Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Simple, Yet Effective

Simple, yet effective. What more could you possibly want in a meal? Well ok, I guess delicious is an important factor too, but I've got that one covered with this recipe, I promise. Tonight I thought I would make some spaghetti aglio e olio, but I changed my mind cause I like to put chili in that one and I'm just not feeling it tonight. Soooo, I went with linguine cacio e pepe, instead. In English, that simply means cheese and pepper linguine.

I am not the biggest fan of pepper, but my husband is, and he tells me it's hereditary, so I humour him and make this for dinner sometimes. All you need is pasta, cheese, butter, olive oil, pepper and salt, -most of which you probably already have in your kitchen, which is why this dish is perfect.

Linguine Cacio e Pepe

1lb of linguine
1/8 cup of coarsely ground fresh pepper (from your pepper mill)
very generous pinch of kosher salt
1/4 cup of Pecorino Romano (or any Romano)
1/2 cup of Parmigiano-Reggiano
6 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil
6 tbsp of unsalted butter
1/2 cup of starchy pasta water

I think that the cheese really makes or breaks this dish, so I try to use a nice Parmigiano-Reggiano, but if I don't feel like spending a million dollars on cheese, I'll skimp on the Pecorino Romano and just get whatever Romano is in my comfort zone, price-wise. So if you want to impress your dinner companions, go all the way and splurge on some truly excellent cheeses, you won't regret it.

Bring some water to a boil in a stock pot, and while that's heating up, toast the pepper in another pot on medium heat, just for half a minute or so. It will start to get very peppery and delicious smelling in your kitchen, but resist the urge to stick your nose in the pot to take a big whiff or you will end up choking/sneezing/coughing rather ungracefully.

Next, add the olive oil and butter. It will bubble up beautifully and smell delicious! Once your butter is all melted, remove your pot from heat for now.

Once your water is boiling, ad a very generous pinch of kosher salt to it (I like it cause it's less intensely salty) and throw the linguine in. 9 minutes should do it. Before you throw out the pasta water, make sure to scoop out half a cup to save for later.

Drain your pasta and add it to your pepper concoction along with 1/4 cup of the pasta water. I like to turn the heat on medium low while I mix it up (use tongs, it's easiest). Take it off the heat and add your cheeses. You can save some of the parm for garnishing your dish later, or you could just grate some more afterwards, up to you.

Yes mum, cheese is high in cholesterol, and butter and olive oil is fat. Don't worry, we don't eat this every day. (My mother is a dietitian and most likely disapproves. hahaha)

A nice cherry tomato and bocconcini salad would pair perfectly with this.


Monday, June 25, 2012

Cravings & Creations Part 2

Growing up, my sister had a part time job at Monsieur Felix & Mr. Norton, so this meant I could eat as many cookies as I wanted! My favourite cookie of all time was the Caramelo: chocolately, gooey, with hunks of delicious melted, caramel throughout! The edges of the Caramelo were always a bit crispy with baked caramel -the tastiest part! Anyway, when I came across a recipe for Rolo Chocolate Chip Cookies on Pinterest the other day, I knew I had to make them, because I knew I would fall in love! Plus, the recipe looks so incredibly decadent and bad for you, that you just know it's going to be marvelous! It makes three dozen cookies, and the only thing I would change about this recipe is, the next time, I would make it with mini Rolos and put four in each cookie! I say this because the cookies I decided to put two Rolos in instead of one, turned out to be yummier.

Rolo Chocolate Chip Cookies

1 1/2 cups of unsalted butter, softened (See? Decadent!)
1 cup of granulated sugar
1 cup of brown sugar
1 tbsp vanilla
2 eggs
3 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp Kosher salt
1 1/2 cups of semi-sweet chocolate chips (I used mini chocolate chips)
1 bag of frozen Rolos (frozen for at leat 2 hours. You have to unwrap a bag of Rolos individually, so if you're lazy, buy a few rolls instead, but it's less cost effective)

Preheat your oven to 350°F.

On medium speed in your mixer, beat together the sugars, butter, vanilla and eggs until fluffy. Next, mix in the flour, baking soda and salt. Fold in the chocolate chips by hand, using a wooden spoon.

Scoop out the dough into 1.5 tbsp balls, then flatten them and place one or two frozen Rolos into the centre. Roll it back up into a ball. Place the dough balls on a cookie sheet, about 2 inches apart. Bake for 12 to 14 minutes, or until they are very slightly brown.

Since they are so filled with gooey yumminess, you'll have to let them cool on the sheet for five minutes before transferring them to a cooling rack. Enjoy!

Look at the caramel on the bottom!!! Yummmmmmm!

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Cravings & Creations Part 1

When I'm bored, it can get very dangerous. Not in a fearing for one's life sort of way, but more of a fearing for the disappearance of one's waistline kind of way. As you have probably gathered by now, today was one of those days! My hardworking husband had to go into the office on this rainy/cool turned sunny/warm Pride Weekend Saturday, so I decided to turn the apartment into my own personal kitchen dance party. On the menu tonight was Pancetta & Portobello Mushroom Risotto, and Chocolate Chip Rolo Cookies! I blasted the music (first some 90s R&B) and sang Boyz II Men at the top of my lungs while chopping and simmering and taking pictures to share with you. My gorgeous friend Kaye shared this recipe with me a few months ago, and I will forever be grateful because it's one of my favourite dishes of all time now. It takes about an hour, if you're a quick prep chef.

Pancetta & Portobello Mushroom Risotto

2 1/2 tbp of unsalted butter

125g of Pancetta thinly sliced
250g Portobello Mushroom Caps chopped
6 cups good quality chicken stock
1 cup of white wine
1 small yellow onion diced
2 cups of arborio rice
1 or 2 cloves of garlic finely diced
1/2 lemon rind, finely grated
1 cup grated parmesan
black pepper to taste

Take half your butter and melt it in a heavy pan, I like to use my big Le Creuset, and cook the pancetta for 5 minutes, until brown. Next, add the mushrooms, and stir for 10 minutes until soft. Transfer your pancetta and mushroom mixture to a bowl and set aside.

Now bring your chicken stock and wine to a boil in a saucepan, immediately bring to a simmer.

Next, melt the rest of the butter in the heavy pan, and soften your onions for ten minutes. Add your garlic for the last minute, then add your arborio rice. Stir until the rice is nicely coated in butter, then add your pancetta mushroom mixture.

This is the part that takes patience, because at this point, everything smells SO GOOD. I take a small glass measuring cup and dip it into the wine chicken stock, to scoop up about half a cup of broth and slowly add it to the rice mixture. Keep stirring and allowing the rice to absorb the broth slowly. Repeat this for the next 20 minutes, until all your broth is gone, and the rice has absorbed most of the liquid.

Remove from heat and add your grated parm, pepper to taste, and your lemon rind. I never add salt because I figure the pancetta and parmesan cheese are plenty salty, but feel free to do so.

All that's left is to dish it out, add some parmesan on top if you wish, and devour! Stay tuned tomorrow for part 2: Rolo Chocolate Chip Cookies, and a fun way to eat leftover risotto!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Lasagna Cups?! Can I Get a "What-what!"

Alright, I know it's been literally a year since I last posted, but don't worry, the cooking hasn't stopped! I just had to take a hiatus from blogging for jewelry-making, travelling, learning how to drive, and life in general! The posts won't be as frequent, but I will try to update with fun, yummy things every once in a while. My husband saw my laptop open to three different recipes (from Pinterest), and this particular one caught his eye. I could never refuse that excited face, so into production it went!

Lasagna Cups
Bolognese Sauce (of course, you can use your own recipe!)
2 tbsp olive oil
1 small onion
1/2 pound lean ground beef cooked and drained
1 small zucchini, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
6 oz. can tomato paste
8 oz. can tomato sauce
14.5 oz. can diced tomatoes
1 tbsp dried basil
1/2 tbsp dried oregano
1 bay leaf
1 tbsp sugar
salt & pepper to taste
Cheese Filling
10 oz. tub Philadelphia Tomato & Basil Cheese Cooking Cream 
1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese
3/4 pound mozzarella cheese, grated & divided
1/3 cup ricotta cheese
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 egg
21 lasagna pasta sheets
1/4 cup white wine

Parchment paper or aluminum foil, muffin tin

The state of my counter.

Brown your ground beef!

Brown your ground beef and set it aside. Next, saute your chopped up veggies in olive oil for 5 minutes on medium high heat, or until soft. Add the meat and tomato paste, stirring very well. Next, add your diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, bay leaf and a quarter cup of water to your sauce. I added a generous splash of white wine too, but you don't have to. Add your herbs, and simmer on low heat for at least 30 minutes. (covered, but not sealed with the lid)
While your sauce is cooking and getting more flavourful by the minute, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add a pinch of salt just before it starts to boil, and a tablespoon of olive oil to prevent the pasta from sticking. Then add your lasagna sheets one at a time, cook them for only 10 minutes, and drain immediately. I laid all but 12 of my lasagna sheets out on a cutting board, the rest I left in the colander so I could briefly rinse them in cold water before rolling them into cups.
Set your oven to 350 degrees farenheit, and make your cheese mixture! This is easy if you've bought pre-shredded packs of cheese. It will be slightly more laborious if you have to shred the cheese yourself (which I did, because I'm cheap, and the blocks of cheese were cheaper than the shredded bags!) Dump everything into a mixing bowl and mix it up really well. 

Now, line your muffin tin with either pieces of parchment paper or aluminum foil. I used foil because it stays put and holds the cup's shape better.
Pasta sheets in boiling water

Roll your lasagna into tubes, and place in your lined muffin tray. You'll want it to be wide enough to stick a spoon in.

Cut the rest of the lasagna sheets into quarters for layering.

Spoon about half a tablespoon of sauce into the bottom of each lasagna cup, then layer a piece of pasta on it. Add more sauce, and then the cheese mixture, and more lasagna, etc. Repeat until each cup is quite full. Finish with a layer of cheese. If you have leftover sauce and cheese, don't worry, we can use it for pretty plating later!

Once you're done layering, pop them in the oven for 25-30 minutes.

What it looks like straight out of the oven! Yum!

Dinner is served!
If you end up with extra sauce, you can spread some on the bottom of your plate, along with a dollop of cheese mixture in the middle, and plop your piping hot lasagna cup right on top of the cheese mixture! Or you can even spread some more bolognese sauce over top of your lasagna cup!
These are great, because you can really control your portions, and they're super easy to pack for lunch, -just pick it up with your hands and put it in a take away container. 
My husband loves them and so do I! Lasagna Cupcakes, he calls them. :)

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Sweet Summer Treats

This past weekend was the Memorial Day long weekend for the US, and since it was my very first one, I figured I might as well do something fun! We were kindly invited by our friends over to their house for a bbq, so I offered to bring the burgers and dessert. I made my own hamburger meat of course, because I like buying a higher quality ground beef, -which just means I know the beef hasn't been fed any hormones and the cuts of beef used are clearly labeled. It's easier and cheaper to buy pre-made patties, but I trust myself more than I trust a factory that churns out patties using unknown cuts of beef. Plus I honestly believe my burgers are yummy and simple! All you need for 10 burgers is 2 lbs. of ground beef, 2 tbsp. Montreal Steak Spice (or to taste), 1/2 cup bread crumbs, and 3 eggs. The pièce de résistance of the weekend though, is something that my husband and I collaborated on: Jell-O Orange Slices! I got the idea from a friend of mine from San Diego who loves to eat! Thanks Di!

I am proud to say that although this project was my idea, most of the work was done by my wonderful husband! He sliced 6 Navel oranges in half (one was sacrificed for tasting), scooped out the insides, stored the pulp in a Ziploc bag, and even found a way to mend a punctured rind! He was also a superstar at cutting the actual wedges! In case you were wondering, we transported the halves in my trusty two-tiered cupcake carrier and sliced them on premises at the bbq. They were a hit of course, who doesn't love Jell-O?

To be used for strawberry-orange smoothies this week! Yum.

Will you choose the red slice, or the blue slice, Neo?

Can also be enjoyed frozen!

Friday, May 27, 2011

A Steak Affair to Remember

Hello friends! I know it's been a while, I have been a happily busy bee! Friends have visited, I left the country for a couple of weeks, and I aged another year. So, all good stuff! I haven't been too adventurous in trying new recipes because, let's face it, a lot of the things I discovered that I can make have been delicious, so I wanted seconds and thirds! Neither has there been much baking lately because I am way too good at it and sugar is way too addictive and binge-inducing. But as the weather gets ever warmer, my husband and I have inevitably started to crave grilled food. The first and most delicious grilled food that comes to mind is: Steak. Delicious, delicious steak. We don't have an outdoor grill yet, but there is always my trusty cast-iron grill pan, who has yet to make us regret cooking with her (her name is Marge). Tonight we ate flat iron steaks marinated in lemon & pepper, roasted potatoes tossed in olive oil, sea salt, pepper, garlic powder and parsley, and my husband's absolute favourite, boiled asparagus with a pat of butter and dash of sea salt & pepper. Unfortunately, I don't have a finally product photo because it was so good that we got way too excited to eat and then... ate it without documenting, which, in my opinion, is way better testimony of my cooking than a photograph!

First of all, it's important to get a really great and yet affordable cut of beef. I talk a lot and make friends very easily with random people on the street, so it wasn't hard to become buddies with my local butcher. His name is Carlos, and he is the sweetest! He always takes care of me, points me towards the best and most delicious deals, and feeds me all sorts of yummy samples! You should always trust a man who tells you what meat to buy so that you can "look like an even better cook to your husband"! Carlos is hilarious, and quite right!

Marinating your steak in lemon juice makes is softer, so you don't have to use a meat mallet. Add a little bit of freshly ground pepper, put it in a dish and cover it in tin foil over night. The next day, always take your steaks out of the fridge an hour before you cook them. They'll cook better, I promise you!

Taking the chill off my meat
While you wait for your meat, you can start your potatoes and asparagus. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees farenheit. Wash your asparagus and snap off the woody ends, set it aside. I like to use Yukon Gold potatoes, they're my favourite, so I peeled (optional) 3 small ones and cut them up into 1.5 inch cubes. Then I put them in a bowl and tossed them with a tablespoon of olive oil, a pinch of sea salt, a dash of garlic powder, a dash of pepper, and some parsley flakes. I like to get down and dirty with my hands and mix it all up, so that I can feel that all the potato pieces have been properly coated! Then you can throw them into a heat-safe baking dish and pop them in the oven for 25-30 minutes.

We like our steaks medium rare, so for a 0.5" thick cut, 3 minutes on each side on medium heat in a cast-iron grill pan should render the result I like. For a 1"-2" cut, 4-5 minutes should do it. Always remember that it's better to undercook rather then overcook -you can't ever take it back if you've cooked it too much! Finally, in a shallow pan, bring about an inch of water to a boil, add a pinch of kosher salt and throw your asparagus in until it's a nice, bright green, about 2 minutes. Drain and toss with a pat of butter and season it to taste.

Mmmmm, so good.

Potatoes are my fave.

Look at those beauties!
Edges are a bit more cooked than I like, but it was still delicious!
I have to admit that I have really gotten the hang of this. Stay tuned this Memorial Day weekend for a cute and yummy summer dessert idea!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Six Months and Counting

Last Friday we celebrated our six "monthiversary", the halfway mark of our first year of marriage. I think we've done pretty well, we seem to be fully household compatible! I thank my lucky stars that he is a very clean boy and I know he thanks his that I am slightly obsessive compulsive (all the labels must face forward and all the towels must be clean and folded/hanging properly at all times). The key to our domestic success started, I think, with our mothers. We were both raised in similar environments that coupled common sense with diligence. We respect each other's space and we respect our home. But I'm not going to lie: it helps that we have separate bathrooms!

Also, right from the get-go we established certain responsibilities in order to avoid resentment and hostility. Since I love cleaning, that is my domain, as long as he doesn't add to the mess, all is well. My husband's responsibility is the garbage and recycling. I do the groceries and cooking, and he does the bill paying.

We knew each other pretty well before we got married, but now we REALLY know each other. When you're just dating you get to see the final product, when you're both fully primped. When you're married, you get to see everything before the tooth brushing, face washing, nose hair plucking, hair straightening and nose blowing. It's awesome, there is now absolutely nothing that we don't know about each other's quirks, so the fact that we love each other more is astounding and extremely comforting.

I look forward to the many years to come, everyone tells us this is the easy part, so we are relishing and enjoying and taking everything one day at a time!