Monday, August 30, 2010

Pad Thai

My love for Pad Thai dates back to my dates of living in Sydney (which is hands down one of the greatest cities on this planet).  I was far, far away from the land of hot dish and green bean cassarole and I was ready for a tastebud adventure.  I can't remember which of my fabulous friends introduced me to this very basic thai noodle dish, but I can remember it was love at first site.  Peanuts, scallions, delicious noodles.... hello lover.

About a year ago, I found a recipe on eatingwell.com for pad thai and decided that I had to make it.  I went to the Kam Man in Quincy to stock up on all the strange ingredients required to chef up such exoticness.  I remember being appalled financially when I got to the register, but these ingredients have lasted a very long time and have come in handy for many other dishes. 

So let's get to it.  This recipe requires the ability to move quickly.  So I suggest you get your ingredients prepped and ready to go.  

Pad Thai (from eatingwell.com)

4 ounces dried rice noodles
2 teaspoons peanut oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 large egg, lightly beaten
8 ounces small shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 cups mung bean sprouts
1/2 cup sliced scallion greens
3 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 1/2 tablespoons fish sauce
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon chili-garlic sauce
2 tablespoons chopped dry-roasted peanuts


Lots of ingredients needed for Pad Thai.
Substitutions:
 I chose to sub in wheat angel hair vs the rice noodles.  I didn't like the rice noodles I did last time, so I decided to play it safe this time around.  If you go rice noodles, soak for 20 minutes in hot water until softened.  If you go pasta noodles, boil water and cook as directed.  

I also chose to sub in chicken vs shrimp for budget reasons.  Shrimp doesn't have to be cooked beforehand, but obviously the chicken would need to be chopped and cooked before adding.

(Side note:  you're about to notice my cooking vessel is a frying pan.  I had a wok, which was amazing, but was left behind in the move.  You make due with what ya got.  let's all pour one out for things that were once had and are no longer. :( )

Once you have the noodles ready, start your engines.  it's go time.  And it's fast.

Heat your peanut oil on medium high until hot.  Add garlic and let brown quickly.  This takes a matter of 30 seconds.  


Next, your lightly beaten egg needed to be scrambled. Scramble around until cooked.


Once your egg is lightly scrambled, add in the shrimp first, stir frying until pink and then the noodles, stir frying until soft.  If you go my route, I threw them in at the same time and stir frying around until warm.


Next add in your scallions and bean sprouts and remaining ingredients.  The bean sprouts in this recipe are a filler.  You use less noodles, add in bean sprouts and VIOLA! instantaneously healthy.  No flavor lost.  Stir fry around.  You see I am struggling here with my tiny tiny little frying pan.  With a wok this was way easier to mix around the flavors and stir fry - I made a sick mess of my stove trying to do so with this pan. 


 Perfection.  Healthy, homemade Pad Thai.


Cry for me!  The pitfalls of cooking for one are clearly evidenced above.  This clean up was brutal.

Don't forget to add your smushed up peanuts as a topper.  I clearly used a can of soup to smash my peanuts.  Yum.  So good.


Calories count: 325, servings, 4.
(Disclaimer, mine only last two servings.)

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Transported by a smell....

The other night, a glorious smell wafted through my kitchen and it smelled something like this:



More specifically like this:


State Fair Cheese Curds.  It's a modern Christmas Labor Day miracle. 

And just like that, that smell transported me back to some of the greatest times of summers past.  The Minnesota State Fair is like something else, with it's carnie rides,  fried food stands, unique Food on a Stick creations, award winning farm animals, vendor booths and a HAUNTED HOUSE - it pretty much leaves nothing out.  And while you're eating your spaghetti on a stick, you can entertain yourself by the serious people watching.  This glorious fun fest lasts a solid 10 days leading up to Labor Day.  This fair means business.  Because I grew up with all of it's glory, I thought every state had a ginormous state fair where people come from all 50 states and foreign countries that are across ponds.

I learned very quickly that the MN State Fair is rare.  My first summer in Boston, I just assumed that there was a Massachusetts State Fair and that it was as big and as grand.  I asked people about it and imagine how shocked I was that some of them had no idea what I was talking about.  My soul sister W (who grew up in MI and understands a true state fair) informed me about the Big E and I thought I was in luck.  City Living, State Fair Summers - I had hit the jackpot in my move.

The Big E sucked.  It was the size of a postage stamp, the fried foods were all wrong and there wasn't a pickle on a stick to be found.  The rides consisted of some weak ferris wheel and merry go round and the fair goers were more sad looking than entertaining.  They did have beer and I think it was it's only redeeming quality.  I'm only exaggerating slightly. You're expecting steak and instead you get a slice of deli roast beef.  You would be disappointed too.

My trip home this summer coincidentally (right) coincides with State Fair Season.  I'm so excited!!  Cheese curds here I come.  Martha's has a cookie with my name on it.  There will be ice cream!  I can pay a dollar to drink all you can drink milk (but I won't because that's just asking for a lactose reaction) and if I wanted, I could stand in line for an hour to get a bucket of french fries (but I won't because they are soggy and overrated).  You guys know exactly what I am talking about.

And I will have to convince someone to ride this with me:

Obviously the best ride, EVER.
So thank you strange city smell for taking me home for a few moments.... I know you weren't actually cheese curds, but the tease was all I needed.  Isn't it amazing what smells can do to trigger memories? 

What are your trigger smells?

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Jazz up a classic recipe

I had the opportunity to cook at my BF's parents' house. They have a gorgeous kitchen. It is honestly dreamy. The cabinets are white, and the walls are burnt orange. I could almost drool when I am there.

We were given free reign to the ingredients while the BF's parents were at the cabin. The BF and I were in town for his high school reunion.

I noticed that they had bacon, lettuce, and tomatoes.

Easy!

But wait, this is boring. zzzzzz...

Being an overachiever, I decided to spice it up. Instead of using a loaf of bread, I decided to heat up sandwich buns. It's so easy. I love a nice, warm sandwich. All you do is heat up the bread on a cookie sheet for 5 minutes (tops!) at 375 degrees.

Then, instead of mayo, I made a mixture of Dijon mustard, mayo, black pepper, and thyme. It is really easy, and most kitchens have those ingredients on hand. It adds a nice twist that tastes much better than mayo.






Dinner is served..

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Eat, Pray, Love

Have you read it? I just finished the book.

I have not been to India or Indonesia, but I have been to Italy.

I could barely focus on the other parts of the book.

Italy.

Ahhhhh...

My palate is still thanking me.

Go. Now.

Like, go purchase a plane ticket. I'm serious.

Why are you still reading this?

Go order your ticket right now.

The food that I had in Italy was literally the best food that I have ever had. It all tasted so fresh and well seasoned.

I can't wait to go back.

Maybe I'll go for my honeymoon in approximately 2025.

Sigh.

Excuse me, I must go buy a lottery ticket.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Cooking has taught me to relax

I know that many people think that cooking is stressful. They think that it is a lot of pressure to produce a delicious meal or a beautifully decorated cake.

Cooking has taught me to relax.

I am THE ultimate multitasker. I am usually bored if I am not doing 90 things at one time. I have twelve windows open in my Firefox browser right now. I'm also texting my dad about the Twins game and tweeting while uploading photos and pouring a glass of pinot noir. Did I mention that I am reading an article about Brett Favre?

I am also driven by speed. I like to do things FAST.



I have discovered that my natural tendencies are not conducive for cooking.

You have to be patient with cooking. Rushing in the kitchen results in spilled milk, sugar, or __fill in the blank ingredient___. Also, do you enjoy sweeping up glass? Do you enjoy bleeding when you cut your hand on broken glass? I do not. I have broken many serving bowls and wine glasses. Do you enjoy ruining clothes because of splashed grease/oil stains? <-- I hate that! Those stains are avoidable. When cooking, it is best to slowwwwwwwwwwwwwwww dowwwwwwwwwwwwwn. Pace yourself. Talk out loud. I often read my recipes out loud to make sure that I am getting the measurements correct.
In the past, I would curse or cry when I spilled ingredients. Is that pathetic or normal? Now, I laugh.

I think this means that I am in a good place. I think it means that I have found peace and tranquility in the kitchen. I sure hope so.

P.S. Staring at the oven does not make it go faster.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Cookie Dough Brownies with Chocolate Ganache

My mom's giant family (of 11 brothers and sisters) has always know that my Aunt Geri was a fabulous baker.  During the holidays, each sibling was in charge of something and Geri's destiny was that of Dessert Lady.  As luck would have it, our giant family required not just one dessert, but many.  Geri would modestly come into my grandmother's house with three or four baked goods in hand every holiday.  The family was always excited to see what Geri had decided to bring each year.  Cheesecakes and chocolate and pies, oh my!  Because you didn't want to be forced to choose which one, many of us simple requested the Sample Platter, a sliver of each.

A two year breast cancer survivor, my Aunt Geri passed away in early August, devastating the entire family and those who knew her.  She had worked for 24 years at the local newspaper and after her passing, they dedicated an entire section of the paper to her.  Many of her colleagues wrote heartwarming tributes to her and it wasn't surprising that many of those tributes mentioned her talent for cheffing up deliciousness in the kitchen.  Monkey bread and cookie dough brownies were of the most mentioned desserts.

These items weren't regulars on the holiday dessert circuit and I haven't been fortunate enough to try any of these out of Geri's kitchen, but don't they sound good? A google search of Monkey Bread make my mouth water... and cookie dough?  Well, now that's a dessert after my own heart.

In honor of my Aunt Geri, I took cookie dough brownies to the kitchen.  It's not her recipe (doubtful she really even used them anymore anyways) and I jazzed it up a bit with a chocolate ganache topping, as I took the easy way to make them.

Geri is, and will be, greatly missed.


Cookie Dough Brownie with a Chocolate Ganache

Does this look too easy?  It is.  I cheated and took the easy way out.  Betty Crocker, don't fail me now.  If not limited by strange organics at Whole Paychex and limited variety at CVS, I would have probably gone with a richer box of brownie mix. Like a Betty Crocker Supreme- something that would fluffy up more.   It's city living and you make do with what you got at hand.


Prepare both the brownies and the cookies as directed.




This is me, practicing sheer willpower.  Cookie Dough is any form is like crack.  I'm an addict.  Guilty.  


The brownie mix goes into the pan - you should use a 9x13.  I used this small pan because I halfed the recipe.  Because having an entire pan of these in my house is detrimental to maintaining a figure that will entice gentleman folks to take me out on dates and woo me.  


With the brownie base, drop spoonfuls of cookie dough into the brownie batter, pushing down lightly.  Then pop into the oven.  I followed the temp directions on the brownie box.  Then I eye balled the baking, pulling out when the toothpick came out clean from the center.  In a redo, I would probably err on the side of undercooking next time.




These will need to cool before you make the chocolate ganache.

Now, chocolate ganache sounds fancy, but it's really easy to make.  Three simple ingredients:  chocolate, butter, cream.

Bag of semi sweet chips, 3/4 cup of cream, 6 Tbls of butter.  Heat the cream and butter in a saucepan over medium heat.  Melt the butter and stir until the point just before it boils.  You'll see the edges start to bubble.  Pour over the chocolate chips and fold and stir until the chips are melted.

Easy as that.  I wouldn't use light cream next time.  I don't know what I was thinking.  There's nothing even remotely healthy about these.   That's why they taste so damn delicious.

Pour the ganache over the brownie and let sit until the ganache firms up.  I left mine in over night and for breakfast the next morning, had this treat:


Garden Omelet

I love Sunday mornings.  Mostly because it means a whole day of freedom to do whatever I want to do.  Last week, I trekked to the Normal People Grocery Store, leisured around finding bargains and other fairly priced items.  I left with a $90 bill, but I had some serious food and felt content with the value ratio.  But that's a whole 'nother blog post folks... the point is, I had my coffee, I had my walk and I left that grocery store feeling satisfied and happy.

This Sunday was no exception to the Satisfied Sunday rule.  I arrived back from MN very late the night before, so I enjoy a nice late sleep and then padded into the kitchen to see what I could chef up for a little breakfast.   I found some eggs, mushrooms, scallions, and some seriously old milk.  (Side note, I have still not tossed this seriously old milk.  I'm afraid of it.  Try not to judge.)  I decided for the omelet route and chopped up the mushrooms and scallions and threw them in a pan to soften up a bit for a few minutes.

I whisked two eggs in a bowl and poured them into the pan.  Since the shredded cheese has apparently gone MIA, I threw some ricotta into the mix.  Close enough right? 

Did you know Italians say ree-GOT-ta?  I know this because one of my BFF's boyfriend is straight up RI Italian and those folks know what they are talking about.  I'm from the midwest and I say ri-COT-a.  

I also say bay-gle (bagel) and pop (soda) and my east coast friends take enjoyment in making fun of my funny sounding 'O's.  Jerks.

I digress.  Back to the omelet.  Omelet making is a skill.  I prefer to have the pan at a medium heat.  When you pour the egg mixture in, keep shuffling around the eggs to the side and tilting the pan so the eggs run onto the clean part.  They key is to keep the egg cooking, but to keep it all in one piece. Leave for a few minutes on this one side  

Once it is ready to be flipped, you'll be able to tell because the edges will turn up a bit and the omelet will be soft on top.  Using a spatula, be very careful in flipping it over.  Sometimes I use two of them to ensure it flips safely.

See how the edges are clean and the top looks soft, not runny?  Top this with cracked pepper and you're ready to flip.




Once it's flipped, it needs very little time on the second side.  Maybe thirty seconds to a minute max.  You'll know it's ready when it slides around the pan pretty easily.  At this point you're all set.  As you transfer to your plate, fold in half as it slides out of the pan.  



If you love your omelet cheese-y, sprinkle it on the omelet before you transfer to your plate.  As you transfer, it will smoosh the cheese in between the hot sides and melt in a crazy delicious way.


I really liked this omelet.  Using just what I had on hand, I think I did pretty well.  The ricotta wasn't a complete substitute for real cheese, but it did the trick.


Calories - 225.  (eggs- 140, ricotta - 60, vegetables - 25)

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Farmers' Markets

I love farmers' markets.

Growing up, I sold my grandpa's sweet corn on the side of the road and at a farmers' market.

Farmers' markets are THE place to get fresh and safe ingredients, but most importantly, they have a great vibe. They always give me a sense of community and loyalty to the local economy.

Finding a farmers' market near you is easy.



Farmers' markets definitely vary in size and produce. A few weeks ago, I went to the Burnsville Farmers' Market, and it was just okay. This morning I went to the Downtown St. Paul Farmers' Market, and I loved it. They had bread, meats, veggies, herbs, fruit, flowers, and even music.





I wanted to buy some tomatoes after reading Kelley's yummy post, Stuffed Tomatoes.

Here is what I bought!

The tomatoes are pretty ripe. I hope that they last a few days. I cannot resist sweet corn. I was raised on it. The bacon is hormone free. The pigs were raised humanely.





Here is a close-up of the bacon. It's Pepper Bacon. I think it will be delicious for a simple eggs and bacon breakfast tomorrow.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Quirky Frugality? Or Defining Future Cat Lady?

Did you know that you can bring food through TSA security?

Oh yeah, you can! And I might just be the first person on this green earth to be sitting at the Philadelphia airport eating steamed asparagus and sautéd spinach (at 7 am no less). I was cleaning my kitchen last night and feeling sad for some of the vegetables that would more than likely be bad by the time I got back on Sunday. Then I started feeling bad for my wallet for the waste of cash.

You never really see anyone traveling with food they didn't buy at the airport, so I figured there were rules against it. But I checked the TSA site last night and it's only liquids that are forbidden through security. No rules against green vegetables (or the weird girls who have them on their person).

So at 11 pm last night I steamed all my asparagus and sautéd up some spinach and placed in Tupperware.  Instead of eating a bagel or unhealthy egg sandwich, I am enjoying a tasty vegetable breakfast. Take that overpriced airport food! Take that unhealthy eating! I win!!! Mwahahahh.

And I have no doubt that this is why I may or may not be single for an extended period of time. I guess I am just quirky enough to be okay with it.

 (covert picture taking operation.)

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Steak Bun

It's my blog and I can brag if I want to right?  Clearly.  That's what self promotion is all about.


Tonight, I made one of the tastiest things I have ever cheffed up in the kitchen.  It's so tasty that I can't wait to make it again in the near future and play with the recipe!  Until then, I have a party sized serving that I get to eat for every meal until I head home to Minnesota in 36 hours.  I went out for a glass of wine tonight with a few coworkers, but I am not going to lie, I was pretty excited to come home and try out this recipe.  (And was rewarded!)

I had a recipe to follow, but I merely used it as a guide rather than the law.  It's call Steak Bun - which is a Vietnamese noodle dish typically made with rice, crispy vegetables, a tangy sauce and thinly sliced meat. My recipe is below, the official Eating Well recipe is below. 

Official Steak Bun (by Kelley).
1/2 pound beef round (stripped for stirfry - about $3.50 in MA grocery store)
3 tbsp teriyaki (for stir frying meat)
6 ounces wheat spaghetti (thin or angel hair)
1/2 cup rice vinegar
2 tbsp fish sauce (smelly)
2 tbsp sugar
7 1/2 cups napa cabbage (shredded in bag)
1 shredded carrot
1/2 cup green onions/scallions
1/8 cup unsalted peanuts, crushed.





3 tbsp teriyaki into a hot pan on medium high heat.  My hope was to infused some flavor.  My reality was that the teriyaki served as a healthy alternative to oil, rather than any delicious flavor reduction.  Meh, sometimes your most grandiose ideas in the kitchen fall flat.  I did about 3 to 4 minutes on each side.  I wanted the middles pink and the meat not over cooked.  Set aside to cool.



All these ingredient might seem overwhelming at first, but they are things I have on hand.  Fish sauce and rice vinegar have been around for a while (purchased both at Kam Man in Quincy, saved both from Garbage Bound fates in numerous fridge cleanings - I knew they would come in handy... someday!)

Also, one of these things is not like the other.  Bud Light Lime!  How did that get in there?  C'mere... let me drink you. 

Start boiling water for pasta.  Boil and then rinse with cold water.  Noodles taste best semi chilled for this recipe.

Oh, Holla! Are those BBQ Pop Chips?  YES!  oh wait.  Must.  Resist. All Temptation.  To. Have. Beer. And. PopChips. Dinner....

After I polished off both the Bud Light Lime AND the remainder of the PopChips, I mixed the rice vinegar, fish sauce and sugar in a bowl together.  Whisk.  Set aside.



I mixed the cabbage, shredded carrots and scallions in a bowl.  Add chilled pasta noodles.

Added me some of the cool beef that I sliced (along the meat grain of course!) and the peanuts that I crushed with a random can of baked beans.  (Feel free to use food processor to grind up OR use whatever heavy item you might have.  I wrapped mine in a semi ghetto bag fashion out of generic plastic wrap to crush.)

I'm don't need fancy brand names to make awesome meals!  So there!

If you're cooking for one, like me (code name: leftovers three days in a row), then portion out salad mixture into containers. Do not add the dressing mixture until you're ready to eat, otherwise the cabbage will get all soggy and lose it's delicious crunch.  Once you're ready to eat, spoon a few tablespoons of dressing into the salad mixture and mix around.  Be liberal, but not overly liberal.


That's it! Up close!  Droll over those fabulous colors and crunch.  Delishhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!  Am very, very much looking forward to healthy sized portions for lunch and dinner tomorrow.

Next time I make this, I am going to use mint instead of scallions and add mango pieces.  You could also use pork or chicken.  You could also scratch the teriyaki and use EVOO or canola or peanut oil.  Additionally, you could use sub rice noodles (as the recipe calls for), but I thought a skinny wheat noodle worked just as well.

I'm in quite the single girl predicament:  I am unexpectedly heading home to MN on Thursday for my aunt's funeral.  Yet I have probably $15 worth of brand new produce that probably won't last until I get back on Saturday.  I need to look into creating some sort of spinach, asparagus, scallion and mushroom creation tomorrow night and freezing it for future use.  

Calories - (3 portions) - 550 calories each


Steak Bun: (official recipe from eating well)
1 Tbsp - canola oil
1 pound sirloin or strip steak
6 ounces rice noodles
1/2 cup rice vinegar
2 Tbsp fish sauce
2 Tbsp sugar
4 cups shredded napa cabbage
1 1/2 shredded carrot
1 cup thinly sliced radishes
1 cup fresh sliced basil or mint
1/2 cup chopped peanuts
Prep same as my recipe above.




Sunday, August 8, 2010

Stuffed Tomatoes

I'm not parading around pretending that I am any sort of expert in the kitchen.  My goal is not to crank out expert meals, my goal is to nourish my body, inspire my soul and hopefully learn useful skills (by trial and error, of course).  I love being in the kitchen - mostly because it does not come natural to me.  Which might sound a bit backward, but I love a good challenge and I love to learn.  Chefs are trained, not created.

There's hope for me!

I originally got into the kitchen because I wanted to cook to provide a solid meal for my significant other.  But he was a picky eater, so I quickly learned that my creative food creation would be limited to meat, starch, vegetable.  I grew up in a household where hamburgers were the norm and garlic and spice were too exciting for our midwestern taste buds.  Bless my mother, she never stood a chance beyond hot dish, quiche and hamburger helper and I was starting to feel those same limitations.  For years now, I have been ever expanding my taste palate at restaurants and throughout travels and I have been foaming at the mouth to try out various exciting recipes at home.  But I didn't - I didn't see the point in selfishly making a dinner for myself without anyone to share with. 

Sharing is caring.

I mean, I certainly could have.  But I happily drank that Cohabitation Kool-Aid.  We're a team.  We eat together.  We compromise.  It's all part of the game.   I certainly was not going to die eating steamed vegetables and a meat every night.  But part of me did die a little.  I was less excited to be in the kitchen anymore because there was no creative challenge involved.  And man, I love a good challenge.

Enter the joy of cooking for one.

Enter garlic.  Enter onions.  And strictly vegetarian dishes.  Spice?  Yes, please!

So when my fabulous coworker brought me some of these bad boys, you can imagine my excitement.  Look at these babies:




These are fresh tomatoes, straight off the vine in Braintree.  And I just knew I had to use these as the primary ingredient for dinner.  

Hello, Stuffed Tomatoes!

Tomatoes - any kind.  Mine were 1.5 inches diameter - so on the small side.
10 oz frozen spinach
1/2 cup ricotta cheese
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
4 oz deli ham.
Freshly ground pepper


Frozen spinach, defrosted and squeezed dry.  (Surprising how much liquid is in frozen spinach)



Cut off the tops of your tomatoes and spoon out the interiors.  The larger the tomato, the less you need to spoon out.  Mine were small, so I spooned out the majority.  Set aside tomatoes, put guts into separate bowl.




4 oz deli ham, hand shredded.  (Grace the cat was all over this.  You would think she never gets fed.  Can someone tell her that there are cats who actually eat fancy feast and that don't get regular scraps of ham?)



Combine, ham, spinach, 1/2 cup of ricotta and the Parmesan cheese. (I had shredded Italian, I used that instead.)



Mash it all up - ensuring you have enough ricotta to bind it all together.  Feel free to use more ricotta than I did.  I was trying to keep it semi low calorie.  Top with freshly ground black pepper.  (Be liberal).

Don't forget to taste test.  Can you taste the black pepper?  If not, add more.  So delicious I could have eaten this plain.



Take your tomato guts and pour into baking dish.  Stuff your hallowed tomatoes with the spinach/ricotta mixture.  

Start drooling.  I didn't want to bake these.  I wanted to just eat them straight up.

Into the oven they go on 425.  Depending on the size of your tomatoes - you could leave them in for 25 minutes.  Mine were so small, so I did about 13 minutes.  The cheese was browning on top, so I called it good.



Look at those babies.  Sweet perfection.



Hello darling.

These were amazing.  The ham adds just the right amount of saltiness to the cheese mixture.  I sort of wish I had only baked half of them.  I loved them warm,  but wish I had tried one cold - I think it would have been just as good.  

I can't lie.  I felt incredibly liberated tonight making and eating these for dinner.  First of all, they turned out gorgeous.  Second, they tasted awesome.  It wouldn't be something I would have cheffed up in my old life. But once again, it just reinforced the fact that this is MY life now and I get to do as I please.  Which includes eating only stuffed tomatoes and bud light lime for dinner.  Which is how my classy self rolls.

Calories - 450/500 calories, divided by number of tomatoes.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Sausage Pepper Pasta Sauce

My massage therapist pretty much summed it up today:

"Girl, you are hot mess."

Indeed I am, Guy Who Makes Me Writh in Pain, I haven't been home for more than a New York Minute all week. My 350 square feet is filthy (by my standards) and the Sous Chef hasn't had a meaty treat all week. Not to mention it most definitely must be trash night tonight as I cannot put it off another day. I need to mentally unwind. I need to find sanity in creation. I need to financially make use of the food in my fridge.

Enter, the inspiration:



These are grilled peppers and onions left over from a BBQ last night. Part of me was tempted to just eat these delicious leftovers straight up with a piece of whole grain bread. Then my mind screamed, YOU ARE 28 YEARS OLD! Pour yourself a glass of wine and make yourself a proper meal woman!


Looking through the kitchen, I decided to whip up a pasta sauce.


1 sausage (left over from a BBQ, I froze it months ago)
Array of grilled red & green peppers and onions (fresh and frozen would also work)
1 tsp chopped garlic
Can of crushed tomatoes
Dash of Olive Oil
Pepper
Basil
Oregano
Pasta (of your choosing)



These frozen sausages work perfect. I defrost, then slit the casing and empty the meat into a pan to ground and fry up. Cook until no longer pink, then indulge the Sous Chef. She's staring at you, burning guilt into your soul.
In another pan, heat up a dash of olive oil, garlic and start lightly sauteing up those peppers. If yours are fresh or frozen, cook a bit longer. Mine already had a delicous grilled char, so I mostly wanted to heat and release some of the flavor.

Once the sausage is cooked and the peppers are ready, add in a can of crushed tomatoes. I used this basil one because that's what happened to be in the cabinet.



Give a good mix. Add in basil and oregano. I did about a tsp of each. Heat until evenly hot and begins to bubble. Reduce heat to a low simmer and cover.



What is this you ask? It's called a used cookie sheet, I mean, innovation. I clearly need to invest in a proper sized cover for my frying pan.
Lemons into Lemonade kids. You make do with what you got.




Look at that baby! Go! Simmer! Combine your various and delicious flavors! Meanwhile, boil your water and chef up some pasta of your choosing. Don't forget to salt the water. Continue to simmer and stir your sauce frequently so that it doesn't burn on the bottom. Also prevents it from thickening up too much.
When the pasta is ready - taste test your sauce. It shouldn't be tomato-y tasting. It should taste like Italy. Its surprisingly deliciousness should make you daydream for a moment. Oh yes, maybe you really do have what it takes in this kitchen stuff. Oh yeah. I'm opening up a legit Italian restaurant in the North End baby!!!
Steady. Audience of one doesn't not translate to mass production. Start small - maybe impress a date first.




Look at that. Oh wait. It's missing something..........







Italian cheese! But of course! Standard grated parmesean feels too generic for this easy homemade sauce.




I've been on a whole grain bread kick lately. And the merlot? well, that's just standard fare.
Making a sauce can be intimidating, but it certainly doesn't have to be overwhelming. There's plenty of room for creativity and it chefs up surprisingly fast. I actually think the leftovers will taste better tomorrow once they have had a chance to cuddle up in the fridge overnight.
Sous Chef Gracie gives it 5.5 stars (Mostly for its inclusion of sausage.)