Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Pasta Salad

This is tasty. But it's a bit on the oily side. And that was even after I substituted the oil-packed tuna for water-packed tuna. I'm wondering if decreasing the amount of olive oil in the recipe would help or if it would make the whole dish too dry. I have other pasta salad recipes that are better, so I'm not sure I'll necessarily make this again. I'm glad I made it though. It was worth a shot.

Pasta Salad
A variation on this recipe by Giada De Laurentiis

1 pound campanelle pasta
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus 1/4 cup
1 small or 1/2 medium red onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 (6-ounce) can tuna, drained
1 pint (2 cups) cherry tomatoes, halved
8 ounces canned or frozen artichoke hearts, thawed and quartered
2 tablespoons capers, rinsed and drained
2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme leaves
1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, about 8 to 10 minutes. Drain and reserve about 1 cup of the pasta water.

In a 14-inch skillet, heat 1/4 cup oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring frequently, until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds until aromatic. Add the tuna to the skillet and, using a fork, break into chunks. Add the cherry tomatoes, artichoke hearts, capers, and thyme. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes begin to soften, about 8 to 10 minutes. Add the pasta, the remaining 1/4 cup olive oil, and the parsley. Toss until all the ingredients are coated, adding a little pasta water, if needed, to thin out the sauce. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Transfer the pasta to a serving bowl and serve warm or at room temperature.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Tofu with Red Curry Paste, Peas, and Yellow Tomatoes

This smelled so good while it was cooking and tasted even better. It was especially tasty over jasmine rice.

Tofu with Red Curry Paste, Peas, and Yellow Tomatoes
Courtesy of Cooking Light


1 (14-ounce) package firm tofu, drained and cut into 1-inch cubes
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
2 teaspoons olive oil
2 cups thinly sliced onion
1 cup light coconut milk
1 to 2 tablespoons red curry paste
1 cup shelled green peas (about 1 pound unshelled) or frozen green peas, thawed
1/2 cup chopped yellow tomato
4 cups hot cooked long-grain rice

Place a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add tofu; cook until liquid from tofu is evaporated (about 3 minutes). Remove tofu from pan; sprinkle with lime juice, turmeric, salt, and pepper.

Heat oil in pan over medium-high heat. Add onion; sauté 5 minutes. Add tofu, and cook 7 minutes or until golden. Combine milk and curry paste; add to pan. Reduce heat, and simmer 3 minutes. Add peas and tomato; cook 2 minutes. Serve over rice.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Broccoli Cheddar Soup with Croutons

I haven't had a whole lot of broccoli cheddar soup in my life, but the few times I've had it, it always felt like it should be called cheddar broccoli soup since it was always more cheese than broccoli. Not that there's anything wrong with that...

This recipe looked interesting since it seemed like it would be more broccoli than cheese. And it definitely is. It's super hearty and the cheese is more of a subtle background flavor. The mustardy croutons make it especially tasty.

And I had even more especially tasty croutons since they were made from homemade bread that was given to us by our weekend visitors, Michael Bracco and Shawna Pincus. Shawna is a woman after my own heart, with her love of homemade goodies and nerdtastic men.

Broccoli Cheddar Soup
Courtesy of 101cookbooks.com


5-6 ounce chunk of artisan whole wheat bread, torn into little pieces (less than 1-inch), roughly 3 cups total
1/4 cup butter or olive oil (I like 1/2 and 1/2)
1 1/2 tablespoons whole grain mustard
1/4 teaspoon fine grain sea salt

2 tablespoons unsalted butter or olive oil
1 shallot, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
1 large potato, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch cubes (1 1/2 cups)
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
3 1/2 cups light, good-tasting vegetable broth
1 large head of broccoli (12 ounces or 3/4 lb.), cut into small florets
2/3 cup freshly grated aged Cheddar, plus more for topping
1 - 3 teaspoons whole grain mustard, to taste
Smoked paprika, more olive oil, creme fraiche, sour cream (optional)

Preheat your oven to 350°F and place the torn bread in a large bowl. In a small saucepan heat the butter until it has melted. Whisk the mustard and salt into the butter and pour the mixture over the bread. Toss well, then turn the bread onto a baking sheet and bake for 10 to 15 minutes, or until the croutons are golden and crunchy. Toss them once or twice with a metal spatula along the way.

While the croutons are toasting, melt the butter (or olive oil) in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Stir in the shallots, onion, and a big pinch of salt. Saute for a couple minutes. Stir in the potatoes, cover, and cook for about four minutes, just long enough for them to soften up a bit. Uncover, stir in the garlic, then the broth. Bring to a boil, taste to make sure the potatoes are tender, and if they are stir in the broccoli. Simmer just long enough for the broccoli to get tender throughout, 2 to 4 minutes.

Immediately remove the soup from heat and puree with an immersion blender. Add half the cheddar cheese and the mustard (a little bit a a time). If you are going to add any creme fraiche or sour cream, this would be the time to do it. Now add more water or broth if you feel the need to thin out the soup at all. Taste and add more salt if needed.

Serve sprinkled with croutons, the remaining cheese, a drizzle of olive oil, and a tiny pinch of smoked paprika.

Strawberry-Rhubarb Pie

I'm on a pie kick. Ever since making that awesome blueberry pie for Benjamin's birthday, I just want to try every pie recipe possible. Since we were having visitors last weekend, I thought I'd make a new pie for while they were here. It came out quite well. It was right on the edge of being too sweet for me, but I enjoyed the piece I had. I figure if I make it again, I can try balancing the sweetness of the strawberries and sugar I add more accurately.

I used the pie crust recipe that I used for the blueberry pie. And I also upped the lemon zest, lemon juice, and cinnamon amounts a bit. I liked how fresh the lemon flavors made the pie taste.

Grandma's Strawberry-Rhubarb Pie
A variation on this recipe by Valarie Enters, Sanford, Florida


2 1/2 cups chopped red rhubarb, fresh
2 1/2 cups de-stemmed, washed and cut strawberries (in larger pieces)
1 1/2 cups sugar (1 1/4 cups for high altitude)
2 tablespoons minute tapioca
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 tablespoons butter, cubed small
1 egg white beaten with 1 teaspoon water
Large granule sugar

Prepare crust of your choice. Place bottom part of the crust in the pie dish and chill in the refrigerator while you prepare the filling. Preheat oven to 425°F.

Mix the rhubarb, strawberries, sugar, tapioca, flour, zest and juice of lemon, dash of cinnamon, and vanilla. Mix well in a large bowl and pour out into chilled crust. Dot the top of the filling with the butter. Brush edges of pie crust with egg white wash. Roll out the other piece of dough and place over filling. Crimp to seal edges. Brush with egg white wash and garnish with large granule sugar.

Collar with foil and bake at 425°F for 15 minutes. Decrease temperature to 375°F and bake for an additional 45 to 50 minutes, or until the filling starts bubbling. (Higher altitude will take 450°F and 400°F, respectively. Also, you can use a pie bird for extra decor.) Let cool before serving.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Mushroom Casserole

Another not-so-pretty meal, but wow, it tasted great! It makes a really good vegetarian main dish and would also make a great side dish. I didn't get a good picture, but there are some good ones on the website where I got the recipe.

Mushroom Casserole
Courtesy of 101 Cookbooks

1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 pound (8 ounces) brown mushrooms, cleaned and chopped
1 large onion, well chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
3 cups cooked brown rice, room temperature
2 large eggs
1 cup cottage cheese
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
A bit of fresh tarragon, chopped

Preheat oven to 350°F degrees. Rub a medium-large baking dish (9x13 works well) with a bit of olive oil or butter and set aside.

In a large skillet over medium-high heat sauté the mushrooms in olive oil sprinkled with a couple pinches of salt. Stir every minute or so until the mushrooms have released their liquid and have browned a bit. Add the onions and cook for another 4 or 5 minutes or until they are translucent. Stir in the garlic, cook for another minute and remove from heat. Add the rice to the skillet and stir until combined.

In a medium bowl whisk together the eggs, cottage cheese, sour cream, and salt.

Combine the rice mixture and cottage cheese mixture in a large bowl, stir until well combined and then turn out into your prepared baking dish. Sprinkle with 2/3 of the Parmesan cheese, cover with foil and place in oven for 30 minutes. Remove foil and bake for another 20 or 30 minutes more or hot throughout and golden along the edges. Sprinkle with the chopped tarragon, and the remaining Parmesan and enjoy.

Lentil Vegetable Soup

This is a hearty and wonderful soup. It's not the prettiest soup, but it certainly helps warm you up on a chilly day/night. And since we're having a very chilly few days after having a lovely warm chunk of days, it was a welcome addition to our menu.

Edited to add: Make sure you use a big enough pot, or this happens:


And it makes quite a mess. Though it doesn't make the soup any less delicious.

Lentil Vegetable Soup
Courtesy of Ina Garten (The Barefoot Contessa)


1 pound French green lentils
4 cups chopped yellow onions (3 large onions)
4 cups chopped leeks, white part only (2 leeks)
1 tablespoon minced garlic (3 cloves)
1/4 cup good olive oil, plus additional for drizzling on top
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme leaves or 1 teaspoon dried
1 teaspoon ground cumin
3 cups medium-diced celery (8 stalks)
3 cups medium-diced carrots (4 to 6 carrots)
3 quarts chicken stock
1/4 cup tomato paste
2 tablespoons red wine or red wine vinegar
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese

In a large bowl, cover the lentils with boiling water and allow to sit for 15 minutes. Drain.

In a large stockpot on medium heat, saute the onions, leeks, and garlic with the olive oil, salt, pepper, thyme, and cumin for 20 minutes, until the vegetables are translucent and very tender. Add the celery and carrots and saute for 10 more minutes. Add the chicken stock, tomato paste, and lentils. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer uncovered for 1 hour, until the lentils are cooked through. Check the seasonings. Add the red wine and serve hot, drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with grated Parmesan.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Granola Bars

I will be making these over and over again. Not only are they filling, but they taste fantastic. This may sound weird, but I love how naturally sweet they are. The kids have yet to try them, but I'm hoping they like them as much as I do so that we have another healthy snack option.

I'm looking forward to trying different kinds of dried fruit, but the ones I used were great, especially the dried apricots. They're so juicy.

Homemade Granola Bars
A variation on this recipe by Ina Garten (The Barefoot Contessa)


2 cups old-fashioned oatmeal
1 cup sliced almonds
1 cup shredded coconut, loosely packed
1/2 cup toasted wheat germ
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2/3 cup honey
1/4 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup chopped pitted plums
1/2 cup chopped dried apricots
1/2 cup dried cranberries

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter an 8 by 12-inch baking dish and line it with parchment paper.

Toss the oatmeal, almonds, and coconut together on a sheet pan and bake for 10 to 12 minutes, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned. Transfer the mixture to a large mixing bowl and stir in the wheat germ.

Reduce the oven temperature to 300°F.

Place the butter, honey, brown sugar, vanilla, and salt in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Cook and stir for a minute, then pour over the toasted oatmeal mixture. Add the dates, apricots, and cranberries and stir well.

Pour the mixture into the prepared pan. Wet your fingers and lightly press the mixture evenly into the pan. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until light golden brown. Cool for at least 2 to 3 hours before cutting into squares. Serve at room temperature.

Cuban Black Beans and Rice

This is a nice, simple dish that is good by itself but can also easily be embellished. A little hot sauce, a little crushed red pepper flakes, a side of guacamole and chips, and you can really make this a super vegetarian dish.

Cuban Black Beans and Rice
Courtesy of Real Simple


1 cup long-grain white rice
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 bell pepper, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
2 cloves garlic, chopped
Kosher salt and black pepper
1 teaspoon ground cumin
2 15.5-ounce cans black beans, rinsed
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
4 radishes, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1/4 cup fresh cilantro

Cook the rice according to the package directions. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the onion, bell pepper, garlic, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1⁄4 teaspoon pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, 5 to 7 minutes. Stir in the cumin and cook for 1 minute.

Add the beans, oregano, and 1 cup water. Simmer, covered, for 10 minutes. Add the vinegar and smash some of the beans with the back of a fork to thicken.

Serve the beans over the rice and top with the radishes and cilantro.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Blueberry Pie

After tasting this pie, my grandfather-in-law told me that someone had finally learned how to make blueberry pie properly. Well done, Food Network Magazine.

Blueberry Pie
A variation on this recipe from Food Network Magazine


7 cups blueberries (about 3 pints), stems removed and rinsed, divided
1 cup maple syrup, divided
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons butter, diced

Simmer 3 cups blueberries with 1/2 cup maple syrup until the mixture reduces by half, about 20 minutes. Pour into a bowl; stir in remaining blueberries, remaining maple syrup, cornstarch, lemon juice, nutmeg and salt. Cool completely, then pour into pie shell, dot with butter, and top with remaining pie crust; press the crust edges together and trim, leaving a 1-inch overhang. Roll up or pinch the overhang to seal.

Place a foil-lined baking sheet on a rack in the lower third of the oven; preheat to 450°F. Wrap an oiled, wide band of foil around the pie edge to protect the crust. Make slashes in the top of the crust; chill for 30 minutes.

Reduce the oven to 400°F. Bake the pie for 30 minutes. Remove the foil band, brush the crust with heavy cream and sprinkle with sugar. Bake until golden brown, about 30 minutes; cool before slicing.

Spaghetti and Meatballs and Garlic Bread

Benjamin's birthday dinner was a huge success. Everyone really liked everything. But come on, how can you go wrong with spaghetti and meatballs, garlic bread, and blueberry pie, right? Yum.

I used all sausage in my meatballs because I prefer sausage to beef and veal. I also highly recommend taking the extra time to make your own bread crumbs with white bread, as the recipe requests. It makes for moister and tastier meatballs.

I decreased the amount of butter and oil a bit for the garlic bread this time around. I'd made this garlic bread a couple of times before and always found that it felt a bit like it was drowning in oil. I may have limited the butter and oil a bit too much this time, so there's definitely a little more tweaking needed.

It's also really garlicky garlic bread, so make sure you have mints or a toothbrush nearby if you're planning on seeing anyone who hasn't shared dinner with you afterward.

Real Meatballs and Spaghetti
A variation on this recipe by Ina Garten (The Barefoot Contessa)


For the meatballs:
2 pounds Italian sausage
1 cup fresh white bread crumbs (4 slices, crusts removed)
1/4 cup seasoned dry bread crumbs
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 large egg, beaten
Vegetable oil
Olive oil

For the sauce:
1 tablespoon good olive oil
1 cup chopped yellow onion (1 onion)
1 1/2 teaspoons minced garlic
1/2 cup good red wine, such as Chianti
1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes, or plum tomatoes in puree, chopped
1 tablespoon chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

For serving:
1 1/2 pounds spaghetti, cooked according to package directions
Freshly grated Parmesan

Place the sausage, both bread crumbs, parsley, Parmesan, salt, pepper, nutmeg, egg, and 3/4 cup warm water in a bowl. Combine very lightly with a fork. Using your hands, lightly form the mixture into 2-inch meatballs. You will have 14 to 16 meatballs.

Pour equal amounts of vegetable oil and olive oil into a large (12-inch) skillet to a depth of 1/4-inch. Heat the oil. Very carefully, in batches, place the meatballs in the oil and brown them well on all sides over medium-low heat, turning carefully with a spatula or a fork. This should take about 10 minutes for each batch. Don't crowd the meatballs. Remove the meatballs to a plate covered with paper towels. Discard the oil but don't clean the pan.

For the sauce, heat the olive oil in the same pan. Add the onion and sauté over medium heat until translucent, 5 to 10 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 more minute. Add the wine and cook on high heat, scraping up all the brown bits in the pan, until almost all the liquid evaporates, about 3 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes, parsley, salt, and pepper.

Return the meatballs to the sauce, cover, and simmer on the lowest heat for 25 to 30 minutes, until the meatballs are cooked through. Serve hot on cooked spaghetti and pass the grated Parmesan.


Garlic Bread
A variation on this recipe by Ina Garten (The Barefoot Contessa)

6 large garlic cloves, chopped
1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
1/4 cup chopped fresh oregano leaves
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1/4-1/2 cup good olive oil
1 loaf ciabatta bread
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Place the garlic in the bowl of a food processor and process until minced. Add the parsley, oregano, salt and pepper and pulse twice.

Heat the olive oil in a medium sauté pan and add the garlic mixture. Remove the pan from the heat.

Slice the ciabatta bread in half horizontally, and spread the butter on 1 half. Spread the garlic mixture on the other half of the bread, and put the halves together. Wrap the bread in aluminum foil.

Place the bread in the oven and bake for 5 minutes. Open the foil, and continue baking for an additional 5 minutes.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Cupcakes for Benjamin's 5th Birthday

Benjamin requested "Lightening McQueen and Mater" cupcakes for his birthday celebration at school. "Red frosting and yellow lightening bolts for Lightening McQueen and brown sprinkles for Mater." So I used most of a chocolate cupcake recipe that I had been eying for a while and used red-tinted vanilla buttercream frosting instead of the ganache the original recipe calls for. The cupcakes are delicious and surprisingly easy to make, so I will absolutely be trying it again with the ganache.

I felt like I could really taste the red food coloring, so if you're looking to dye frosting a dark color, I would definitely try to find some of that food coloring gel that you can use with a lot less volume. Though, having never used it, just having seen it used on tv, I'm not sure if it still has that food coloring taste. I think I'm just super sensitive to it, but the food coloring taste makes me crankier than I feel I should be whilst eating tasty treats.

Oh, and the birthday boy loves that he made an appearance in his cupcake picture.


Lulu's Cupcakes
A variation on this recipe from Lulu's Bake Shoppe, Boston, for Food Network Magazine

For the Cupcakes:
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
4 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
1 stick unsalted butter, cut into pieces
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 large eggs, lightly beaten

For the Filling:
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup confectioners' sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 tablespoons heavy cream
1 cup marshmallow creme

Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350°F. Place paper liners in two 12-cup muffin pans.

Prepare the cupcakes:
Sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt in a bowl. Bring the sugar and 1 cup water to a boil in a saucepan, stirring until the sugar dissolves, about 3 minutes. Pour into a large bowl; add the chocolate and butter and let sit, stirring occasionally, until the chocolate is melted and the mixture has cooled slightly. Stir in the vanilla. Using a mixer, beat in the eggs, then mix in the dry ingredients.

Divide the batter evenly between the prepared pans (about 1/4 cup batter per cupcake) and bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 25 minutes. Cool in the pans for about 25 minutes, then transfer cupcakes to a rack to cool completely.

Meanwhile, prepare the filling:
Using a mixer, cream the butter until light and fluffy. Beat in 1/2 cup confectioners' sugar. Add the vanilla and 1 tablespoon heavy cream; beat until smooth. Beat in the remaining 1/2 cup confectioners' sugar and 2 tablespoons heavy cream in batches, alternating after each addition. Beat in the marshmallow creme; set aside.

Spoon the filling into a pastry bag with a medium tip. Insert the tip into the center of each cupcake top; fill until the cupcake is heavier (do not overfill).


Quick Vanilla Buttercream Frosting
Courtesy of Gale Gand

3 cups confectioners' sugar
1 cup butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 to 2 tablespoons whipping cream

In a standing mixer fitted with a whisk, mix together sugar and butter. Mix on low speed until well blended and then increase speed to medium and beat for another 3 minutes.

Add vanilla and cream and continue to beat on medium speed for 1 minute more, adding more cream if needed for spreading consistency.

Lemon Fusili with Arugula

This will definitely be made for a summer picnic this year. It's so light and delicious. It was wonderful warm, but I imagine it would be just as good cold.

Lemon Fusili with Arugula
Courtesy of Ina Garten (The Barefoot Contessa)


1 tablespoon good olive oil
1 tablespoon minced garlic (2 cloves)
2 cups heavy cream
3 lemons
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 bunch broccoli
1 pound dried fusilli pasta
1/2 pound baby arugula (or 2 bunches of common arugula, leaves cut in thirds)
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
1 pint grape or cherry tomatoes, halved

Heat the olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat, add the garlic, and cook for 60 seconds. Add the cream, the zest from 2 lemons, the juice of 2 lemons, 2 teaspoons of salt, and 1 teaspoon of pepper. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes, until it starts to thicken.

Meanwhile, cut the broccoli in florets and discard the stem. Cook the florets in a pot of boiling salted water for 3 to 5 minutes, until tender but still firm. Drain the broccoli and run under cold water to stop the cooking. Set aside.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil, add 1 tablespoon of salt and the pasta, and cook according to the directions on the package, about 12 minutes, stirring occasionally. Drain the pasta in a colander and place it back into the pot. Immediately add the cream mixture and cook it over medium-low heat for 3 minutes, until most of the sauce has been absorbed in the pasta. Pour the hot pasta into a large bowl, add the arugula, Parmesan, tomatoes, and cooked broccoli. Cut the last lemon in half lengthwise, slice it 1/4-inch thick crosswise, and add it to the pasta. Toss well, season to taste, and serve hot.