Monday, July 29, 2013

One Pot Pasta

I mentioned this recipe in my last Bookmarked post. I have made this twice now, once last week and again this week with some variations. I'm sorry to say, Martha Stewart, but your recipe was not perfect. I tweaked it and made it better, if I do say so myself.

As I noted in Bookmarked, this recipe caught my attention because everything is cooked together in one pan. And I mean everything. You measure the water the pasta will cook in and throw everything else into it- dry pasta, onions, tomatoes, etc. Once the pasta is cooked all the water should be absorbed and you're left with a sauce coating the pasta. This makes total sense when you think about it. We are always told to keep some of the pasta cooking water for the sauce because it's all nice and starchy from cooking the pasta. Well in this case, you're keeping all of the starch in the pan. However...

I had way too much water left the first time I made this which made for a thin, watery sauce. Now, this may not be The Queen of the Kitchen's fault. I used a different type of pasta and converted the measurement to metric...and then guessed at 340g of penne. I added some butter to try and thicken the sauce some but it was still too thin. The addition of the butter, however, makes a big difference in the resulting dish. Usually you would cook onions, garlic, etc in butter or oil for a sauce. Since everything is boiled in water together, there is no added fat. Which turns out fine but the butter adds some needed richness and rounds out the flavor. A little butter never killed anyone (unless you're this guy).

I was telling my friend at work about this recipe the first time I made it and some changes I would make next time. She asked if I used canned tomatoes or fresh. I had used quartered cherry tomatoes the first time around. I thought that canned tomatoes may throw off the recipe as they are more watery, even if they were drained. BUT. Inspiration struck. I don't remember if it was me or my co-worker who came up with the idea to use the drained tomato juice as some of the cooking liquid, but this worked perfectly.

Yes. We have succeeded in making a genius recipe even more genius (cue evil-genius laugh).

Adapted from Martha Stewart via Lottie + Doof
Serves 4
  • 450 g box penne rigate
  • 796 mL can no salt added whole tomatoes (according to Shelf Life taste tests the best brand is Italpasta for fresh tomato flavour)
  • 1 small onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • pinch red pepper flakes
  • small handful fresh basil, coarsely torn
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • freshly ground black pepper and lots of fresh Parmesan cheese, for serving
Strain the can of tomatoes into a colander set over a large measuring cup to catch the liquid. Press on tomatoes while they are in the colander to break them up and get more liquid out of them. Add water to tomato juice to equal 4 cups of liquid.

Chop tomatoes or squish between your fingers with clean hands (I like to use my hands- when else do we get sensory play like this as adults?) Stir together all ingredients except butter, pepper and cheese in a large pot. Bring to a boil, uncovered. Reduce heat to medium-high to keep at a low boil, stirring often until pasta is cooked to al dente. Stir in butter. Serve with cheese and pepper.

Sunday, July 21, 2013


Photo Credit
We had a whole lot of barbecued food this weekend. As it should be in the summer. Last night Tyler smoked a chicken (the smoker is the Father's Day gift that keeps on giving), and today we had a mess of ribs at Kitchener Ribfest. I just wish I didn't hate beer- part of Ribfest is a craft-beer-fest too and it looked so fun getting little glasses of different beers. I tried. I thought maybe a fruit beer would be good. I got a watermelon beer. It tasted like beer. Then I got a raspberry beer. It too tasted like beer. I was a trooper and gave it a good go, taking 3 sips of the raspberry beer before giving it away. Ah well, it was the ribs we were there for and I destroyed those mofos.

Here are some recipes that caught my eye this week.

Flourless Blender Muffins via Yummy Mummy There's a slim chance of me whipping these up before work- Tyler gets Parker to daycare so that I'm not late for work cause usually I'm late for everything- but still...

Breakfast Buttercups via Cook's Country America's Test Kitchen has done it again and perfected a seemingly simple recipe. These look great for a weekend breakfast.

Lemon Meringue Ice Cream via Sifting Focus I eat the filling out of the lemon meringue pie and leave the crust, so this is perfect. Must make before summer ends, but this will have to wait a few weeks as I currently have 3 other homemade ice creams in the freezer

Salt and Vinegar Roasted Chickpeas via Oh She Glows I love salt and vinegar. I love roasted chickpeas. I love making healthy snacks. Perfect.

Drink Mix Tape via Cooking with Julie Oh my I love this. Music paired with related cocktails. I was hoping to see Beastie Boys Brass Monkey, and there it was in the link through! Excellent.

One Pan Pasta via Lottie and Doof This is crazy genius! The pasta, pasta cooking water, sauce ingredients are all thrown in a pan together. What!? It makes sense- they always say to save the pasta cooking water cause it's starchy and holds the sauce together, right? I have to try this asap.

Sex Cereal Have you heard of this? At first glance it sounds like a joke, but you know what? The ingredients look delicious.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Grilled Chicken and Bulgar Salad with Goat Cheese

Bulgar is officially my new favorite thing. I mentioned in the last meal planning post that I was going to make this salad with bulgar instead of farro. Well. That was a genius move if I say so myself.

First of all, bulgar is easier to find- I bought it at my small town grocery store- and probably cheaper too. It is nutty, toothsome (I love that word), and maybe the best part.... wait for it... you don't have to cook it. It's parboiled- which it what makes it bulgar not cracked wheat- so it just has to re-hydrate. Just mix a 2:1 ratio of water to bulgar and let it rest for an hour. I did mine a couple of days ago in a Tupperware container stuck it in the fridge so it was ready to go in advance.

As I've said before, I have a hard time following a recipe exactly. Or at all, as it turns out in this case. The recipe from Bon Appetit was more of an inspiration in this case. 

Also, I managed to barbecue without setting anything on fire tonight. Yay me.

I'll admit, this salad looks all weird and healthy when it's all mixed up (rather than layered nicely in the photo above). My brother came over for a swim tonight after we'd had dinner and was all, "What's that?"
Me: "Bulgar"
Him: "Vulgar? Yeah it looks vulgar" 
I made him taste some and he asked if he could take home the leftovers. Ha, take that.

Serves 4
Keep in mind the bulgar needs to an hour to start, so plan accordingly.
  • 1 cup bulgar
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • Italian seasoning
  • salt and pepper
  • large handful asparagus, tough ends removed
  • large handful green beans, trimmed and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 tomato
  • 2 green onions, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup goat cheese, crumbled
  • 3 tbsp white wine vinegar
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • large handful fresh herbs, chopped- I used basil, parsley, oregano as this what's in my garden
  • salt and pepper
Combine bulgar and water in a bowl and let stand for 1 hour. Alternatively, make bulgar a couple of days in advance and keep refrigerated.

Boil a pot of water. Add a good pinch of salt and the green beans. Cook 4 minutes or until just tender. Remove green beans to an ice water bath to cool them quickly. Drain, dry, and set aside.

Heat grill to high. Season chicken with Italian seasoning, salt and pepper. Grill until cooked through. While chicken is cooking, carefully place asparagus spears on the grill so that they don't fall through the grates. Grill asapargus about 5 minutes or until slightly charred. Remove and let cool slightly before chopping into 1/2-inch pieces.

 Whisk together dressing ingredients in bottom of serving bowl. Add bulgar, chicken, vegetables, and goat cheese. Serve chilled or at room temperature.

Monday, July 15, 2013

What's Cookin' Hot Stuff

Falafel Wraps
 No seriously, it's freakin hot out (I love it), so we will actually not be eating much hot stuff. I'm going to try to avoid turning on the oven this week. Here's what I'm cooking up.

Falafel Wraps via Jamie Oliver I finally got around to making these. Yum! But of course, give me a recipe and I have a hard time following it exactly. I'm not big into rules. I scaled back the allspice by half, which was a good call cause it would have been really overpowering. Instead of the sides and sauces I made a slaw similar to the one I made for my birthday bbq. And I've recently crossed the line from cilantro-hater to cilantro-lover, so I sprinkled a liberal amount over my falafel.

Chicken, Green Bean, Corn, and Farro Salad via Bon Appetit I'm using bulgar instead of farro

Grilled Salmon via All Recipes with Black Bean Confetti Salad via Smitten Kitchen We hardly ever eat fish at home because I don't want to deal with the whining and complaining about it. From my husband. Parker and I love fish. Tyler will have to suck it up.

Chicken Korma via Jamie Oliver OMG can you believe I still haven't made this recipe? I just keep moving it along week to week. It's happening this week. I marinated the chicken today.

Malaysian Beef Curry via Bon Appetit Using the slow cooker is perfect in the summer. Doesn't heat up the house like the oven. However, there is nary a vegetable to be found in the recipe, which I didn't realize until just now, so I'll have to figure something out later. It may end up being corn and peas mixed into rice.

Monday, July 8, 2013

30th Birthday Barbecue

I've been 30 for five days now. I survived! I did so by drinking heavily (just kidding... kind of). But seriously, we had a great pool party and barbecue on Saturday. It was the perfect day. Friends, old and new, and family came, kiddos swam like fishes in the pool and Parker got to show off all his toys and play with some new friends. It was a great day, the weather co-operated, and we had great food to boot.

If you are thinking of hosting a party for 20 to 30 people, here's the game plan I followed:

1. Go out for dinner on the night of your birthday and eat a bunch of tacos and have a couple of drinks. Go grocery shopping at a store that you've never been to where you can't find anything and spend too much money cause you've had a couple of drinks. Get home and make some raspberry ice cream for the party two days from now.

2.  The next day go to your parents place for dinner after work and accidentally drink a bottle of wine. Get home at 11:30pm, rub your meat (the pork shoulder people, the pork shoulder) and make bbq sauce. Decide you're not tired yet and start on cupcakes. Go to bed close to 2am once three batches of cupcakes are finally baked.

3. Get up the day of the party, pop some Tylenol, and start on salads and appetizers. Which you will making for the next 6 hours. Realize a close to the party start time that you haven't showered, gotten ice, that you forgot to get about five things from the grocery store, and haven't been to the LCBO to get your beverage of choice for the party.

4. Panic. Drive faster than you should. Somehow get lost in a small town with basically two main streets. Swear. Miraculously get home within an hour, finish cooking by the time guests arrive, and proceed have a great time since you did everything ahead of time. Yay you!

On second thought, don't follow that schedule. You may want to plan things better. But ever'ting work out in the end mon. No worries.

Tyler made pulled pork. We are still working on the perfect barbecued pulled pork but it wasn't the perfect pulled pork. It was very good, but it didn't pull easily. I've only gotten pork to shred really easily cooked in the slow cooker, but that kind of negates the purpose of having a barbecue, right?

I made two salads to go with the pork sandwiches. They were my favorite part of the whole meal. I was going to make wild rice salad but I couldn't get wild rice at store I was at. They had about twelve other rices I'd never made before, but of course not the rice I needed. I improvised and made an orzo pasta salad instead that turned out so great. I could eat, and have been eating, it as a meal. Along with the other salad, a beautiful grilled corn coleslaw, these were the perfect sides for a summer barbecue.

What about the cake, you say? I had big plans for my 30th birthday cake. I had visions of layer cakes decorated beautifully that everyone would swoon over. Then a week before the big day I came to my senses and remembered that a) I suck at decorating cakes. b) last time I made a layer cake was for Tyler's 30th and I had a cake induced melt down that resulted in a 30th birthday marital spat. c) I'm just not that kind of girl. I'd rather have a rustic rhubarb crumble pie (I seriously considered this as my birthday dessert actually). So I met myself half way. The cupcakes I made turned out beautifully but were not too fussy. And there's cream cheese icing involved. Sold.

Here's the full menu:

*Fruit with Orange Creamsicle Dip
*Caprese Skewers (boccocini cheese, a small basil leaf, half a grape tomato on a toothpick. Drizzle with balsamic vinegar)

*Pulled Pork
*Greek Orzo Salad (recipe below)
*Grilled Corn Slaw (recipe below)

*Hummingbird Cupcakes
*Raspberry Ice Cream

 Serves 10 as a side dish

I was trying to get everything done and not thinking about blogging the recipe, so I wasn't diligent in measuring, so measurements here are approximate. This is a simple recipe anyway- taste it, if it needs more of something just stir it in. It will work out. 
  • 450g orzo pasta
  • 1 English cucumber, chopped
  • 3 tomatoes, seeded and chopped
  • 3 green onions, finely chopped
  • 1 cup crumbled feta cheese
  • 1/4 cup chopped flat leaf parsley
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • zest and juice of two lemons
  • two garlic cloves, very finely chopped, or grated on a Microplane
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp dried dill
Cook orzo in salted water according to package directions- do not over cook- cook to al dente. Drain and rinse with cold water. Whisk ingredients for vinaigrette in the bottom of your serving bowl. Add drained pasta and remaining ingredients and toss to combine. Refrigerate for at least two hours before serving.

Adapted from My Invisible Crown
Serves 10 as a side dish
  • 5 ears corn, shucked and cleaned of silks
  • 1 small red cabbage, shredded - a food processor makes quick work of this
  • 2 red peppers, thinly sliced
  • 340g bag carrot slaw (like this one from PC brand)
  • 1/2 cup roasted, salted sunflower seeds
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro or flat-leaf parsley
  • zest and juice of 3 limes
  • 1/4 cup vegetable or olive oil
  • 1/4 cup rice vinegar
  • 3 tbsp honey
  • salt and pepper
Grill corn on high direct heat, turning often, until charred- about 12 minutes total. Set aside to cool. Once cooled, cut kernels off cobs and add to a large bowl. Add remaining salad ingredients except sunflower seeds. Mix salad dressing ingredients in a blender or with an immersion blender. Toss salad with seeds and dressing just before serving.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Week of June 30

Call me crazy, but I love planning out our meals for the week. I've always done it since Tyler and I first bought a house and moved in together (8 years ago!). Sure, meals have evolved from "Kraft Dinner with Tuna and Peas" but the process has not changed much.

I sit at the kitchen table, usually Saturday mornings, with my coffee and laptop (or a few of the multitude of cookbooks I own) and go through recipes, choosing what to make based on the season, what we have in the freezer, or just what looks yummy. These days Parker sits beside me and colours (or watches Thomas, I'll admit). I usually ask for his input, but at almost-three his contribution this week was "ummmm... I don't know... I don't like dinner", but we'll get there eventually.

Chicken Korma This is what I wanted to make most last week and I didn't end up making it. I have a problem remembering to take meat out of the freezer. We ended up having pizza last week instead- not because of the frozen meat situation, but because pizza on the Friday of a long weekend feels like the right thing to do. 

Courgette Carbonara via Jamie Oliver This is one of my favorite recipes from one of my favorite cookbooks- Jamie Oliver at Home. This book inspired me to start a vegetable garden. It turns out I can't keep flowers alive but I can grow tomatoes like nobody's business. Also, isn't courgette a cute word? Much better than zucchini.

Falafel Wraps with Grilled Veg via Jamie Oliver Doesn't that photo just inspire you to eat something delicious and healthy?

Grilled Zucchini Caprese Sandwiches via Cooking Light (pictured above) There's a lot of zucchini happening this week at my house. I didn't even grow it this year. I do have basil in the garden though. I modified the recipe and made a pesto which I spread on one side of the bread.