recipe with the hopes of perfection, but to be honest since it includes two of my favorite vegetables, asparagus and mushrooms, along with some melty cheese and some salty cheese, it starts out pretty far ahead of the game.

D&D_1340_iPhoneThis is also great left over for lunch, but you must heat it very slowly in the microwave and stir very often or heat up the oven feature on the toasted oven and put it in there to reheat. Otherwise, the sauce breaks – it still tastes good, but it is not the same.

olive oil
2 Tbs unsalted butter
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 small-ish yellow onions
1 pound cremini or button mushrooms, sliced*

8 ozs penne pasta
1 pound asparagus,  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 and then add garlic and cook over low heat while garlic softens and flavors the oil/butter. Add the sliced mushroom and sauté on medium until they’ve released their juices and most of that liquid evaporates.

Add the asparagus to the mushrooms. Turn the heat to low. then add the container of mascarpone cheese. Stir until it is melted and coats the vegetables. Add cooked pasta and mix together. Add the zest and juice of one lemon and then add a handful of freshly grated Pecorino cheese and stir again.D&D_2242

Serve with extra Pecorino and more lemon wedges for serving.

*Buy whole mushrooms and slice yourself. Pre-sliced mushrooms are an abomination.

When I know I am making this dish, or one similar, I usually cook the asparagus/pasta one day, typically when I’m cooking pasta for something else too. Then the bag of pasta/asparagus is ready when I’m ready for pasta. I drop in in a colander and run very hot water over it for a minute or two and let drain completely. D&D_1318

Modified several times based on a recipe by Giada de Laurentiis.

Sour Cream Chocolate Chip Muffins

I love a recipe where I pretty much have everything on hand and this is one of those kind of recipes. My chip stash (various forms of chocolate, butterscotch, peanut butter, white chocolate chips and probably some random crunch chips and toffee bits too) in the fridge and the freezer is, in my mind anyway, legendary. And then the chocolate bars too. I can not help myself, I buy when things are on sale and store them in the fridge or freezer. The same way I do when butter is on sale. It is just a thing.D&D_2386

I did chocolate inventory recently and if I had to divulge it in public, I think it might be slightly embarrassing.

This is a one bowl, easy-peasy no-brainer kind of dessert.

1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cup sugar
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 large egg
1 cup sour cream
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup mini semisweet chocolate chips

In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Combine the egg, sour cream, butter and vanilla. Stir into dry ingredients just until moistened. Fold in chocolate chips.
Fill paper-lined muffin cups three-fourths full. Bake at 350° for 18-20 minutes, turning half way through and then check with a toothpick to make sure it comes out clean. Cool for 5 minutes before removing from pan to a wire rack.

Source: Taste of Home

1 December 2017 – made them after our work Christmas party. It was just that easy.

D&D_2390That said, I think this is a recipe that you could make many variations with the basic batter. So, next time no chocolate chips, but maybe some blueberries and lemon zest. Or just some lemon juice/zest and a lemon glaze. Or cinnamon, walnuts, and raisins with a cream cheese frosting. Just keep in mind that the batter, without the additions, is pretty simple and not too sweet. To my mind that makes it a pretty blank canvas to work with and I plan to work through my ideas as this holiday season fades into the icky part of winter. Baking always makes winter feel a little bit better. With the days so short, you need to have something to look forward to.

Roast Beef with red wine pan sauce

I love roast beef, but I just do not make it often – and here is the why of the story. My mom’s roast beef was, in a word, heavenly. So much so that it was my brother’s birthday request meal – roast beef, rice & gravy and carrot & raisin salad. But I do not a have a recipe from her for it – a recurring theme here, as is very apparent. The one thing I do remember was that you put the roast into a very hot oven, guessing 450 degrees, and let the exterior crust sear to the point where, as my mom so delicately put it – the smoke alarm in the kitchen goes off. Not kidding – part of the instructions. Love it. Right? D&D_2271

All this, and I am never quite sure what kind of roast to purchase. But I happened upon this recipe and the Publix had a roast for sale that fit the bill. It was a 2 pound little guy and was just a bit over $8 at the sale price – sold! The recipe was not quite a gravy liked I am used to, but I never turn down a pan sauce with wine in it either (big surprise, I know), so there we are.

2 pound sirloin tip roast
1 cup red wine
1 cup beef broth
1 Tbs cornstarch
1 Tbs cold water
1 Tbs unsalted butter, or more.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Salt and pepper, and let beef sit at room temperature for one hour. Pat beef dry with paper towels and place in a oven-safe skillet. Place in preheated oven for 10 minutes then reduce temperature to 275 degrees and roast until desired done-ness. For a two pound roast = 1 and 3/4 hours for medium-rare, or up to two hours for medium-well, but who wants that? Blech. Nobody.

Remove roast from oven and set aside, tent with foil to rest. Leave pan drippings in the skillet and taste – this is key if you are like me and always salt a roast before it hits the heat. Heat skillet over medium heat and add wine to deglaze. Add broth and simmer to reduce by half. Whisk together corn starch and water, add to sauce and simmer to thicken. Remove from heat, add butter, taste again and adjust seasonings.

19 November 2017 – Tramotina 12″ skillet – Burnt my damn hand – idiot.

Modified from Closet Cooking (Thanks again Kevin!) – The Perfect Roast Beef  Kevin’s post includes different roasts that will work for the recipe and cooking times based on weight. Glad Kevin did the work so I do not have to. Ugh Math, or something like it.

Had some issues with the cornstarch and water mixture – it just lumped up. Had to sieve it out of the pan sauce. Need to sort this out because I know my mom used the same technique to make gravy for roast beast – figure out the chemistry of cornstarch. Lord, now we have science too. Yikes, this might just be beyond me.

Thermapen – to determine interior temperature –  a very very good investment. Love this thing!

Love twisty top wine – Australia Shiraz and the Boy finished what was left. Kind of the same way he finishes milk when I am done with it for whatever recipe I purchased it for. It was a lovely Shiraz if I do say so myself.  I know everyone says this, but do not cook with a wine that you will not drink. It is a maxim that holds true.

Next time, I think crimini mushrooms will be involved – lots of them and maybe a few onions as well. Nothing ever goes wrong when you pan roast mushrooms and onions.

Hummus Wrap

I just can not bring myself to purchase hummus. No matter what – I think it because I am too cheap. It is just so damn easy to make hummus at home and no what any banana-pants cookbook or chef says – canned garbanzo beans are really just fine. Buy the Publix brand and just make your life so much simpler.

Again, this is a recipe from my vegetarian 1990s and I still make it all the time. The thing about this recipe is balance. I think even the banana-pants (read: fancy) chefs would agree to that.

Hummus ~
2 lemons, zested & juiced
2 cloves of garlic
1-15 ozs. can garbanzo beans
1 Tbs tahini or there abouts
kosher salt
water
olive oil

In the bowl of a food processor, whirl up the garlic cloves until minced. Rinse the garbanzo beans in a colander, getting rid of the canning liquid* and add to food processor. Pulse a couple of times. Add lemon zest and lemon juice and pulse again. Add tahini and adjust the thickness of the hummus with a little water if necessary. Then add a little bit of really good olive oil**, because it is just a lovely thing. Taste as you go along.

Then here is the important part: Put the hummus in the fridge. Yes, this takes advanced planning, but you need to make your hummus a day ahead at the least. Let the flavors mix and then let the hummus sit out and try again – cold hummus will tell you nothing. No cold food ever tastes at its best unless it is, maybe, ice cream, but I am not even sure about that. Does it need more lemon, more salt, some sumac, a little freshly ground black pepper? Or is it just spiffy the way it is?

The Rest of the Stuff ~
Sun-dried tomato tortilla, warmed
Red onion, sliced and sautéed in a little olive oil, soft, but keep them red, splash of vinegar – red wine, or course
Crimini mushrooms, sautéed until juices are dry and well salted and peppered
Spinach (from the salad bar at the Publix)#

So this turned into more of a project than I expected, but the outcome was just lovely. I made the hummus, onions, and, mushrooms ahead of time and they hung out in the fridge for a couple of days. Did keep munching on those onions though – they were really good. Kind of pickled onions that were just a little soft.

Take a warm tortilla and spread with homemade hummus down the middle. Add the red onions and mushrooms down the middle. Top with spinach. Then do your best to roll the tortilla. I am not good at this – at all, but it worked well enough that I will get better over time. I’m sure (nope).

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Next time: feta, sun-dried tomatoes (packed in oil, but well-drained), artichoke hearts, roasted asparagus, hearts of palm. All these are just questions really. I could just go on and on. I really think these will make great lunch hacks, but I must pack all the items in small containers and keep them separate until it is time for lunch. Read: need new “tupperware” containers and lots of them. And I must toast or heat the tortilla  – that seems to be necessary.

November 2017 – Idea for the wrap from Ree Drummond.

*Know this is a controversial thing, but we’ll get there. I just do not like the taste. Sorry, vegan Aquafaba. Eeww.

**California Olive Ranch – Everyday. I can now get this at my Publix – very happy!

#When you only need a little greens for a sandwich or two, the salad bar can be a very good thing. If I am making a couple of spinach quiches – then I buy bags, but otherwise the salad bar is your friend.

2YA – Cheddar Pecan Crisps

Sweet Potato Pecan Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting 

So what do you do when you have extra roasted sweet potatoes at Thanksgiving? Make anything that sounds good then feed the rest of the sweet potatoes to the dog. At least that is what we do at our house. Who knew dogs liked sweet potatoes? The things you learn. This is half the original recipe and makes 12 cupcakes.

D&D_23201 cup roughly chopped pecans – oops, forgot
1 cup sugar
8 Tbs unsalted butter, room temperature
2 large eggs
1 cup mashed sweet potatoes
1/3 cup fresh orange juice
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1/8 tsp salt

Frosting:
8 ozs cream cheese, softened
8 Tbs unsalted butter, softened
1 tsp vanilla
juice of half a large lemon

2 tsp lemon juice powder
1 cup powdered sugar, sifted**

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place pecans/walnuts on a baking sheet and bake for 8 – 10 minutes until fragrant.

Over a piece of waxed paper, sift together flour, baking powder, cinnamon, baking soda and salt, Grate nutmeg over the top of the mixture and whisk together.

Beat together sugar and butter in the bowl of a stand mixer until blended. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing until incorporated.

Whisk together sweet potatoes, orange juice, and vanilla. Add flour mixture to sugar mixture alternately with sweet potato mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Mix until just blended; fold in pecans (again – oops).

Line cups of muffin pans with foil liners and spray with vegetable spray. Spoon batter into cups filling 2/3 full. Bake at 350 degrees for 28 – 30 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. Remove immediately from pans and cool for 1 hour until completely cool.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat together cream cheese, butter, vanilla, lemon juice and lemon juice powder  – taste and adjust. Once smooth, sift in powdered sugar (sifting keeps the frosting smooth). Frost cupcakes and top with chopped pecans if desired.

22 November 2017 – Thanksgiving

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Need cupcake carrier – this is just sad. 

New recipe

Okay without nuts, but would be better with – pecans or walnuts

Good without frosting too, we’ll just call it breakfast, yep. Not sure, but I think it is the orange juice that makes it. Will certainly be making these again. Think they will go over well at the office.

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.

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??!!
D&D_2203
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.