Category Archives: Cooking

Italian 101

A lot of times, all I want for dinner is something simple, something that will take me 20 minutes and minimal ingredients, and something that will fill me up and leave me happy. So here is a simple tomato sauce recipe that takes almost zero effort and can be used in everything from lasagna to chicken parm. And if you’re cooking for one, you can make the full batch and freeze what you don’t use for the next time you want something quick and easy. Way better than takeout and way more satisfying than a jar of Prego.

On the menu:
Parmesan chicken with tomato sauce over pasta

Sauce:
Makes 3 cups
1 Tbsp olive oil
4 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup yellow onion, finely chopped
1/2 cup fresh basil, 1/4 chopped and 1/4 chiffonade for garnish
1 tsp red pepper flakes
28 oz crushed tomatoes
salt and pepper to taste

Add olive oil, minced garlic, chopped onion, and chopped basil to a cold pot. Turn the heat to medium and stir until the ingredients in the pot are fragrant, about 10 minutes. Once the aromatics are fragrant, add the tomatoes and turn the heat down to low. Cook the sauce for around 5 minutes, taste, and add salt to taste. Let sauce simmer for another 15 minutes.

Chicken:
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 egg
1/4 cup panko bread crumbs
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/4 cup flour
2 Tbsp olive oil

Pound chicken breasts so that they are each around 1 inch thick. Mix together panko bread crumbs and grated parmesan. Dredge chicken in flour, shake off excess. Dredge in egg, and then in parmesan/panko mixture. Heat olive oil in a pan over medium heat. Add chicken and cook on each side over medium heat, for around 8 minutes on each side or until cooked through.

Make pasta according to directions on the box. Plate pasta and chicken and pour sauce over the top. Grate more parmesan over the top and add chiffonade basil.

Leave a comment

Filed under Cooking, Heritage, Recipes

Donuts, Donuts: The More You Eat the More You Go Nuts

I love the TV show “The Best Thing I Ever Ate” on the Food Network, where chefs and restaurateurs talk about the most delicious meals they’ve ever had. It prompted me to go to Serious Pie and Dahlia Bakery in Seattle, and order the Yukon Gold Potato Pizza at Five Points in Manhattan. So when I watched the episode on snacks and saw the donut muffin at Downtown Bakery and Creamery in Healdsburg, California, I knew I had to recreate this little piece of heaven. It’s a DONUT. That you BAKE. In your own OVEN. No frying, no oil, minimal mess but the same fluffy, crunchy-crusted, sweet and spicy treat you come to expect from a donut. Commence lip smacking.

On the menu:
Best Baked Donuts
from the classic upstate New York cookbook, Applehood and Mother Pie
Makes 18 donuts

1 cup butter, softened
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 eggs
3 cups flour
4 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1 cup milk
1/2 tsp cinnamon

Blend 1/2 cup plus 2 Tbsp butter with 1 cup of sugar
Add eggs and mix well
Sift together flour, baking powder, salt, and nutmeg
Add to butter sugar mixture
Blend in milk and mix thoroughly
Fill muffin tins 2/3 full and bake at 350 degrees for 17 to 20 minutes (the donuts will be brown on the sides but not on top, so don’t wait until they’re visibly brown on top to take them out)
Meanwhile, combine the remaining 1/2 cup of sugar with 1/2 tsp cinnamon
Melt the remaining 6 Tbsp of butter
While the donuts are still warm, dip the tops in butter and then coat in cinnamon sugar

These would be perfect at a brunch as a sweet complement to a savory main course. Or if you just can’t make it to brunch, they’re perfect as a midnight snack, too. Not that I ate any at midnight. I’m just… saying.

4 Comments

Filed under Cooking, Recipes

Becca Does Tilapia: Part Deux

As I mentioned before, sometimes being a single lady means eating the same meal over and over and over again until all of the ingredients are gone. So if you have a couple leftover tilapia filets in your freezer, as Becca and I did, you make it work. And if it is warm enough to eat outside, you grill.

On the menu:
Grilled tilapia with pico de gallo
Roasted broccoli with lemon
Corn chips! (optional… obviously)
Serves 2

Tilapia
2 tilapia filets*
2 Tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Brush filets with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Grill on a gas grill (or a grill pan if weather, sadly, does not permit) over medium heat for 6 minutes on each side. If your filets are thicker than 1/2 an inch, you may need an extra 2 minutes on each side.

*You can substitute any mild white fish for tilapia here

Pico de gallo (this recipe will leave you with extra, perfect for eggs the next morning or as an accompaniment to late night chip-dipping… ain’t no shame)
4 plum tomatoes, chopped
1/4 small white onion, chopped
1/4 cup chopped cilantro (more or less depending on taste)
1-2 jalepenos, chopped (more or less depending on taste)
2 Tbsp lime juice, or the juice from half a lime
salt to taste

Mix together all ingredients. Let sit for at least 2 hours before serving. Plate tilapia filets and spoon pico de gallo over the top.

NOTE: Can we talk about how healthy this meal is for a second? There isn’t a drop of heavy cream OR butter in it, and only 2 tiny little tablespoons of oil. Don’t worry. I ate a Little Debbie Oatmeal Cream Pie for dessert to negate all the vitamins and nutrients I obtained during the main course. Nutritional balance is the priority of my life.

Leave a comment

Filed under Cooking, Recipes

Look to the Cookie! Or the rice crispy treat. Same diff.

Inspired by Molly at lv, molly I decided to whip up some rice crispy treats. I loved Smitten Kitchen‘s high-brow take on the standard treat but I’m a little more old school myself. A little more old school, and a little more “how many delicious dessert ingredients can I add to this to make it even sweeter than it already is.” And I love anything that combines chocolate and vanilla. This is what I came up with.

On the menu:
Black and white rice crispy treats

1 stick unsalted butter, divided in half
1 10-oz. bag of marshmallows, divided in half
6 cups of rice crispies, divided in half
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp salt
3 oz. bittersweet chocolate

*You’re making 2 separate types of rice crispy treats here that will be joined in sweet matrimony by a layer of melted chocolate. So you’ll need two separate pots. Dig?

Procedure: In each pot, melt half a stick of butter. In Pot #1, add half bag of marshmallows and stir until melted. Meanwhile, add cocoa powder, vanilla, and salt to Pot #2 until fully incorporated; add marshmallows to Pot #2 and stir until melted. In a double boiler (or the microwave), melt the bittersweet chocolate.

Assembly: Spray an 8-inch cake pan with non-stick spray. Spread contents of Pot #2 into the pan. Press the mixture down with greased up fingers (I sprayed my fingers with the non-stick spray and it worked brilliantly). Spread the melted chocolate over the first layer, covering the entire layer. Next, spread the contents of Pot #1 over the still-warm melted chocolate, starting with a heap in the middle and using greased up fingers to press the mixture outward, careful not to mix the melted chocolate into the white layer of your treats. Let cool. Cut into squares. Ingest. Enjoy.

1 Comment

Filed under Cooking, Recipes

And they call it buona notte…

One of the reasons I love to cook is because I love to eat. And so does my family. The main topic of conversation at breakfast is what’s for lunch, and by the time two o’clock in the afternoon rolls around, all we can talk about is where we’ll go for dinner. So when my mother suggested that I cook the family dinner this weekend, I was flattered and nervous all at once. Let’s just say no one holds back their true feelings when it comes to the quality of a meal.

It was in this vein that I chose an Italian classic, crossed my fingers, closed my eyes, and hoped for the best.

On the menu:
Chicken cacciatore
Roasted broccoli with lemon
Serves 4

Chicken:
1 whole chicken, cut into roughly 12 pieces
Salt and pepper
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
4 whole garlic cloves, peeled
1/2 cup lemon juice (or the juice from one lemon)
3 sprigs rosemary
1 tsp red pepper flakes (or more if you like your chicken with a kick)
1 cup dried mixed mushrooms (porcini, oyster, shiitake)*
3 cups dry white wine (2 cups to soak mushrooms**, 1 cup for cooking chicken)
1 cup water
3 cups chopped tomatoes with juice

*Your local grocery store should have dried mushrooms in prepackaged pouches
**Half an hour before you start cooking, put the dried mushrooms in a bowl and pour 2 cups of white wine over them to soak, soften, and marinate the mushrooms. Before you add the mushrooms as directed below, drain them and discard the used wine

Preheat oven to 350. Toss the chicken in a bowl with salt, pepper, garlic, and a little of the olive oil.
Put the rest of the olive oil in a large skillet and heat until very hot (the oil HAS to be hot to crisp the skin of the chicken). Once the oil is hot, add the chicken and garlic to the pan, and sear for 3-4 minutes on each side (if the garlic starts to burn, place it on top of the chicken).
Pour the lemon juice over the chicken and add the rosemary, turning down the heat to medium.
Add the red pepper and the remaining cup of white wine to deglaze the skillet.
Once the wine has reduced by half (around 10 minutes), add the marinated mushrooms. Cook for 5 minutes.
Remove the chicken and set aside. Taste the mushrooms and add salt and pepper to taste. Cook for 10 minutes.
Add the tomatoes with juice and the 1 cup of water. Taste again and season with salt and pepper.
Turn heat down to medium low and simmer for 10 minutes. Taste again and season with salt and pepper.
Return chicken to skillet and simmer for 15 minutes.
Put whole skillet in oven and bake for another 10 minutes, until chicken is cooked throught. If your chicken pieces are huge, they may need a couple extra minutes in the oven.

Broccoli:
1 large head of broccoli
2 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup lemon juice (or the juice from one lemon)
salt and pepper

Turn oven to 450. Cut broccoli into individual stalks. Toss in a bowl with olive oil, salt and pepper. Place on baking sheet so there is space between the stalks. Bake at 450 for 5 minutes. Remove broccoli, toss with lemon juice and a liberal amount of fresh ground pepper. Return to baking sheet and bake for another 8 minutes.

Here are pictures of Wednesday’s carrot cake. WOW this came out well. The cake is dense and spicy, with the perfect complement of smooth, cheesy frosting. The decoration was a total flop, so I’m pretending that it never happened and giving you a picture of the inside instead. Way prettier, I promise.

8 Comments

Filed under Cooking, Recipes

Crispy, Crusty, Cheesy Goodness

Today was gross for three reasons: it was Monday, I have a cold, and it was raining. Today was great for three reasons: I won’t see Monday’s ugly face again for 6 whole days, I heard that this weekend it’s supposed to hit 80 degrees, and one of my very best friends who lives in my backyard cooked me dinner. Even Steven.

On the menu:
“Becca Does Tilapia” with parmesan crust and basil tomato cream sauce
Asparagus with rosemary sea salt

Tilapia
Serves 2

3 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
10-12 cherry tomatoes, halved
1/2 cup cream
1/2 cup basil [1/4 cup roughly chopped, 1/4 cup chiffonade]
2 tilapia fillets
salt and pepper
1/4 cup flour
1 egg, beaten
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
1/2 teaspoon Japanese spice blend [you can buy this blend of Japanese spices in most grocery stores with an international section, but if you don’t have it, you can substitute a pinch of red pepper flakes, garlic salt, or paprika]

Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a small skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and cook 1-2 minutes. Turn down heat to medium/low and add cherry tomatoes, cook for 2 minutes. Add cream. Let simmer for 15 minutes. Sauce will turn slightly pink and coat the back of the spoon. Meanwhile, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a skillet large enough to fit both fillets. Pat dry the tilapia fillets. Season both sides with salt and pepper. Combine parmesan, panko and Japanese spice. Dredge the seasoned tilapia fillets in the seasoned flour. Shake off excess. Dip in egg. Press into Parmesan/panko mixture. Place in heated skillet and cook 3-4 minutes per side. Fish will be golden brown when it’s done. Plate the fish and pour sauce over the top.

Asparagus with rosemary sea salt
Serves 2

10 asparagus stalks
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 tsp rosemary sea salt [this can be found at any gourmet grocery, on Amazon.com, or you can substitute basic sea salt in a pinch]

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place asparagus on a cookie sheet and brush with olive oil until the stalks are coated. Sprinkle sea salt generously over stalks. Bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes, until tender on the inside and slightly crisp on the outside.

NOTE: This dish is not my standard fare. Fish = good for you. Asparagus = good for you. Basil, tomatoes, a little olive oil = good for you. I had to remind myself of the health factor while eating this meal because the fish was flaky, the crust was crispy, and it tastes like a million calories. I’m telling you, kids… it’s not. Enjoy.

1 Comment

Filed under Cooking, Recipes

Use Whatcha Got

As a single gal, I find cooking for just one is occasionally a challenge. I can usually adjust a recipe to make one serving (or two, leaving me with leftovers or leaving me having to unbutton my suddenly-tight pants) but then I have random ingredients in my fridge that I either must use before they spoil, or throw out. I usually end up eating the same dinner three days in a row, or a variation on the meal (risotto with mushrooms and asparagus, pasta with mushrooms and asparagus, and omelet with mushrooms and… you get it).

So tonight I found myself with heavy cream, capers, and chicken stock. The thought of eating that trout again was appealing to my tongue but not so much my waistline. The answer? Chicken Piccata.

Okay, so it’s not “healthy.” But it tasted damn good.

Any food stylist will tell you that my pasta is all wrong, there’s too much sauce in the picture, the plate’s not clean, the capers are haphazard… but don’t you just want to dig right in?? That equals success in my book.

On the menu: Chicken piccata
Serves 2

2 chicken breasts, pounded to around 1/2 thick (mine is thicker, but it’ll cook faster and be crispier if you pound it thinner)
2 Tbsp olive oil
3 Tbsp butter
3 Tbsp flour
2 Tbsp lemon juice (or the juice from 1/2 of a lemon)
1/2 cup white wine
1/4 cup heavy cream (half and half would work, too OR you can leave this out altogether if you choose)
1/2 cup chicken stock
4 Tbsp capers
salt and pepper to taste

[Put water on to boil for pasta] Melt butter with olive oil in skillet. Season chicken breasts liberally with salt and pepper on both sides. Dredge breasts in flour, shaking off excess. Once butter is completely melted, add chicken to the skillet. Cook chicken on medium/high heat for around 6-7 minutes on each side. Remove chicken from skillet and set aside. Add the white wine to the same skillet and reduce heat to medium (this is to de-glaze the pan). Scrape all the beautiful brown bits from the bottom of the pan and let the wine reduce down a bit. Once the liquid has reduced by 1/4, add chicken stock, lemon juice, and heavy cream, stirring until all liquids are combined. [If you start cooking your angel hair now in the boiling water, it should time out to be finished once the sauce is ready] Let the sauce reduce for another 5 minutes and then add the capers. Now it’s time to taste! If your sauce needs more salt (mine needed a healthy pinch) now is the time to add it. Mix well. Plate your chicken and pasta, and then pour the sauce over the whole plate.

As you can see… I like sauce. To me, life without sauce is like the beach without sand. The ocean without fish. A boat with no sail!

Can you tell I need a vacation?

Saucy chicken will have to be my escape for now.

*I also want to note that if you ever try this or any recipe I share and you have a question or a concern or an outrage (I mean… I hope not but I’m not perfect. Close. But not quite.) please let me know! Leave a comment or send me an e-mail. I’d love to know how it all turned out in your own kitchens.

1 Comment

Filed under Cooking, Recipes