Pasta Puttanesca

There’s lots of debate about the origin of this particular sauce/dish.  One theory is that the dish was created by prostitutes as an attempt to attract customers by its enticing aroma.  Other sources say that the ladies, busy with other things, did not want to cook too much and thus turned to this easy yet tasty dish.

To be honest, I don’t care about who came up with it or why.  What I care about is the fact that this dish is easy, aromatic, and flavorful. As far as I’m concerned, those three adjectives have the ability to potentially lure anyone.

Pasta Puttanesca
Recipe from Ellie Krieger

8 ounces whole-wheat thin spaghetti, vermicelli or angel hair
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/3 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
1/4 cup pitted chopped Spanish or Greek olives
2 tablespoons capers
1 teaspoon anchovy paste
1 tablespoon fresh oregano leaves or 1 teaspoon dried
1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 (14-ounce) can diced tomatoes, preferably “no salt added”
3/4 cup chopped fresh arugula
1/4 cup grated Parmesan

1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil, add pasta and cook according to the directions on the package.
2. While the pasta is cooking, heat the oil in a large skillet over a medium flame. Add the garlic and saute until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the parsley, olives, capers, anchovy paste, oregano and crushed red pepper to the skillet, and saute for 2 minutes more. Add the tomatoes and simmer for about 5 minutes. Stir in the arugula and simmer for 1 minute more, until the greens wilt slightly.
3. When the pasta is done, drain it and add it to the skillet, tossing it with the sauce to combine. Top with grated cheese.
Now, I used spaghetti squash in place of pasta.  I can honestly say I love it this way (but I dig it either way, for that matter).  It’s a really easy swap and in my opinion, just as satisfying.  I’m not an advocator of the low-carbohydrate diet, but if you’re looking to cut some calories, boost your vegetable intake, or you just don’t want pasta, give this a try!  For a great how-to for cooking spaghetti squash, visit Kath’s site.

Bring/salty olives and capers, fresh parsley, and slightly spicy red pepper make this dish a winner.  To whoever came up with it, prostitute or not, thank you.  From the bottom of my heart.

White chili

 
White chili is what’s up.  Seriously.  So good.
 
I had a whole bunch of leftover Christmas turkey still waiting to be eaten and decided to use it in my favorite white chili recipe.  It was a good call.
White Chicken (Turkey) Chili
Original recipe via Serious Eats found here
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 2/3 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 seeded jalapeño pepper, chopped
  • 1 can (4-ounce) chopped green chilies
  • 2/3 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano or Italian seasoning
  • Pinch ground cloves
  • Pinch cayenne pepper
  • 1 can large white beans, undrained
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 1 1/2 cups diced cooked chicken
  • 1/2 cup grated low-fat Monterey Jack or white cheddar cheese
1. Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Stir in the onion and cook until tender, 4 to 7 minutes. Mix in the garlic, jalapeño, green chile peppers, cumin, oregano, cloves, and cayenne. Continue to cook and stir the mixture until tender, about 3 minutes. Mix in the chicken broth, chicken and white beans. Bring to a boil. Turn down heat and simmer 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Don’t worry if it’s a little soupy.
2. At the end of 20 minutes, mash chili lightly using a potato masher, until about half of the beans are broken up. This will give the chili a thicker consistency that will be thickened even more by the cheese. Speaking of…
3. Serve topped with grated cheese. Garnish with cilantro, chopped fresh tomato, salsa, chopped scallions, and/or guacamole if you like, or have fresh warmed flour tortillas or tortilla chips on the side.
 
 

A couple changes I make/thoughts I have:

1. I leave out the cloves.  I do this for no reason other than I don’t have cloves and the chili still tastes awesome regardless.
2. I use about 1/4 teaspoon of cayenne, always with the fear of going overboard on the spicy ship, but in the few times I’ve made it, it never comes out spicy.  If you like a kick, I’d either up the amount of cayenne or leave the seeds in the jalapeño.
3. I think the addition of zucchini or wilted spinach would be nice.  More flavor and substance plus extra nutrients?  Ain’t nothin’ wrong with that.
4. One time I made this only to come to the realization that I did not have any white beans.  I substituted red kidney beans and it still tasted great.  It ended up looking Christmasy. (:

This recipe is super simple and a definite go-to for something easy, warm, and hearty.

ps – I’m really thinking Joy the Baker’s jalapeno pepper jack scones would go great with this.  Definitely keeping that in mind for next time.

Salad?

I recently posted some of my favorite food memories from the past year, but I realized I forgot one!

Grass in my pre-packaged salad.  For a quick meal before I had to leave for work one day, I got a salad from Fresh&Easy, a local grocery store.  I was munching away when I discovered an awfully long and skinny piece of “lettuce” on my fork.  Upon closer inspection, I confirmed that it was a piece of grass.  I was shocked, but for some odd reason, I had a feeling this was more common than I thought.  After laughing in disbelief, I ate the rest of my salad, cautious to avoid any more blades of grass.  Some of you might scrunch your faces in disgust that I continued eating, but hey…there was no dirt or dandelions.  That’s where I would have drawn the line.

Anyways, I haven’t gotten a salad from there since.  Sorry Fresh&Easy, but I’m more of a spinach salad type of girl.  Save the grass for the farm animals.


Mouth-watering

This is the very first image that appears when you search the word “food” on Google images.  Definitely not making me drool.

I hate hotdogs.

I got nothing against a good french fry every now and then, but when I think about food, I’m thinking about the good stuff.  The stuff that makes you sit in silence, close your eyes, and smile when you eat it.  Roasted salmon, roasted sweet potatoes, roasted anything.  Sushi, shish kabobs, pad thai.  Fresh baked bread, vanilla cupcakes with real vanilla buttercream, cheesecake.  Crunchy sweet apples, fresh vegetables, juicy berries.  These are just a few of the things that make my heart sing and the list is ever-growing.

What foods make YOUR mouth water?
…please don’t say hotdogs.

Merry Christmas!

 Sweet success.

I am so blessed, it’s overwhelming.  Not just because I have cinnamon rolls in my belly, and not just because of my stellar friends and family and countless other blessings, but mostly because I have a Jesus who loves me unconditionally and sacrificed His life so I could have mine.  He truly is the real reason for the season!

She will give birth to a son, 
and you are to give him the name Jesus, 
because he will save his people from their sins.
Matthew 1:21



Wishing you a super lovely Christmas!

Food memories

It’s Christmas Eve!  I’m one of those people who really digs Christmastime.  I like the music, the cheesy decorations, and the cookies.  Actually, I love the cookies.


Tomorrow, I’m going to be making cinnamon rolls for Christmas morning.  I’m pretty stoked.  I’ve never made cinnamon rolls before so this will be an adventure.  I’ll definitely update about how it all went.

What are your favorite food memories from this past year?
Let me share with you some of mine.

Pesto from a farmers market in San Diego.  I tasted the one in the middle and it was heaven.  So simple but so delicious.  It wasn’t blended to a pulp…in fact, it was pretty much deconstructed pesto.  There were lots of roughly chopped pieces of fresh basil, whole pine nuts, and plenty of good olive oil.  I may or may not dream about it from time to time.
Red walnuts from the same farmers market.  I’d never heard of red walnuts before this day.  They were addicting.  Best walnuts I’ve ever had.
Clam chowder from the Fisherman’s Wharf in Monterey, California.  I’ve visited this place so many times growing up and every time I go, getting clam chowder is a must.  There are numerous restaurants and vendors that offer samples.  I don’t have a specific one that I’d recommend, but just know that I have never been disappointed by any sample I’ve tried or bowl I’ve bought.  If you ever decide to go and get some, please do yourself a favor and get it in a sourdough bread bowl.  Swoon.
Vanilla cupcakes with verrry vanilla buttercream and oreo sunflowers.  A couple of my darling friends surprised me with these for my birthday.  My friend said he accidentally spilled too much vanilla extract into the frosting, making it super vanilla-y.  It’s a good thing I love vanilla.  My favorite flower and perfect cupcakes?  I couldn’t ask for more.  (Please note the cute M&M ladybugs.)
Red and green enchiladas.  My friends are too good to me.  I was totally content with my cupcakes, but they threw me a party too.  We made these yummy enchiladas and had a blast.
Ice cream from Maggie Moo’s in St. George, Utah.  My mom and I took a quick trip to the Utah Shakespearean Festival and made a very good decision in stopping by Maggie Moo’s between plays.  I got classic vanilla and dark chocolate.  So.  Good.
Mini berry tart from Whole Foods Market.  WF is pretty much my dream grocery store.  I rarely shop there but when I do, I make sure to hunt down every single free sample they’re offering.  Especially the cheese.  Please tell me I’m not alone in this.  Although this was a free sample, I would have gladly paid money for it.  I could have eaten this tart in one bite but it was so good, I made it last for two.  Craziness, I know.  Those two bites were perfect.
Side note – please pardon my super dirty fingernails.
Fancy pants tea.  One of my lovely friends gave me this.  It was from the Venetian or some other fancy place on the strip.  I can’t remember exactly what it was called, but I do remember it was a black tea with hints of vanilla and cinnamon.  And it came in a cool pyramid shaped bag.
 Brownies.  These might look good, but they weren’t my favorite.  The reason they’re on here is because this was the first thing I made for my silly little “Operation Food Blog” photo album on Facebook.  With the help of my best friend, we photographed every step of the brownie making process.  The results were pretty, but the taste was just way too dark, fudgey, and rich for me.  
…..Did I really just say that?
Ina Garten’s apple crostata.  Buttery, almost shortbread-like crust, tart apples, and a sweet crumb topping.  This has to be one of my favorite things that I’ve ever made.  I made it as a Thanksgiving dessert and it was devoured.  My mom loved it so much she asked me to make another one the day after.  I honestly don’t think I’ll ever make an apple pie again because this apple dessert is so much better and so much easier.  Go make this recipe now!
Korean glass noodles with bulgogi marinated chicken.  Cooking this dish was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.  This is the kind of food that’s so good, even when you’re full to maximum capacity, you’ll risk a severe stomach ache and take another bite simply because you love it so much.  If you’re wondering, I used these recipes.

Goodness gracious.  Just looking at these pictures makes my mouth water.  As this year ends and a new one begins, I’m expecting more fantastic memories and I couldn’t be more excited.

Soft pretzel redo

Are there any Zoom lovers out there?  You know, the PBS show with the energetic kids in matching shirts and sneakers?  I have to tell you, I adored that show when I was younger.  I’m fairly certain it doesn’t run anymore (sad face) but if it did, I’m sure I’d still love it just as much as ever.  One of my favorite segments was the CafeZoom.

When I was about 10 or 11 years old, I saw an episode where they made soft pretzels.  I got stoked.  By the next day, I was in the kitchen on my way to making some for myself.  I followed the directions carefully, put them in the oven, and hoped for the best.  When I took them out, I must have deflated like a popped balloon because they. looked. awful.  So dry and pale in color.  Hoping the flavor might make up for the looks, I took a bite.

I frowned.

They were disgusting.

The family agreed.

I tried passing them off as a dog biscuit and tossed a couple to my dogs, but even they knew better.

In the back of my mind, I knew CafeZoom would not lead me to culinary excellence, but it was definitely fun to try.  I may have been spurred on because of my love for soft pretzels, but in all honestly, it was probably because of the guy who was making them on the show.

I have no shame in saying that I thought he was a cutie.  Bowl cut and all.  Just look how he pours that salt and scoops that flour.  Melts my heart.

Today, I’m going to make homemade soft pretzels that will hopefully be more edible than my last attempt.  Won’t you join me?

After reading the loads of positive reviews, I decided to use this recipe.  Per suggestions of a few commenters, I only used about 4 cups of flour and that worked out just fine for me.  Aside from that, I did everything else as written!  I sprinkled most of the pretzels with plain sea salt and a couple with a little bit of cinnamon sugar.  These weren’t just edible, they were delectable.  Let me take you through the process!

Activate the yeast with sugar and warm water.  About ten minutes later, it will look like this:
Off to a good start.
Add yeast mixture and oil to the dry ingredients and knead to form a smooth ball of dough.  Initially, I used my Kitchen Aid with the dough hook attachment, and when it came together, I kneaded for a couple minutes by hand.  Transfer to an oiled bowl, cover, and let rise in a warm place.  I put my oven on the “warm” setting and left the bowl on top of the stove.
It’ll end up doubling in size after about an hour.
Cut the dough into about 12 equal sections.  It does not have to be perfect.  With a pizza cutter, I cut my dough ball into quarters and then cut each quarter into thirds.  Then we roll!  I rolled the pieces of dough to about an arm’s length.  I’m sure you could do plain sticks or make tiny pretzel bites as well.
I said before that I didn’t make any other changes to the recipe, but I realize now that that’s totally false.  I set my oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit instead of 450, per comment suggestions.  Dip the pretzels into the baking soda water and place on a greased baking sheet.  Throw them in the oven and 8 minutes later, you’ll have pretzels!
Chewy, soft, golden brown pretzels.  The dough was ever so slightly sweet and I loved it.  I put the tiniest bit of butter on them right when they came out of the oven, which I think was the perfect finishing touch.

Needless to say, they were much better than my first attempt at soft pretzels.

Have you ever had a baking/cooking mishap when you were younger that you still remember?  I encourage you to right your wrongs and redo it!  Or just make this recipe.  Win-win situation.