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Monday, February 9, 2015

Baked Penne Pomodoro

I have made many baked zitis in my's a crowd pleaser...It's certainly a a Jim pleaser...but NOT an Adrienne pleaser - a bowl full of three different things she will eat completely separate, not only touching each other, but actually melted into each other and completely inseparably is her worst nightmare - she gets a side of plain pasta.)  This baked ziti is by far my best work.  Meals like this make me wonder why we ever go out to eat.

Bon Appetit (I love you, Bon Appetit)  reminded me recently of how great it is to add some butter and pasta water to a tomato sauce.  It's not the first time I have heard of it and used the idea.  Deb Perelman also makes a tomato sauce with butter.  It gives the sauce some more depth and softens the acidity of the tomato sauce a bit.  It totally works.  It may be just the thing that made this baked pasta so incredible.

Baked Penne Pomodoro
serves 6 (if you make a big salad on the side and are able to show some restraint)

1 14 oz. box of pasta, cooked 3 minutes shy of being al dente, 1/2 cup of pasta water reserved
1/4 cup olive oil
1 medium onion, minced
4 garlic cloves, minced
crushed red pepper, to taste
1 28-oz can crushed tomatoes
3 or 4 large basil leaves
2 Tbsp unsalted butter
1/3 cup grated parmesan or romano cheese
salt to taste
1 cup part skim ricotta cheese
1 cup part skim shredded mozzarella

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  In a large saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat.  Once hot, add the onion and cook, stirring often, until softened, about ten minutes.  Add the garlic and cook another 5 minutes, stirring often.  Add the crushed red pepper and can of crushed tomatoes and bring to a simmer.  Add the basil leaves and simmer the sauce for at least 20 minutes.  Remove from the heat and remove the basil leaves.  Add the butter and reserved pasta water and stir until combined.  Add the undercooked pasta to the pot of sauce and combine along with the grated cheese.  Now taste and add salt if necessary.  Pour the pasta mixture into a lightly greased baking dish.  Dollop the ricotta by heaping tablspoons over the top of the pasta.  Then using a spoon, gently mix the ricotta into the pasta so that some big pockets of ricotta remain throughout the dish.  Sprinkle the mozzarella cheese over the top.  Place in the hot oven and cook for 10 minutes.  Remove and serve immediately (preferably with a nice red wine and some crusty Italian bread.)

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Monday, February 2, 2015

Chia Power Doughnuts

It's amazing all the time a girl has to blog when she gets a few snow days.  I am on fire this week...although I am not in love with this particular recipe.  The interesting nature of the recipe and the pretty pictures that resulted, however, make it worth the blog entry.  If you try it, don't say I didn't warn you.  These taste exactly like what they are...baked donuts made mostly of chia seed.

I had been dying to try them out.  After all, I would love to find a doughnut that's healthy!  Is there anyone who wouldn't?  I should have known it was too good to be true.  So I went out and bought a special doughnut pan way back in the summer as soon as I got Angela Liddon's cookbook, but I hadn't gotten a chance to try it out until this week - three feet of snow later.  I would not make these again.  I love when food is super healthy and tastes delicious, but I really need it to be delicious - which is an entirely subjective term of course, so please make your own judgment call.  The cinnamon flavor in these was absolutely wonderful.  I thought that was the redeeming quality that made me eat another before I came to a final decision on these guys...which ultimately is that I won't be making them again.

Chia Power Donuts
recipe from Angela Liddon's Oh She Glows
says it makes 6 donuts, but I only got 5

3/4 cup oat flour (you can totally make your own if you have rolled oats...just blend them up!)
1/2 cup chia seeds
1-1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp fine sea salt
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/3 cup maple syrup
1/3 cup 1% milk (the original recipe calls for almond milk)
1 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 300 degrees and lightly grease a doughnut pan (or you could use a muffin tin.)  In a large bowl, mix together the oat flour, chia seeds, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon.  Then add the remaining ingredients to the bowl and mix well.  Fill your doughnut pan holes to the brim and place in the preheated oven from 22 to 27 minutes (I did 25 in my oven.)


Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Carnival Cookies

So it's the Snowpocalypse and I couldn't be happier.  School's cancelled and we still have power.  That means a nice relaxing breakfast and coffee on the couch, followed by some quality baking.  So, I decided to try out a recipe from one of my cookbooks that seemed like it could be delicious while being healthy at the same time.  Carnival cookies is usually a name given to cookies that contain a mish mash of everything you have on hand.  Well, these are that, except there are no added sugars asided from bananas and chocolate chips and just a quarter cup of coconut oil.  The rest of the mish mash consists of oats, almond meal, peanuts, and popcorn.

I was very wary, but too curious to not try it out.  I like all of the ingredients, I was only nervous because I had tried out a recipe for cookies made solely of bananas and oats the other day.  I won't name the popular blog that I got the recipe from, but if you see a healthy cookie recipe consisting of only bananas and instant oats, rethink making them.  They were gross...let me rephrase...they were extremely gross.  Everything about them.  The consistency was rubbery and they only tasted like banana oatmeal.  They tasted bad right after they came out of the oven and they became worse as they cooled.  You could hardly call it a cookie.  I was so mad I wasted the bananas.  However, these cookies seemed like they had potential due to all the awesome extras, and although the awful taste still lingered from those other disgusting excuses for a cookie, I dove in anyway, and the result is fantastic.  They have the perfect amount of sweetness from the bananas and chocolate, the sea salt compliments that sweetness just right, and the peanuts and popcorn make for an awesome texture.  These cookies are strange but delicious...strangely delicious.  I can't stop eating them, so that's a good sign.  They aren't the prettiest cookie, but they were definitely more than worth the minimal effort, and if you're looking for a healthier cookie, this is a great option.

Carnival Cookies
recipe from Heidi Swanson's Super Natural Everyday

3 bananas, mashed very well
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 cup coconut oil, melted
1-1/2 rolled oats
1/2 cup almond meal or flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp fine sea salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 cup chocolate chips or chopped chocolate of choice
2/3 cup shelled unsalted peanuts
1-1/2 cups air-popped popcorn

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  In a large bowl, mix the banana, vanilla, and coconut oil.  In another bowl, combine the oats, almond meal, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon.  Add this to the wet ingredients and combine.  Add the chocolate and peanuts and combine, and then gently incorporate the popcorn.  Form heaping tablespoons of the mixture into balls (I used my hands to get these together since the mixture is very loose) and place on a lined baking sheet about an inch apart from eachother.  Bake for 15-18 minutes.  If using two trays at a time, rotate them halfway through the cooking time.

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Sunday, January 25, 2015

Venison Stew with Crème Fraîche Mashed Potatoes

Before I share the recipes for what has been the only stew I've ever truly enjoyed, as well as the best mashed potatoes I have ever made, please let me take a moment to explain why I have not been posting as much over these last few sure as hell is not because I haven't been cooking.  I am constantly cooking.

I have made many recipes over these last few months that I would have liked to share - and eventually I promise to dammit.  There has been the easiest black bean tacos ever (this has become a weekly staple in the Faulkner house), green enchiladas, spinach and feta pastry puffs, crispy waffles (I got a waffle iron for Christmas and have been breaking it in almost every weekend), crock pot french dip sandwiches, a new pomodoro sauce, delicious home fries under a perfect over easy egg, chocolate chip banana bread, and a major life changer - the first carbonara I have ever made - with crispy brussels sprouts leaves and pancetta.  I will one day share each and every one of these recipes with you.  The reason I have not yet is that many times I have finished cooking and either been too hungry, tired, or simply flustered to bother setting up a pretty plate and take some good pictures before I get to enjoy the meal.  Especially in the winter when I lose the light quickly, I truly don't have the energy to get out my external flash and a pop up umbrella screen.  It sometimes seems like way to much work for a hobby that I do for fun.  And...

Adrienne, although only four years old, seems to have entered into a stage of teenage adolescence in which she is able to throw the attitude of a fourteen year old at me.  Four going on freaking fifteen, I tell you.  Dinner time has not been pleasant to say the least.  The meal of love and sweat that I reluctantly deconstruct for her is usually met with derision nonetheless and a battle ensues in which the ultimatum of try it, don't try it, but just stop whining about it, or go to your room has become a staple around dinner time.  My only nonnegotiables are that you can't say you don't like it if you don't try it and if you want to cry about it, then do it in your room so mommy can have a tear and scream free dinner.  The battle is hard, and after a long week of this, I often wonder why I don't just comply and make her macaroni and cheese or hot dogs every night for dinner.  Then I remember that this too shall pass.  One day she will appreciate my cooking.  Maybe?  Hopefully?  Regardless, I will continue to fight the good fight, and no matter what, I will still take pleasure in knowing that I cooked a good meal whether she chooses to enjoy it or appreciate it or none of the above.

Besides, I think I am making progress.  Tonight, I took some carrots and venison from the stew and washed off the gravy, put the pieces separately on her plate, and, without complaint, she tasted both venison and carrots.  Of course she said she didn't like either anyway, but there was no crying.  Baby steps.  Anyway, this is total karma - a was even worse when I was her age.  So there you have it - in case you cared.  For all the moms out there that have gone through or are currently going through the same thing...I hope this makes you feel like you are not alone.  For all those moms who have no clue what I am talking about...I swear I'm not making this up,

The following venison recipe started with this Emeril Lagasse recipe, but ultimately I messed with most of the ingredients and ratios.  I left his "essence" spice blend completely in tact but halved the  cayenne - which is a good thing - even with less it had a kick to it.)  Also, I'm sure this would be awesome with any type of stew meat, but since we have about 50 pounds of venison left in our freezer (Jim bagged a deer this season), I won't be finding out myself any time soon.  The mashed potatoes are the best I have ever made, which is the result of all the trial and error that has come before.  I finally got it just right.  I hope you enjoy this meal as much as we (Adrienne excluded) did.  Make sure to have some crusty bread on hand to dunk in all the extra stew gravy.

Venison Stew

4 Tbsp olive oil, divided
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2-1/2 tsp paprika
2 tsp kosher salt
2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp cayenne (omit if you don't want any heat)
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried thyme
2 lbs venison stew meat, trimmed of all visible fat, cut into 2-inch cubes
1 medium onion, chopped
2 stalks of celery, chopped
3 carrots, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 6 to 8 oz package of baby bella mushrooms, halved or quartered
2 or 3 sprigs of thyme
2 bay leaves
1 cup red wine
2 cups beef stock

Heat half the olive oil in a large pot over high heat.  While the oil is heating, mix the next nine ingredients together and toss the venison with about half the mixture until evenly coated (save the rest of this mixture for later in the cooking process).  Add the venison to the hot pot and cook for about 2 or 3 minutes, just to sear the outside.  You do not want to overcook venison.  It will continue to cook and will soften while stewing over the low heat.  Remove meat to a bowl, turn the heat down to medium, and heat the remaining oil.  Add the onions and cook for about 3 minutes.  Add the celery and carrots and cook for another 2 or 3 minutes.  Add the garlic and cook for another minute.  Add the mushrooms, season with a bit of salt and pepper to taste, and cook for another 2 or 3 minutes.  Now add the remaining flour/spice mixture to the pot and stir until the flour is incorporated completely and is no longer white.  Add the cup of wine and scrape up anything stuck to the bottom of your pot.  Add the sprigs of thyme, bay leaves, and beef stock and bring to a boil.  Cover the pot and cook for 45 minutes to an hour until the meat is tender.  Serve over the following mashed potatoes and some crusty bread.

Crème Fraîche Mashed Potatoes

3 lbs yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cut into large chunks
3/4 cup whole milk
1/2 stick unsalted butter
1/4 cup crème fraîche
salt and pepper to taste

Place the potatoes in a pot filled with cold water.  Bring to a a boil and contiue to cooke about 20 to 25 minutes.  Test the potatoes with a fork to see if they are done at the 20 minute mark.  While the potatoes cook, warm the milk and butter together in a small pot over medium-low heat until the butter is melted.  Once they are cooked, drain the potatoes and return to the pot.  Stir them over low heat to get rid of as much water as possible.  Then lightly mash or rice (I use a masher since i don't own a ricer) the potatoes.  Add half of the milk/butter mixture and mix.  Do not overmash or overmix the potatoes - they will get gummy.  Add the crème fraîche and mix just until incorporated.  Taste and then add salt, pepper, and any more of the milk/butter mixture until it suits your taste.  Serve immediately.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Crispy Tofu Salad with Sesame Miso Vinaigre

I hope everyone has survived the holiday season.  I, for one, ate my way right through it.  I'm serious.  I really did.  I have no ability to hold back when it comes to party food.  My Aunt Loretta's arancini are too good to stop at one and her spumoni cookies are one of my favorites.  My mil makes chocolate covered toffee that makes my mouth water when I think about it, and since she threatens to be buried with the recipe, I feel the need to eat as much as I can before that happens.  There is always a load of food on Christmas Eve.  In addition to the wide array of apps, the family does the classic Italian night of seven fishes.  On the menu, typically or not so typically, is clam chowder, stuffed clams and scallops, baked shrimp, and both fried and stuffed calamari.  Well this year the ante was waaaaay upped with the addition of lobster mac and cheese.  Needless to say, I overdid it.  The worst part is that the next day, we continue to eat heavily.  "Sure, I'll have some more cheese ball, and yes, please do pass the gravy."

So now I'm suffering from a bit of food guilt.  I ate too much and too rich and it requires immediate penance, but I am on Christmas break!  I'm just not a "salad" kind of girl when I'm on vacation.  I'm a "trip to the North End for Umberto's and tiramisu" kind of girl.  However, if a salad were to be crazy amazing, then...this brings me to my first ever salad post...

This salad has been made most amazing by the combination of some of my favorite things.  The tofu is prepared using a favorite recipe of mine from Oh She Glows' Angela Liddon (this has become my favorite way to prepare tofu - you can throw these crunchy little cubes in or on anything.)  The dressing and crunchy topping are finds from Bon Appetit.  The chili in the dressing is taste bud as well as mind blowing as far as I'm concerned.  So if you feel the need to cleanse as I did, then I hope you will try this - because it's a truly delicious plate full of healthy.

Crispy Tofu Salad with Sesame Miso Vinaigrette
serves 4-6

1 large box of mixed salad greens (or cut up your own greens of your choosing)
1 cucumber, thinly sliced
2 carrots, grated
crispy garlic tofu (see recipe below)
1/3 to 1/2 cup of pepita-cashew crunch (see recipe below)
sesame-miso vinaigrette for serving (see recipe below)

Top the salad greens with the remaining ingredients and enjoy!

For the crispy garlic tofu:
recipe by Angela Liddon from the Oh She Glows Cookbook

1 14-oz package of extra firm tofu, pressed overnight and cut into about 30 pieces or so
1 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/4 tsp ground pepper

Combine all of the ingredients in a large bowl and preheat a cast iron skillet over medium heat with 1 Tbsp of canola oil (or other oil of choice).  Once the pan is hot, put the coated tofu in the pan in a single layer.  Allow to cook for about 3 minutes until golden, then flip the tofu pieces over and cook for another 3 minutes until golden and crisp.

For the pepita-cashew crunch:
from Bon Appetit

1 large egg white
1 tsp agave nectar
1/2 tsp garam masala
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 cup raw cashews, roughly chopped
1/4 cup shelled pumpkin seeds
1/4 cup shelled sunflower seeds

Preheat oven to 300 degrees and coat a lined baking sheet lightly with cooking spray.  Whisk the egg white, agave, garam masala, salt, and cayenne together in a medium bowl.  Add the nuts and seeds and toss to coat.  With a slotted spoon, remove the mixture to the baking sheet, allowing the excess egg to drip back into the bowl.  Bake, tossing once, until the mixture is golden brown, 20 to 25 minutes.  Let cool on the baking sheet before transferring to an airtight container.  Store at room temperature for up to 5 days.  This is delicious served over salad, Greek yogurt, and I am sure a hundred other things.

For the sesame miso vinaigrette:
adapted from Bon Appetit

1 red Fresno chili, with seeds, finely chopped
1/4 cup canola oil
1 Tbsp fresh lime juice
2 Tbsp white miso
1 Tbsp reduced sodium soy sauce
1 Tbsp rice vinegar
1 tsp toasted sesame oil
1 tsp toasted sesame seeds

Whisk all of the ingredients in a small bowl.  This can be stored in the refrigerator in a sealed container for up to a week.

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Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Kung Pao Chicken

This is an original recipe.  It took me a long time of trying, but I finally got it right, and now I am hooked on this dish.  I figured out how to do it without chopping loads of ginger and garlic - which to me was the most annoying part of the prepping for a stir fry - and it doesn't taste like it's missing anything.  I also know that I could easily throw in any other vegetables I want to use and exchange the chicken for another protein.  This recipe is a streamlined, healthy, and delicious stir fry with all the signature ingredients of Kung Pao Chicken - carrots, celery, onion, water chestnuts, peanuts, a bit of heat,  I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

Kung Pao Chicken
serves 4

Marinade for chicken:
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. corn starch
1/2 tsp. rice (wine) vinegar

1/4 cup hoisen
2 Tbsp reduced sodium soy sauce
1/4 cup of water

2 Tbsp peanut oil, divided
1 lb chicken breast, diced small
4 dried sichuan peppers, broken up, with seeds
2/3 cup carrots, diced small
2/3 cup celery, diced small
1 small or 1/2 large yellow onion, diced
1 small can of water chestnuts, diced
2 scallions, thinly sliced (optional)
1/4 cup dry roasted unsalted peanuts

Marinade the chicken in the baking soda for 20 minutes.  Then rinse well and dry completely.  Add the rice vinegar and cornstarch to the chicken, combine well, and let sit for another 15 minutes.  While the chicken is marinating, whisk together all the ingredients for your sauce in a small bowl and set aside.

Once your chicken is ready, heat 1 tablespoon of the peanut oil in a wok or skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the chicken and cook, stirring occasionally, until no longer pink.  Remove from the wok and set aside.  Heat the remaining tablespoon of peanut oil.  Add the peppers and simmer until fragrant.  Add the carrot, celery, and onion and cook, stirring frequently, until the carrots are no longer hard, about 10 minutes.  Add the water chestnuts and combine.  Then incorporate the cooked chicken.  Add the sauce and mix everything together.  Lastly, add the scallions (if using) and the peanuts.  Serve with your favorite rice.

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Saturday, September 27, 2014

Raspberry Chia Jam

I am not a vegan - I eat absolutely everything (except radishes...I hate radishes.)  I am, however, at the risk of making my husbands eyes roll, a foodie.  So I am willing to try almost anything if it has visual appeal and uses amazing ingredients.  It is because of this (and a fellow food lover/vegan friend) that I have recently fallen very much in love with the Oh She Glows Cookbook.  (I am linking to her web site where she uses the following jam recipe to make jam filled oat bars...I will definitely be trying that one day.)  Just yesterday, I made three of the recipes - all delicious - but this jam is nothing less than stunning.  If the pictures haven't won you over, let me continue to try.  The jam was so easy to make that words can't do it justice, and it is waaaaaay more delicious than any jam you'll ever get at the store.  I hate the fact that jarred jams have so much sugar in them - and some of those sugars are as unnatural as it gets.  Well this jam is too easy, too healthy, and too delicious to eat any other type of jam ever again.

Raspberry Chia Jam
recipe from Oh She Glows

makes 1/2 cup
1-1/2 cups fresh or frozen raspberries (I used fresh)
2 Tbsp maple syrup
1 Tbsp chia seeds
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

In a medium saucepan, heat the raspberries and maple syrup over medium-high heat.  Once the mixture comes to a simmer, lower the heat to medium-low and simmer for 5 minutes, stirring frequently.  Then mash up the fruit with a fork or spoon, mix in the chia seeds, and cook for another 15 minutes or so, stirring frequently, until it is a good consistency.  It will firm up more as it cools.  Lastly, stir in the vanilla.  Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.