Tag Archives: cooking

Angel Hair Pasta with Olive Oil and Garlic Sauce

29 Jul

Our original plans last night were to head over my parents house, catch up on Entourage episodes and order in from Hunan East, our favorite Chinese place.  We don’t have HBO and my parents were supposed to spend one more night up north at our cabin.  Rain brought them home a day early, however, so we decided to go grocery shopping and cook at home instead.  It all worked out, because I used up the last of our produce from our last grocery store trip with this easy, tasty pasta dish.  If it were up to Zak, we would eat something like this every single night of the week.  The flavors were clean, simple, and delicious and it was incredibly easy to make.  To be fair, this was a collaborative effort – Zak decided to add the onion and chopped it up and it really made the dish shine.

Angel Hair Pasta with Olive Oil and Garlic Sauce

Serves 2-3

1 package Sidaris frozen Angel Hair pasta (or your preferred brand)

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil, divided

1 small Vidalia onion, diced

3-4 cups broccoli florets and stems (stems peeled!), chopped

4 cloves garlic, chopped

1 cup shredded asiago fresco, divided

Zest of 1 lemon

Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper, to taste

Crushed red pepper flakes, to taste

In a large saucepan, bring salted water to a boil.  When water boils and sauce is nearly complete, add pasta and cook 2-3 minutes according to package directions.

Meanwhile, place an inch of water and steamer basket in a large pot.  Bring water to a boil and add broccoli florets and stems.  Season with kosher salt to taste.  Cover and steam 5 minutes until tender with a bit of a crunch.  Drain and set aside.

While broccoli is steaming, heat 1/8 cup of olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat.  Turn heat to medium-low and add garlic and onion.  Sauté, stirring frequently, until onion is translucent, roughly 8-10 minutes.  Add 2 tbs. of shredded asiago fresco, kosher salt, and freshly cracked black pepper to taste.  Add remaining olive oil and heat through, roughly 1 minute.  Add broccoli to pan and sauté 2-3 minutes.  Drain pasta and add to sauté pan, tossing to coat well with olive oil and onion mix.

Serve pasta topped with a pinch of crushed red pepper flakes and several tablespoons of shredded asiago fresco cheese.

Ginger and Spice Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

28 Jul

This soup was smoky, spicy, salty and sweet – basically, everything I could ask for in a soup.  I had a bit of a minor disaster when I walked away from the simmering shallots, garlic and carrots for (no joke) five minutes with the heat turned a tad too high and came back to a charred mess of vegetables.  I was on my way out the door in a few minutes and really had to scramble to get the vegetables back to their perfect caramelized, tender state but in the end it was well worth it.  The hint of ginger, the smoky flavors of the roasted butternut squash, the spice of the Sriracha, and the salt of the soy really set this butternut squash soup apart from previous versions I’ve made or tasted.

Ginger and Spice Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

Serves 2

1/2 roasted squash (refer to the “Butternut Squash Puree” section and use the leftover half), removed from skin and cut into chunks

2 shallots, thinly sliced

2 cloves garlic, chopped

1 carrot, chopped

3 tbs. Brummel and Brown

1 1/2 tsp. powdered ginger, divided

1 tsp. beef fat from homemade beef stock

2 1/4 cups homemade beef stock, divided

2 tsp. soy sauce

2 tbs. plain Greek yogurt, plus more for garnish

1/2 tsp. Sriracha sauce, plus more for garnish

Large pinch of kosher salt, or to taste

In sauce pan, sauté shallots, garlic, and carrot in Brummel and Brown and beef fat until lightly caramelized, roughly 10-15 minutes.  Add 1 tsp. powdered ginger and sauté 1-2 minutes until fragrant.  Add 1 1/2 cups beef stock and simmer covered 15 minutes until carrots are fork tender.

Transfer shallots, garlic, carrot and beef stock to food processor (or use immersion blender) and puree until smooth.  Slowly add chunks of butternut squash and pulse 10-15 times.  Once ingredients are incorporated, run processor until texture is smooth.  Transfer back to saucepan.

Add 3/4 cup beef stock (or however much until the soup is your desired consistency), soy, 1/2 tsp. ginger, plain Greek yogurt, Sriracha sauce, and large pinch of kosher salt and stir to combine.  Heat, covered, 15 minutes or until hot.  Serve in bowls garnished with a few drops of Sriracha and a spoonful of plain Greek yogurt.

Tomato-Lemon Chicken with Broiled Romaine Salad

27 Jul

After coming back from a long weekend with Zak at my parents cabin near Higgins Lake, Michigan, I found a few items in the refrigerator that needed to be used, like, yesterday.  Those items included a few lemons, a large tomato, and a heart of romaine lettuce.  This tasty meal is what was borne of my deep-rooted need to not waste produce under any circumstances.  The flavors were summery and bright and we both really enjoyed this healthy meal.  The salad was spicy with a nice little bite from the balsamic and the chicken had just the right amount of acid.

Tomato-Lemon Chicken with Broiled Romaine Salad

Serves 2

Tomato-Lemon Chicken:

1 lb. boneless skinless fryer breasts

1 shallot, thinly sliced

1 large tomato, diced

1 tsp. Brummel and Brown

Zest and juice of 2 large lemons

1/2 cup white wine (I used chardonnay)

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 350º.

Place lemons in microwave and microwave for 1 minute.  This will vastly increase the amount of juice you yield from the lemons.  Zest both lemons.

Season both sides of the chicken with salt and pepper.  Use roughly half of the lemon zest and press firmly on both sides of the chicken.  Place chicken in casserole dish.

Heat Brummel and Brown in a small saucepan and sauté sliced shallot until lightly browned and crispy.  Top chicken with shallots.  Add tomato, lemon zest and wine to casserole.  Bake, uncovered, in oven 35 minutes or until internal temperature of chicken reaches 165°.  Serve chicken breasts topped with tomatoes and a few spoonfuls of wine sauce.

Broiled Romaine Salad:

1 heart of romaine, halved lengthwise

1 tbs. pepper jack cheese, shredded

1 tbs. balsamic vinegar

Cooking spray

Kosher salt and freshly cracked pepper, to taste

Red pepper flakes, to taste

Preheat broiler (while chicken is resting).

Place romaine halves cut side upon baking sheet covered with tinfoil and sprayed lightly with cooking spray.  Season cut halves with salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes to taste.  Drizzles with balsamic vinegar and top with pepper jack cheese.

Broil hearts of romaine four to six minutes or until edges of lettuce leaves are lightly charred.

Homemade Beef Stock

26 Jul

You might notice that all of my recipes call for homemade stock.  Why?  Well, my reasons are five-fold:

1)  It tastes better.  No joke.  Try a sip of that boxed or canned crap versus a sip of what you make with the recipe below.  No contest.

2)  It’s healthier.  Look at the sodium content in an average boxed or canned stock.  One cup of Swanson beef stock has 500 milligrams of sodium, which is about average for boxed stock.  I add zero sodium to my stock, so besides what was in any leftover scraps from when I cooked it (generally very minimal), there’s no sodium.

3)  You control what goes in it, and by proxy you control the taste.  All stocks start with the basic mirepoix of celery, onion and carrots, but you can add a variety of vegetables and herbs to that will really punch up the flavor and cater to your personal tastes or what you have on hand.  I recommend against using cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, or asparagus, because they tend to overwhelm all over the other flavors.  I also never use tomatoes, which can also overwhelm, unless I plan to use the stock for a soup or sauce with tomato-y flavors.

4)  It’s cheap in comparison to anything you can purchase.  I use solely leftovers and scraps to make my stock, so it’s basically free.  Even if you go out and purchase some ingredients specifically in order to make stock, I guarantee you that you’ll save money.  As you may have begun to notice, I use stock in a lot of my recipes.  I almost never use water, simply because stock adds a layer of complexity and depth of flavor whereas water just adds, well, moisture.  Since I’ve begun making homemade stock, we save about 10-15 bucks per grocery bill.  That’s a lot of money for us!  I’m a student on a strict budget and Zak is really good about putting money away for a rainy day, a house, and whatever else might come up in our future.

5)  I love making it.  There is pretty much no easier cooking process out there.  If you can boil water, you can make chicken stock.  If you can turn on an oven and boil water, you can make beef stock.  It’s almost completely hands free, too.  Once the stock pot is on the stove, you can walk away and basically forget about it for almost the entire time.  I usually walk by every thirty or forty minutes to skim off fat and scum, but there have been times I’ve left the stock simmering untouched for the entire day and the results were perfectly fine.  While you’re cooking stock, the entire house fills with the delicious aroma of simmering meat and vegetables for the entire day.  Mmmm …!  Some people don’t like the smell, but I think it’s fantastic.  Plus, making stock leaves me feeling productive and thrifty.

This isn’t a traditional recipe.  It’s more of a “how-to.”  Use your judgment and I’m sure it’ll be okay.  I added a few extra pictures of the steps with superscripts next to them after the jump just in case a visual might help.

Homemade Beef Stock

Leftover beef bones with scraps (I used about 20 short rib bones)

Leftover vegetable scraps (any time I use a vegetable in a recipe, with the exception of the vegetables I detailed above, I save all the ends and non-pretty bits in a large zip lock bag and throw it in the freezer)

Extra carrot, onion, or celery stalk or two, roughly chopped, if your scraps are lacking

Cooking spray

Fresh herbs (I used about 10 sage leaves and 5 large sprigs of rosemary that were looking a little wilted.  At the very least, put in a few bay leaves and 10-15 peppercorns)

A few splashes of red wine vinegar


Preheat oven to 400°.  Spray baking sheet covered with tinfoil (easier clean up) with cooking spray.  Spread beef bones and vegetable scraps evenly on baking sheet and spray lightly with cooking spray¹.  Place sheets in oven and roast for 45 minutes, turning halfway through.  You want the beef bones browned, not charred², so if the bones or vegetables begin to burn, turn the heat down to 325º or so and roast a bit longer than 45 minutes.

Remove beef bones and vegetable scraps from oven and place in a large stock pot.  Put a quarter cup of very hot water on the baking sheet to loosen any browned bits and scrape off with a spatula.  Add the browned bits and any herbs to the stock pot.  Cover the bones and vegetables with water and place the stock pot on the stove.  Place a splash of red wine vinegar into the stock pot (it will draw more of the minerals out from the bones).  Bring water to barely a simmer so only a few bubbles escape every minute.  Periodically skim off any scum and fat that rises to the top and discard (don’t put down the drain, because the fat will solidify and be bad news bears.  Save it for future cooking or throw it in the trash).  Don’t stir the stock.  Simmer the stock for 6-8 hours³.

At the end of the cooking time, remove the beef bones and any large chucks of vegetables with tongs.  Discard these.  Place a fine mesh sieve over another large stock pot and pour stock through the sieve.  Repeat a few times until the broth is as clear as possible.  Let the stock cool to room temperature.  At this point, I usually divide the stock into a variety of sized Gladware containers, ranging from one cup to five cups or so.  This way, I have any amount of stock I need already pre-measured and ready to throw into whatever I need it for.

Now, if you are going to use most of the stock in the next day or two, it will be fine in the refrigerator.  A layer of fat will rise to the top.  Leave it – it will keep airborne bacteria from entering your stock.  When you’re ready to use the stock, simply use a spoon to “pop off” the layer of fat and use what is underneath.  At this point, you can also remove the fat and boil down the remaining stock to save storage space.  Once concentrated, you can stretch it out by adding water, wine, juice or whatever will work with your recipe.

If you want to save your stock for longer, as I usually do, place it in the freezer.  You can remove the layer of fat before placing it in the freezer, as it will be too cold for any bacteria to get to the stock.  Leave a little bit of “wiggle” room in the container, as the stock will expand as it freezes.

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Butternut Squash Polenta with Spicy Spinach and Shredded Pork

20 Jul

Talk about flavorful!  In an effort to use up the leftover pork from yesterday’s roasted pork loin with roasted garlic and arugula vinaigrette and a butternut squash that was nearing it’s end, I came up with this recipe.  I remembered reading about a butternut squash polenta somewhere, and after a few minutes of Googling, found what I was looking for: this delicious sounding dish from Food & Style.  After making some pretty significant changes to suit our tastes and what I had on hand, I ended up with a meal that was an absolute explosion of flavors.  The polenta was decadently creamy and bursting with the yummy flavor of butternut squash.  The spinach had just enough heat and garlic to really shine against the fattiness of the pork without overwhelming the gentle acidity of the red wine vinegar and distinctive taste of the Caraway seed.  This dish was also amazingly easy to prepare, especially since so much of it could be done ahead of time.  I roasted the squash, shredded the pork, and then left the house for most of the afternoon.  Once Zak was home from work and ready to eat, all I had to do was reheat the pork, whip up the polenta, and sauté the spinach, which only took about 20 minutes.

We both absolutely loved this and I’ll be making it again in the future.  Almost any leftover meat would taste great on top, or it would be delicious as a vegetarian option.

Butternut Squash Polenta with Spicy Spinach and Shredded Pork

Adapted from Food & Style

Serves 2

Shredded Pork:

1.5 lbs leftover roasted pork, cut into large chunks or slices

2 tbs. Brummel & Brown, other butter substitute, or butter

3 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 red onion, chopped

1/2 tsp. Caraway seed

1/2 tsp. marjoram

2 tbs. red wine vinegar

3 cups homemade chicken stock

Kosher salt, to taste

Freshly cracked black pepper, to taste

In a heavy, medium sized saucepan heat Brummel & Brown over medium-high heat.  Add garlic and sauté, stirring frequently, until golden brown.  Add onions, Caraway seed, marjoram, and salt and pepper and sauté, stirring occasionally, until onions are lightly caramelized (about 10-15 minutes).  Reduce heat to medium-low and add pork, chicken stock, and red wine vinegar.  Simmer, covered, roughly one hour.

From time to time, reduce heat to low and use two forks to shred the pork.  Return heat to medium-low and re-cover.  If necessary, uncover and simmer until sauce reduces so that pork is barely wet about 15 minutes before serving time.

Butternut Squash Puree:

1 large butternut squash, halved

Cooking spray

Kosher salt, to taste

Freshly cracked black pepper, to taste

2 tbs. plain Greek yogurt

Preheat oven to 400°.

Spray flesh side of butternut squash with cooking spray and season liberally with kosher salt and black pepper.  Cover a baking sheet with tinfoil (for easy clean up) and position a roasting rack over baking sheet.  Spray roasting rack with cooking spray.  Place squash halves flesh side down on roasting rack and roast 50 minutes or until very tender.

Let squash cool.  Scoop out flesh of one half of squash and place in food processor, saving the other half of the squash for another purpose.  Process until mostly smooth.  Add Greek yogurt and process until completely smooth.  Set aside.

This portion of the recipe can be prepared up to a day in advance and chilled in the refrigerator in an airtight container.


3 cups homemade chicken stock

1 cup polenta (also known as corn grits)

1/2 cup asiago fresco cheese, shredded

Butternut Squash Puree (see above)

In a large saucepan, heat chicken stock over medium-high heat until at a rolling boil.  Slowly whisk in polenta.  Reduce heat to medium low and simmer 10 minutes, stirring frequently, until most of liquid has been absorbed by the polenta.  Add the asiago and Butternut Squash Puree (see above) and heat until cheese is melted and puree is heated through.

Spicy Spinach:

4 cloves garlic, chopped

1 tsp. olive oil

10 oz. frozen chopped spinach, defrosted and drained

1 heaping tsp. paprika

1 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes

In a medium saucepan, heat olive oil over medium heat.  Add garlic and sauté until tender, 1-2 minutes.  Add paprika and crushed red pepper, followed immediately by chopped spinach.  Sauté, stirring constantly, until spinach is heated through.

To serve, place polenta in bowl topped with the spinach followed by the pork and a few tablespoons of juices from the pork.

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