Monday, December 29, 2008


Last week we had a couple of friends over for Christmas Eve dinner. I was on the phone around the time I knew I needed to start on the rolls, so I attempted to get them started while talking ... and ... they looked weird when they came out of the oven. So I ate one and realized I forgot to add the salt! So, I had to start all over again, and thankfully, things turned ok. But I felt like it was such a waste to throw away these rolls, so I let them dry out a little for a couple of days and froze them, thinking maybe I'll make croutons or panzanella with them. But today I suddenly felt inspired to make some savory bread pudding for dinner, and I'm so glad I did! And I still have plenty for some croutons for later. Anyway, this recipe will work really well with some left over dinner rolls from all of your festivities, or use some day old bread from the store. I liked it with the dinner rolls because it was a nice combination of slightly sweet and salty. If you're going to buy bread at the store, I recommend croissants or a nice hearty crusty bread like ciabatta or french. Or, if you happened to have messed up your Aunts beautiful dinner roll recipe, feel free to use those, too. Don't throw them out. It's too much of a waste to throw away bread that you used over 7 C of flour on ... But maybe I'm the only idiot that forgets to add salt to rolls.

Savory Bread Pudding

serves 6~85 large eggs
2 C milk
1/2 C heavy cream
salt and pepper to taste (I had to use a little extra salt because the bread was tasteless ...)
1 t fresh rosemary, chopped fine
4~5 day old dinner rolls, cut in half or into big pieces
1 C freshly grated Parmesan or Pecorino Romano cheese
3 strips of bacon, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°. In a medium bowl, whisk together the milk, cream, salt, pepper, rosemary, and cheeses, until combined.
  2. In a small skillet, cook the bacon until crispy. Drain on a paper towel lined plate.
  3. In a 9x13 baking dish (or I used a 7x11 or 2.2 qt baking dish), place the bread in a single layer, equally spread out. Spread the bacon around evenly. Pour the egg and cheese mixture on top, and with a fork or spoon, gently press down on the bread to make sure the eggs get absorbed.
  4. Bake in a 350° oven for 40~50 minutes until the eggs are set and the top is browned.

Sunday, December 28, 2008


When I was a kid, my sister made Spaghetti alla Carbonara for us, and I took it down like I had never eaten good food in all of my life. And then that night I got the stomach flu, and I'll spare you the details, but it was a bad situation. Unfortunately, that tainted my view of Spaghetti alla Carbonara, and I couldn't even think of eating it again. Until one day a bunch of my friends and I went out to eat at an Italian restaurant in Tokyo that serves their pastas family style. I loved that place! One of my friends had ordered Carbonara without my knowing, and when it came out, it looked good so I ate some and thought it was perfect! I asked what it was and they told me, and I was shocked that I enjoyed it so much. Anyway, ever since then I've been a little afraid to make it myself, but have always wanted to try. So tonight, i finally decided to give it a shot, and I'm kicking myself for not trying it sooner. SO yummy, SO easy, So affordable! I used mostly staples that I already had in my pantry or fridge. If you like bacon, cheese, and pasta, you're going to LOOOOOOVE this dish! And you'll love making it because it's so easy.

The key is the keep your serving bowl warm, and to toss the pasta with the eggs immediately after the pasta is done cooking. That makes sure that the eggs are fully cooked, and not curdled. And it turns out so creamy without the heavy cream that a lot of other recipes call for.

Spaghetti alla Carbonara
serves 4
3 large eggs
3/4 C parmesan cheese, grated
1/4 C pecorino romano cheese, grated (or use a whole cup of either cheese)
3 garlic cloves, minced or grated
8 oz bacon, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
3 T extra virgin olive oil
1/2 C dry white wine
1 lb spaghetti (or linguine or fettucine)
  1. Preheat oven to 200°. Place an oven proof serving bowl in the oven. Meanwhile, bring quarts of water to a boil in a large pot for the pasta.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, cheese, and garlic. Set aside.
  3. Cook the bacon and olive oil in a large skillet until crispy. Add white wine and simmer until it is slightly reduced, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and cover.
  4. When the water is boiling, stir in 1 T salt and pasta. Cook, stirring often, until pasta is al dente, about 8 minutes.
  5. Reserve 1/2 C pasta water then drain the pasta, leaving it slightly wet. Remove the serving bowl from the oven and add pasta. Immediately pour the egg and bacon mixtures over the pasta and toss to coat. Season with salt and a lot of fresh ground pepper to taste. Add the reserved pasta water as needed to loosen the sauce before serving.
  6. Serve with some more freshly grated cheese.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Christmas Eve Eve Tradition

My sister and her family have always watched "Scrooged" on December 23rd and ordered Chinese take-out (if you've seen the movie you'd understand), and I've always joined them. But this year I'm obviously a little too far away to make it, so we decided to continue that tradition ourselves. Except I don't know any good Chinese places around here, and I didn't want to risk ordering from a gross place on such a special occasion;) so I decided to make some cashew chicken myself. It was so easy and so tasty that I can't wait to make it again!

Cashew Chicken
Serves 4
1-1/2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into 1 inch cubes
1 T cornstarch
salt and pepper
2 T vegetable oil
6 garlic cloves, minced (NOT grated this time)
8 scallions, white and green parts separated, each cut into 1 inch pieces
2 T rice vinegar
3 T hoisin sauce
3/4 C raw cashews, toasted; or roasted salted cashews (much cheaper option, usually)
white rice, for serving
  1. In a medium bowl, toss the chicken with some salt, pepper, and the cornstarch until coated.
  2. In a large non-stick skillet, heat 1 T of the oil over medium-high heat. Cook half of the chicken, tossing often, until bronwed, about 3 minutes. Transfer to plate.
  3. Add the remaining chicken to the skillet along with the garlic and the white parts of the scallions. Cook, tossing often, until the chicken is browned, about 3 minutes. Return the first batch of chicken to the pan. Add the vinegar; cook until evaporated, about 3 seconds.
  4. Add the hoisin sauce and 1/4 C water; cook tossing, until the chicken is cooked through, about 1 minute. Remove from the heat. Stir in the scallion greens and cashews. Serve with white rice.

Monday, December 22, 2008

This one's for Marie

... if you still like Thai food.

Tonight I decided to make some coconut shrimp and chicken soup. I got the recipe in my Everyday Food cookbook again, but I added chicken and fish sauce and used chicken broth instead of water. I also would add cilantro next time I make this. Of course, if you would rather, use a full pound and a half of chicken or shrimp instead of combining the 2. I just liked the combination. (Plus, chicken is cheaper than shrimp, but I definitely still wanted the shrimp in there) It was a really easy and tasty soup. Perfect for a freezing cold night like tonight.

Coconut Shrimp and Chicken Soup
serves 4 1 T vegetable oil
1 T grated peeled ginger
2 cloves garlic cloves, minced or grated
1/4 t crushed red pepper flakes
3 carrots, peeled, halved and thinly sliced lengthwise
1 can coconut milk
1 T cornstarch
4~6 oz rice noodles
3/4 lb large shrimp, peeled, deveined, and tails removed
3/4 lb chicken breast, sliced
2 C low-sodium chicken broth
1-1/2 C water
1 T fish sauce
juice of 1 lime
4 scallions, thinly sliced
cilantro, finely chopped
  1. Fill a large bowl with hot water and add the noodles. Let sit until softened (about 10~15 minutes), drain, and set aside.
  2. In a 3.5 quart or larger saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat. Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Cook the chicken on both sides until almost cooked through and lightly browned. Add carrots and cook until they start to wilt. Add ginger, garlic, and red pepper flakes. Cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add coconut milk, chicken broth, fish sauce, and water. In a small bowl combine corn starch and 2 T water; add to the pot, and bring to a boil.
  3. Reduce heat to medium, add shrimp; stir until shrimp is opaque, about 1 minutes. Add noodles, remove from heat and add lime juice; season with salt. Ladle into serving bowls, and garnish with scallions and cilantro. Serve immediately.

Sunday, December 7, 2008


I used to improvise a lot for dinners, but one day Blake kindly told me that maybe I should make it a goal to use the recipes in my collection of cookbooks before I buy anymore, and now that I have the time, I follow recipes more and I do a lot less of the on-the-spot improvising. Well, tonight I realized at 6:30 that I was hungry and it was time for dinner and I didn't have things thawed or ready for my meals I had planned for the week, so I decided to just wing it with what was in the fridge, and to my surprise, I made a new favorite! It was so easy and so tasty, and it really surprised me how different my style has become since using other people's recipes more. I like it! I think I've really expanded my repertoire. Anyway, here's my simple improvisation dinner. Basically a combination of a bunch of things that were on sale this week:)

Mushroom and Leek pasta
serves 4~6
3~4 strips bacon, cut into 1 inch pieces
1 carrot, cut in half (and in quarters at the thickest parts) and sliced into 1/4 inch pieces, on the bias
1 medium leek, cleaned and sliced thin, discarding the green parts
1 8oz package of baby bella or white button mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
4 cloves garlic, minced
olive oil
salt and pepper
1 lb pasta
finely grated parmesan or pecorino romano cheese for serving
  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, cook pasta to al dente, about 8 minutes. Reserve some pasta water, drain and set aside. (Do not rinse pasta)
  2. In a large skillet over medium-high heat, cook the carrots with 1/4 t salt for 5 or so minutes, or until they are tender-crisp. Add leeks and cook until softened.
  3. Meanwhile, cook bacon in a small skillet over medium heat until crisp. Reserve 1 T of bacon fat and discard the rest. Drain the bacon over paper towels and set aside.
  4. Add garlic to the leeks and carrots and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add mushrooms and 1 T reserved bacon fat and cook until softened.
  5. Add bacon and pasta to the pan and toss together. Use a little of the pasta water to loosen the sauce, if needed. Serve with freshly grated parmesan or pecorino romano cheese.

Tasty Treats

I stole this off of my sister's blog from last Christmas, and it was SO GOOD I had to share. I bought Blake some yogurt covered pretzels the other day, and was thinking of buying more and remembered this recipe and thought I'd make some for him. And boy am I glad that I did! Although I ate like 20 of them so I guess I'm not that glad. Anyway, here's the recipe.

Holiday Chocolate Pretzels
1 bag of Hershey's Hugs
enough little pretzels for the hugs
enough Christmas m&ms for the tops
  1. Preheat oven to 200°. Place the Pretzels on a parchment lined baking sheet and place one hug in the center of each pretzel. Bake for 10 minutes.
  2. Pull them out of the oven and place 1 or 2 m&ms on top of the melted hugs. Place in the fridge to let them cool and enjoy!

Light Lunches

This week my friend Lori had all her last big final projects for school, and she was crazy busy. I thought I would help out a bit and bring her a nice brain food lunch. She loves feta cheese and Greek food in general, and I had just bought some feta at the Amish grocery store (and Blake won't eat it with me so I needed someone to share it with:)), so I took her a little Mediterranean platter for lunch. I made a simple tomato and cucumber salad, some home made hummus, and bought some kalamata olives, and fresh pita bread. Later that day I wanted a snack so I made a leftover pita with some tuna, and it was a great protein packed snack. I was in heaven.

Mediterranean Platter
1/2 block of feta cheese
kalamata olives, drained and pitted
pita bread

tomato & cucumber salad:
3~4 Roma tomatoes
1 seedless or English cucumber
juice of 1/2 lemon
3 T fresh flat leaf parsley, chopped fine
  1. Cut the cucumber in half lengthwise, scoop out the seeds, and then cut them again into quarters lengthwise and cutting them into 1/2 inch pieces. Then take 3-4 roma tomatoes, scoop out the seeds and cut them into similar sized pieces. Toss together with some finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley, juice of 1/2 a lemon, and a little salt and pepper.
1/4 C tahini (which I made with some sesame seeds, water, salt, and sesame oil)
1 clove garlic
1 can chick peas, drained and rinsed (with 1/4 C liquid reserved)
1/4 t ground cumin
juice of 1/2 lemon
salt and pepper to taste
extra virgin olive oil for serving
  1. Combine ingredients in a food processor until smooth.

On Sundays I always have a hard time thinking up something for lunch that's quick enough but satisfying. But today was definitely and exception. We had bought a day-old baguette at the grocery store for $0.95, so I thought I would make good use of it. I took a third of the baguette, sliced it in half (to seperate top and bottom), put some mayo and coarse dijon mustard (only on mine, not Blake's), ham, arugula, and some yogurt and butter cheeses from the Amish store and had the best Sunday lunch ever. I had some left over curried carrot soup that I had left in the freezer from a few days ago to complete my comfort food.

Curried Carrot Soup
makes 6-8 servings
2 T butter
1 medlium onion, chopped
2 t curry powder
1/8 t cinnamon
1/4 t cumin
1 garlic clove, grated
1/2-inch piece of fresh ginger, grated
coarse salt and fresh ground pepper
3-1/2 C low-sodium chicken broth
2 pounds carrots, peeled and cut into 1 inch chunks (or just buy baby carrots if they're on sale and don't worry about cutting them)
1~2 T fresh lemon juice
2 T coarsely shopped fresh cilantro, for serving
  1. Heat the butter in a deep pot over medium heat. Add the onion, curry powder, cinnamon, cumin, 2 t salt, 1/4 t pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is soft, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and ginger, and cook until fragrant, aout 30 seconds.
  2. Add the brother, carrots, and 3 C water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover; and simmer until the carrots are tender, about 20 minutes.
  3. Either use an immersion blender and blend until smooth or use a standing blender and blend the soup in small batches until smooth.
  4. To serve, stir in lemon juice and sprinkle with cilantro.

Homemade Noodles

I recently watched Kung Fu Panda for the first time, and craved the amazing-ness of the Chinese noodles shops. But it also made me crave the rich smell in a traditional Japanese noodle shop. Last week, some friends from church invited me to go to an Amish store, and there I found pure buckwheat flour! And even better, it was $3 for 5lb! I was so excited, I had to buy some and see what if I could make homemade Japanese soba noodles. Now, I wasn't about to go through the whole extensive process that the real deal soba chefs in Japan do, but I thought maybe I could possibly replicate it with a simple pasta maker. And it actually turned out quite well! I was really excited. The noodles were more brittle than they usually are in the shops in Japan, and of course they weren't perfectly rolled out and cut by hand, but I thought it was a great substitution. I made my own soup, and we had a fantastic dinner last night! In Japan, we eat soba on New Year's Ever to "pass on to the New Year" so I can't wait until New Year's Eve to make it again! But this time with some mochi:)

2-1/4 C buckwheat flour
1 C all-purpose flour
1 C water
  1. Mix together in a stand mixer with the paddle attachment. Once combined, switch to a dough hook attachment, and continue to knead until smooth. Cut the dough ball into quarters, and then again into quarters (so you should have 16 equal portions) and roll out using a pasta roller up to #4 thickness. Use plenty of all-purpose flour on the sheets to avoid sticking. Cut using the spaghetti noodle attachment. Lay noddles flat and straight. Discard very short pieces.
  2. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Pat off excess flour and boil for up to 1 minute, no longer.
  3. Gently rinse under cold water to remove excess starch. Serve cold with dipping sauce or hot in soup.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

A nice change

Whenever I make lasagna, I always make lasagna bolognese. I really think it is the best kind of lasagna. But I found a yummy-looking recipe for a spinach lasagna, and decided it was time to venture outside of my comfort zone. I changed a few things about the recipe, mainly for cost purposes, but it was still SO YUMMY! And don't settle for jarred lasagna sauce in this recipe, it is SO way and worth it to make your own.

Spinach Lasagna
makes 1 9x13 lasagna or 2 8x8 lasagnas
2 (9 or 10 oz) packages of frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed to remove excess water
4 C whole milk ricotta cheese
2 large eggs
salt and fresh ground pepper
6 C tomato sauce*
12 no-boil lasagna noodles
3 C grated mozzarella cheese
1 C fresh grated Parmesan or Pecorino Romano cheese
  1. Preheat oven to 400°. In a medium bowl, whisk together rocotta cheese, eggs, 1/2 t salt, 1/4 t pepper. Add spinach, and stir well to combine.
  2. Spread a small bit of tomato sauce on the bottom of a 9x13 inch aking dish (or 2 8x8 dishes, adjust accordingly). Spread 1/3 of the ricotta cheese mixture on 4 pieces of lasagna noodles and place them on the tomato sauce. (I promise this is way easier than putting the noddles down and then trying to spread the ricotta cheese on top of them in the pan) Spread 1/3 of the tomato sauce on top, and sprinkle with 1/3 of mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses. Repeat to make two more layers, ending with the cheese.
  3. Cover with aluminum foil. Bake 30 minutes. Remove foil and continue baking for 15 more minutes, or until golden brown. Let cool slightly before serving.
*Home made tomato sauce for lasanga: (makes 6 cups)
1 T olive oil
1 onion, minced
6 garlic cloves, minced or grated
1 (28 oz) can crushed tomatoes
1 (28 oz can) diced tomatoes
1/8 t red pepper flakes
  1. Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat until shimmering. Add the onion and 1 t salt and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in the tomatoes with their juice, and red pepper flakes. Simmer until the sauce is slightly thickened, about 15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
You can definitely add 1/4 t dried oregano to this recipe with the redpepper flakes. I don't really like the taste of dried oregano, so I just omit it or add herbes de provence.