Thursday, December 12, 2013

new ingredient alert: spaghetti squash

Just in time for fall, spaghetti squash swept the nation. Or at least my office. Okay, really just 4 of us on my team all cooked it in a week and obsessively talked about it for days.

Have you tried it?!? I made it once with one of my roommates in college and it was delicious but I seemed to have forgotten about it--until now.

In an attempt to decrease my pasta intake (ha!) I decided to make this one night. I am happy to report its fun, pretty easy and the result is tasty and well worth it. I paired it with my homemade pesto, asparagus and zucchini.

spaghetti squash
1 spaghetti squash, cut in half with seeds scooped out
olive oil for drizzling
salt and pepper for seasoning
  • preheat oven to 350, cover a baking sheet in tin foil and drizzle olive oil on squash halves, season with s&p
  • place cut-side down on baking sheet and bake for 30-40 minutes, flipping over halfway through
  • test to see if the squash is ready by scraping a fork through the insides--if it shreds easily, you can remove and let cool
  • once cool enough to handle (you have to hold onto the outside of the squash) begin to shred the squash with a fork and scoop into a bowl

1 package of asparagus, diced into bite sized pieces
2 medium sized zucchini, diced into half moons
salt and pepper for seasoning
olive oil to coat the pan
  • preheat pan on medium heat with oil
  • add veggies, season and cook until tender
  • add squash and pesto to veggie mixture, toss together and serve with grated cheese 
pesto recipe here

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

pesto pasta purses

Lazy/easy meal alert here: Trader Joe's pre-made pastas are heaven and continue to make my life so easy when I am just too tired to spend hours in the kitchen. I put my own spin on these by making homemade pesto and roasting fresh veggies on the side.

2 cups fresh basil leaves
3 tbsp grated parmiggiano reggiano
1/2 cup pine nuts, pan roasted until slightly golden brown
2 garlic gloves, pan roasted in olive oil on low heat
salt and pepper for seasoning
olive oil to drizzle in (about 1/2 cup)

tip: slowly roasting the garlic prior to mixing helps to avoid the raw, overpowering garlic taste you get in some pestos
  • place all ingredients except olive oil in food processor, blend together and slowly drizzle in olive oil until it starts to get slightly thinner and you can see all of the garlic, pine nuts and basil broken down and chopped
  • taste for seasoning and add more salt, pepper or cheese accordingly
  • serve or place in container, drizzle more olive oil on top, then cover in plastic wrap, pressed down on the pesto to prevent browning.
 tip: refrigerate for about a week or freeze for up to 3 months

 pasta & veggies
  • roast veggies with salt pepper, olive oil
  • boil pasta then combine with pesto, sprinkle with more parmiggiano reggiano and serve with veggies on the side

Thursday, December 5, 2013

kitchen essentials

I would kill for this much space & layout

I was recently asked for advice on stocking a kitchen-pantry basics, good things to keep on hand and the like.

I am a very "use what you have" type of cook and like to have things that stay fresh for a long time and stock up on non-perishables for a quick addition to a weeknight meal.

Below are some basics broken out into: must haves, perishables, things that freeze well, and some extras worth having around.

kitchen must haves

  • salt: sea or kosher salt + table (iodized) salt
  • pepper
  • red pepper flakes
  • cayanne pepper
  • dried parsley,  basil
  • cumin: essential for any mexican feast
  • cinnamon
  • nutmeg: the key to all of my bechamel sauces

other pantry basics:
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • vegetable oil
  • vinegar: I prefer red wine for dressings & white vinegar is good to rinse fruits and veggies in
  • honey
  • flour: I keep AP + whole wheat
  • sugar
  • chocolate chips: for whipping up chocolate chip cookies on the fly
  • baking soda: in a airtight container or bag it stays fresh for a while
  • baking powder
  • brown sugar: put a slice of white bread in there for a few hours when it needs to soften; store it in an airtight container to prevent hardening for the future
  • pasta: I like to keep several types on hand, both whole wheat and regular, penne, spaghetti and elbow macaroni are good to have on hand.
  • rice: long grain white rice
  • canned tomatoes: I prefer whole or crushed
  • chicken or vegetable broth
  • canned beans: I like to keep at least one of cannelini, red beans, black beans and garbanzo
  • wine: I keep one bottle of white in the fridge for sauces, and at least two unopened bottles of red for drinking and 1-2 opened bottles of red that are no longer drinkable, but perfect for a red wine sauce or to add to tomato sauce
  • at least one box of cake mix and jar of frosting: you never know when you will want an impromptu cupcake :)
  • crackers of some sort: trader joes have delicious raisin rosemary crisps, and they really hold up nicely with any cheese
  • nuts or trailmix
  • granola bars
  • one box of cereal
  • nestle quick mix: essential for hot cocoa
  • mini marshmallows: see above

perishables (I chose ones that keep for a pretty long time)
  • lemons: they are great to add to sauces, water, or to freshen your garbage disposal
  • carrots: also great for sauces, soups, stews and roasting, add color to a dish
  • shredded cheese mixture: trader joes three cheese blend is great to add to eggs, melt on top of burgers, use in tacos, or whip up a quick mac n cheese with
  • goat cheese: one of my most used ingredients and a staple in my kitchen. you may have noticed it in a few of my recipes
  • fresh herbs: some keep longer than others-rosemary lasts a while and is great to roast with veggies or chicken; parsley is my go-to herb and if you chop it you can freeze it and use for about a month
  • eggs: useful for making homemade pasta, breakfasts, as a binder for burgers or meatballs
  • garlic
  • onion: until sliced open you can keep it for a few weeks
  • BBQ sauce: essential for Mikes (and my) sanity
  • ketchup
  • dijon mustard
  • hot sauce: I like to keep franks and tabasco on hand
  • butter: obvious
  • cream cheese: also obvious

things that freeze well
  • chop meat: for burgers, meatloaf, tacos midweek, just pop it from the freezer to the fridge in the am before work
  • chicken
  • herbs: pre-chop and double bag
  • pre-frozen veggies: good for soups
  • tortillas: freeze then double bag to avoid freezer burn, pop in the micro for a few seconds
  • bagels, any breads: also double bagged, pop in the micro for a few seconds and then toast/pop in the oven

extras worth having around
  • milk, cream: for obvious reasons like cereal and coffee, but also for hot cocoa, mac n cheeses and cream sauces
  • another fresh vegetable: zucchini is my favorite, or arugula
  • isreali couscous: a great sub for pasta or rice
  • cookies: double stuff or seasonal oreos are my go-to
  • dark chocolate covered almonds
  • marcona almonds: great for a cheese plate spread and a delicious snack
  • pizza dough: pre-made will last about a week in the fridge and you can use just about any pantry basic to make a pizza or mini calzones

Do you have any pantry essentials that are missing? What do you like to keep stocked?

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

baked pasta with arugula, tomatoes and carrots

This was a "use what you have meal." Carrots are a great vegetable to have on hand because they stay fresh for a long time and fresh or canned tomatoes can be used. You can easily sub in any veggies you have on hand, a can of beans, any protein and switch up the cheeses--ricotta would work great here.

At the end of a long week sometimes I just want something warm and easy to whip up--10 minutes of prep time and another 15 to cook.

baked pasta with arugula, tomatoes and carrots
2 cups of arugula, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 can diced tomatoes (or two fresh tomatoes, diced)
3 carrots, peeled and sliced
1 cup of pasta
6 oz of goat cheese
salt and pepper for seasoning
2 tbsp butter

  • preheat oven to 350
  • put up water to cook the pasta, once it comes to a boil add a generous amount of salt and pasta
  • preheat pan with butter, add carrots once butter starts to melt (I used my cast iron skillet so I could place it straight in the oven) and salt
  • cook carrots for about 5 minutes on their own, tossing occassionally
  • add tomatoes (drained), arugula, garlic and more salt and pepper
  • let all the veggies cook together for about 3 minutes, tossing together
  • under cook the paste to just below al dente--about 4 mins under cook time, add to pan
  • place goat cheese in pan, toss all ingredients together until incorporated and let bake in the oven for about 7 minutes

serves two