Category Archives: Cooking

Pesto Love

Well friends, sometimes all you need is a giant bowl of pasta to cure all that is wrong in the world. And even if it’s not truly a cure, it’s a personal favorite. Something about a few simple ingredients tossed in a dish that are just as savory as something that’s been roasting for hours.

I was craving pesto, but unless you’re growing a pine nut tree in your backyard, those suckers cost an arm and a leg. I was inspired by this recipe for arugula pesto, but made a few tweaks based on what I had in the fridge. Hope you enjoy.

Spinach-Pistachio Pesto

2 cups spinach (rinsed and dried)

1 garlic clove

1/2 c shelled pistachios

1/3 c olive oil (plus more for consistency)

Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Lightly toast pistachios in a pan. In a food processor, blend spinach, garlic, pistachios and oil.  Add more oil to reach desired consistency. Transfer to dish, sprinkle with cracked pepper and grated cheese. Store in refrigerator or serve immediately. Great accompaniment to pasta or topped upon crostini.

Note: If you are not in possession of a food processor, fear not! Smash the garlic with the back of  your knife and chop the spinach. Place the pistachios in a sealed bag, crush with the back of a heavy pan and use a blender to combine ingredients.

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Aesthetics aren't important, but the taste is scrumptious! Leave the beauty loaf to my mom.

Slainte!

Top of the mornin’ to you! In honor of my favorite green holiday, I am indulging you, sharing a very special recipe in honor of my heritage. My mom has won awards for this, so cherish it! And enjoy St. Patrick’s Day! Irish coffees all around!

Irish Soda Bread

Ingredients:

  • 3 c AP flour
  • 1/2 c sugar
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1- 1 1/2 c raisins (boil in water for 5 min., cool and dry with paper towels)
  • 2 large eggs/3 medium eggs
  • 16 oz sour cream (you’re curious, aren’t you?)
  • Butter, for greasing pan
Yields: 2 smaller loaves. It doesn’t matter how many calories are in this, it’s St. Patty’s Day for heaven’s sake!

Oven: 325 degrees F.

Mix together all dry ingredients, sift into large bowl. Add dry, plump raisins to dry mix. In separate bowl, mix eggs and sour cream together until smooth. Add wet mix to dry, mix until combined (3-5 min with hand mixer). Pour mixture into well-greased large cast-iron pan to form round loaf shape. You may also wrap two smaller  skillets/pans with greased foil to form shape of loaf. Place loaves in oven for 50-55 min, testing with toothpick around 45 min. Allow bread to cool, lightly brush top of loaves with butter (optional).

Serve in slices, along with coffee, tea and milk. Double the recipe and share with lucky neighbors and friends.

Thanks Mom!

How to Succeed in the Kitchen (With just a bit of trying)

On my most recent roundtrip drive from Cincinnati to Chicago and back, I decided to indulge in a book on tape/CD this time around. I was supposed to read The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell while studying in Florence, but I hope you agree there were far more valuable ways to spend my time in Italy. I’m glad I gave Gladwell another shot, because I like what he’s on to. The book applies a good deal of real life, pop culture-induced situations and uses them as case studies, explaining social catalysts in our world today. What makes something “tip”? Within the book, Gladwell refers to connectors, mavens and salespeople– influential people have different skill sets and qualities, which he categorizes into these three buckets. Personally, I pegged myself as a connector. I cannot help but introduce people who have so much in common (not in a Yenta kind of way) and one of my favorite things in life is when my “worlds collide.” I successfully accomplished introducing my different groups of friends one New Years Eve and it turned out to be fabulous. Unfortunately, George Costanza did not have the same experience.

However, I’m prefacing this post for two reasons: a) read/listen at leisure to the book if you haven’t already and b) I am switching from my connector role to a kitchen maven. In honor of a certain friend who recently packed her bags, headed Northeast for the Big Apple and defaults to sandwiches for dinner– this goes out to you. Acting as your trusted foodie expert for the time being, allow me to share some simple and serious insight from a dabbling cook.

The Book of Ruth All good things begin when you get yourself a cookbook. Any cookbook will do the trick, though I  prefer one with tips and notes and colorful pictures. My guilty pleasure was buying Ruth Reichl’s Gourmet Cookbook, solely out of desire. It is classic and glorious and has an in-depth index that makes life easy. Mark Bittman is another great recommendation; How To Cook Everything lives up to its title. You can find recipes online, but there’s something nostalgic about using a cookbook to guide you. It will also serve as a great reference for your cooking future.

Contextual Segregation Simple: wash your veggies. When it comes to meat, chicken, fish and beans, separate but equal applies. Keep those proteins separate and you and your body will thank you. There is a reason everything comes packaged separately at the grocery store, so until everything is thoroughly prepared and the bacteria has been cooked off, err on the side of caution and clean the area well.

Two Spoon Rule 1. You will need to taste your food throughout the process of cooking. 2. Just because you’re not in a restaurant does not give you the right to use the same utensil to taste. You must have more than one- use them all if necessary. They’re easy to wash! Double dipping is not allowed.Your hungry friends who randomly stop by because they can smell your culinary creations down the block will thank you.

The freezer is your friend Lots of recipes yield multiple servings, so you might be deterred to make something that would feed a small army. However, freezing meals is so easy and completely worth it. You can also pat yourself on the back when you use or save fresh produce, instead of letting it turn into a fuzz ball in the back corner of your fridge. We’ve all been there. Don’t O.D. on the same meal for a week straight- mix it up, freeze a few different meals and thank yourself later.

Size matters I am the worst when it comes to estimating. I have trained myself to go for the larger option when it comes to cutting boards, skillets, pots and pans in order to avoid mass chaos. Life is much more enjoyable when your water is not boiling over, your pasta is not on fire and onions are not scattered across the counter. When faced with the choice, go big or go home.

Ninja Knife Skills You don’t need them. You do, however, need a great knife. One that requires sharpening or at least did not come alongside a spoon and fork. The knife should be bigger than whatever you’re cutting, for the most part. When dicing, chopping, mincing or cutting anything, make sure you’re consistent. When slicing an onion, make sure you’re slicing evenly. When you use the ingredient in a dish, it will cook evenly.

Crack is whack I adore the built-in grinders attached to salt and pepper shakers. However, the steam from the stove will clog your grinder and create lots of issues down the road. Unless you’re into mushy or uneven cracked salt and pepper, grind away from the stove before you season the dish.

Don’t be a vino victim One of the most important lessons I learned in Italy is the wine you cook with should be just as good as the wine you drink. From stove to table, you should use wine that you would enjoy by the glass. Luckily, we are inundated with great wine at reasonable prices. Don’t skimp on the alcohol- you’ve only got one body. Put the best in it. My grandpa always said that; words to live by.

Ci vediamo a dopo!

Granola- Everything but the kitchen sink

Sometimes you just gotta mix it up! I feel less guilty about making my own granola, now that my friends have sold their very cool granola company (still delish). Inspired by another blogging foodie, Nekisia Davis’ granola proves to be today’s new adventure. This Brooklyn babe has been packaging and selling her Early Bird granola for quite some time, starting out as a farmers’ market fave which has now progressed into an entrepreneurial journey.

My take on granola: whatever you’ve got, add it in. It’s everything but the kitchen sink, if you so choose. The beauty of making your own is you determine what hits the right spots and what you can do without. I used this recipe as a guideline, adding my favorites (cashews, dried cranberries, sans coconut s’il vous plait) to amp up the granola excitement, making my taste buds dance with happiness. Make sure you’re checking on it along the way- nothing like too much time in the heat to ruin the delicate taste.

 

Oh happy day, put on some tunes and have fun with the oven!

 

Growing Up with Grilled Cheese

Ham and Cheese lovers paradise;Parma, Italy

Simple things in life give me great pleasure. One of those simple pleasures is a glorious indulgence knows as grilled cheese. Cheeseheads around the country are smiling, I can feel it.

Growing up in the Midwest is a wonderful place to nurture a love for dairy. One of my fondest memories as a child is having a special night in with my Dad and sister, while my Mom was out, embracing a kid-less world for a night.  I’m sure she was way overdue.

Meg and I would begin to craft our own sandwiches, testing different cheeses and flipping styles in a well-buttered pan.  Utensils were nowhere near necessary, even though I am sure I demanded the sandwich was to be cut in half, with a knife. A cold glass of milk and chips on the side were welcome companions to this delectably gooey dinner.

Lately, I’ve been reminiscing about my love for grilled cheese. I’ve let it grow up a bit, adding spinach and tomatoes, whole wheat bread and aged Havarti. Add an egg for breakfast, prosciutto for lunch. Whether you choose to be classic or over the top, a grilled cheese never disappoints.

Fully Capable Cooking

Feeling Spice

There is beauty in canned, pre-packaged vegetables and legumes. And believe me, I pull a semi-homemade Sandra Lee every once and a while. Yet, there is such fun in creating something simply delicious from scratch!

Roasted red pepper was always a perceived premium in my world until I discovered I could roast my own! Also, I was overzealous in the produce section this week and the nearly shriveled red pepper is sparking inspiration. Embrace your inner Rick Bayless and add some fiesta to your life!

What you need:

  • An oven/broiler or grill
  • 30-40 minutes

Stick your red pepper on a baking sheet in the broiler or directly on the grill. The objective is to blacken the pepper over the course of time, so keep an eye on it to ensure all sides are charred. Add some tomatillos to the mix, too!

After pepper is entirely blackened, let cool completely. Cut out stem and peel away charred skin. Slice into strips to garnish your meal. Puree the tomatillos to create salsa or quarter and add to a salad.