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25 September 2010

Tuna Pasta-Don't be hatin' on my pasta!!

I have been discussing eating on the cheap, a lot. Growing up we didn't have a lot, my parents raised 5 of us on one income. My mother, while a great baker, was not a tremendous cook. She could make all the staples of  a good Italian household as well as hearty American comfort foods, but things were pretty average. We didn't eat out much, if we did, it was someplace good. I didn't have McDonald's fries until I was in high school.
One of the things my mom made was Tuna Pasta. This is a meal that you can make a crowd and spend almost under $5. Now, I know there are those of you who just turned your nose up and said "eww, tuna pasta?" Ahh, bull. I am sick of people putting this particular dish down before they even try it. Let's just figure, tuna in red sauce is a magical thing. It's way freakin' cheap (especially if there is a 99cent store close by), filling and leftovers can be eaten cold! There's reason enough! And, being Catholic, it's good for Fish on Friday.
I am just going to post it... you make it and then let me know.

Tuna Pasta

1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp garlic, minced
1 tbsp Italian seasoning
2 tbsp red onion, fine diced (optional)
1 can tuna, albacore, in water, drained (or if budget is super tight, use the chunk light tuna in oil)
1 8oz can tomato sauce
1 4oz can tomato paste
1 can of water each (12oz)
salt and pepper
crushed red pepper (optional)
8 oz dry macaroni (small pasta shapes: elbow, bowtie, ditalini,etc)

Place olive oil in saucepan and heat. Add garlic, onion and Italian seasoning to hot oil, stirring, do not allow garlic to burn, but just become soft.  Add tuna and mix well, infusing the tuna with the dried herbs. Add in the tomato sauce and water, heat to a soft simmer and allow to cook. Add salt and pepper. Taste. Add more seasoning if needed, or more salt and pepper. Let cook for 15 minutes, thicken a little and let flavors meld. The sauce isn't supposed to be a thick rich sauce. It is supposed to be light. Cook pasta according to package instructions and your taste, I like mine al dente. (a little chewier).
Toss with sauce and serve with a little side salad and Parmesan cheese! If you want it a little heartier, add another can of tuna. You can also stretch this by adding a can of peas or garbanzo beans... or omit the tuna altogether and add the veggies, of course then it is a vegetarian/vegan meal.
Eating is an adventure. Don't be scared to try new things, shop in ethnic markets, or buy cheap.

16 September 2010

Ice Cream Sandwiches

Lately, I have been creating frozen desserts like crazy, there are currently 5 in the freezer right now: nectarine sorbet, vanilla frozen yogurt, peach-sour cream ice cream, sweet cream vanilla and my latest creation, coconut with toasted cashews and caramel ribbon. The last one was made because I got some cashew butter... I know, what does cashew butter have to do with coconut ice cream? Well, when one gets an idea to make ice cream sandwiches, you have to wonder, what flavors shall I create?

I know I have mentioned the fact that I shop at "Pop's"... they have what is called a "banana box groceries". When you are a broke ass you find whatever you can to do what you want.  I love this place because I can buy pounds of baking chocolate for $1 each... Ghiardelli, Lindt, Callebaut. Or King Arthur Flour for a $1 for 5lbs. Just check dates and make sure there are no bugs. I have found cane syrup, Madagascar vanilla, commercial grade chicken stock concentrate... um.. anyhow, lots of great stuff. This is how I come to make interesting things, like cashew butter cookies.

Needless to say this was decadence at it's height for the summer.. I have made some pretty awesome stuff, but as far as OMG! these take it...maybe it was the chocolate ganache?

I searched the internet for a good cookie recipe.. as I have misplaced the best PB cookie recipe (from Park View School Home Econ Class...1983) and I found what I thought may be the right one. It wasn't.
So I adjusted the recipe for what I wanted and came up with this:

Cashew Butter Cookies

16 oz jar cashew butter
4 eggs
1 1/2 cup sugar (am sure brown sugar would make it better)
3 TBSP corn syrup or honey
2 cup flour
1 tsp coarse salt
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup toasted cashews

Oven at 375.  Whip together your cashew butter, eggs, sugar and corn syrup. Whisk together your dry ingredient  and add a bit at a time to the wet. The mixture is going to be sticky! Seriously. Drop by spoonful onto greased cookie sheet, bake 10 minutes. If you want nice consistently sized cookies, get a scoop.
Remove from cookie sheet to cooling rack while still warm. Store in air tight container, good for a week at room temp.

We tried these cookies at first using this recipe (Cashew Butter Cookies).. the flavor wasn't right and it didn't have enough sugar and there was no salt. In fact the cookie reminded me of those almond cookies you can get at Chinese restaurants... but more like cashew chicken than cookie. They are a good cookie, but for use elsewhere and not in ice cream sandwiches.

The coconut ice cream is a simple affair, utilizing what I had available. I found a number of recipes that called for coconut cream, which I didn't have but coconut milk, I had 3 cans.. and I love evaporated milk in ice cream, especially fat free. There is something about it that gives the ice cream good texture and mouth feel despite being fat free. Anyhow, this is a really easy and quick recipe... and if you have some Malibu Rum (or coconut flavored rum), I recommend adding it.. really heightened the flavor of the ice cream especially after the chocolate bath.

Coconut Ice Cream

1 13-oz can fat free evaporated milk
1 13-oz can Thai coconut milk
2 TB coconut flavored rum
1 TB vanilla extract
3/4 cup sugar
1 cup, shredded sweetened coconut, toastedStir all ingredients, except shredded coconut, together in bowl, and chill for 45 min to an hour. Stir before putting in ice cream freezer. Place in and freeze according to manf. directions.. about 3/4 through of the process, pour in the shredded coconut and allow to mix in. Place in freezer safe container...unless you are going to make sammiches, then you need to fill the cookies before you freeze the ice cream. Then place said cookies with ice cream in freezer while you make the ganache.

I made about 14 cookie sandwiches. Made a simple ganache:

1/2 c. chocolate, semi sweet, chopped small
1/2 c heavy cream
splash of vanilla

 in a double boiler, stir til chocolate melts... then start coating.
 I rolled the edges in some toasted cashews and coconut for decoration.
 Now, I have to bake other cookies, or maybe some sort of cake and fill the middle with one of those frozen concoctions I still have in the freezer.

11 September 2010

Lemon...nuff said

I read other food blogs, and I see how they all work out of similar cookbooks, and chat up each other. I have cooked very little from other blogs, utilizing them mainly to get ideas about how I should do mine. Which can be hard sometimes trying to find my voice and choosing what to discuss. But, Lemon is something that I love to work with, savory or sweet, it is one of my favorite flavors, ever.
Anyhow, this is a big time shout out to Patricia @ Technicolor Kitchen! (Brazil) Thank you for this recipe... yes, I tweaked it some: less sugar and added zest in the crust, but this is the lemon bar recipe I have searched for all my life.
I have yet to find a seriously tart lemon bar recipe until now... this makes your mouth sour.. and I LOVE IT!

Tangy Lemon Lime Bars

½ cup unsalted butter, melted
¼ cup sugar
¾ teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup all purpose flour
zest of 1/2 lime 
zest of 1/2 lemon

1 cup sugar
3 tablespoons all purpose flour
3 eggs 
zest of one lime and one lemon.
¼ cup strained freshly squeezed lime juice
¼ cup strained freshly squeezed lemon juice
powdered sugar for dusting, optional

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line an 8x8in square with aluminum foil leaving an overhang on two opposite sides. Butter the foil.

Start with the crust: in a medium bowl, combine melted butter with sugar, vanilla and salt. Add flour and mix until just incorporated. Press dough evenly over bottom of pan. Bake 25 to 30 minutes, or until crust is fully baked, well-browned at the edges and golden brown in the center.
Now, the topping: while crust is baking, stir together sugar and flour in a large bowl until well-mixed. Whisk in eggs. Stir in zest and juices. 
When crust is ready, reduce heat to 300°F, slide rack with pan out and pour filling onto hot crust. Bake 20 to 25 minutes longer, or until topping no longer jiggles when pan is tapped.

Remove from oven to a wire rack to cool completely. Lift up foil liner and transfer bars to a cutting board. Using a long, sharp knife, cut bars into 16  bars and sift powdered sugar over bars, if desired. Stored in an airtight container, bars can be refrigerated for up to 3 days.

Makes 16 

There will be more lemony recipes coming too. Lemon is my kryptonite... but I don't care for lemonade (figure that one out), but a glass of Lemoncello over ice!! W00T!
Thank you again to Technicolor Kitchen as well to Alice Medrich’s "Pure Dessert"
from which these originally came.

Best Lemon Bars, Ever!

10 September 2010

Late Summer Fruit and a Breakfast Bread Pudding

This summer has been great as far as fruit goes. Peaches have been a little late because of the weather being so cool. However, nectarines have had a longer season than usual, providing us with fruit that is juicy and sweet like seriously, candy. Everything has gotten to stay on the trees a little bit longer.
I love making bread pudding. It is a good way to clean out the fridge, freezer and take all the bits of bread ends sitting on the counter and make something really tasty. Also, by using up bits of dried and fresh fruits and whatever bread there is, it makes for a fun texture as well as flavorful recipe.
I wanted something a little more breakfast-y because I was going to friends for brunch, so the addition of cream cheese, cinnamon, nutmeg and maple syrup pushed that envelope. And, letting it soak overnight made it firm and easily servable after baking the following morning.

Overnight Breakfast Bread Pudding with Nectarines

One loaf white, Italian or French or sourdough bread, sliced
8 oz cream cheese
1/2 c. maple syrup
1/2 c. brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
7 eggs
1/2 pint heavy cream
1 c milk
1 cup brown sugar
2 cups nectarines, sliced thinly

Butter a 13x9in pan. Mix together cream cheese, brown sugar, maple syrup, cinnamon and nutmeg. Place one layer of bread slices on bottom of pan, spread cream cheese mixture over bread, Place another layer of bread and another layer of cream cheese spread and another layer of bread. Mix together eggs, cream and milk and pour over bread. Chill and allow to sit for 4 to 24 hours. Remove from cooler, preheat oven to 350.
Top with brown sugar and nectarines and bake for 1 hour. uncovered. Serve with side of bacon and a dollop of Chantilly cream (which is lightly whipped cream sans sugar) Or a drizzle of caramel, like I did here.
Nectarine Bread Pudding

All these recipes are original... my own creations. I do take ideas from others, but by the time I have figured it out, most of what was has morphed into what is now mine. Feel free to share...

06 September 2010

That Chicken is a JERK!!! or sometimes we are lazy and it shows...

I shop on the cheap. I buy the meat that's in the clearance pile, about to be expired. Sometimes there is some seriously good deals in there! Don't be scared if the sell by date is today or tomorrow. Get it home, repackage it and freeze it or use it immediately. I have gotten veal paillards, ground lamb and NY steaks out of there and made some brilliant meals! Recently I came across some whole cut up chickens... for 50% off.  So I piled 4 of them in my cart and toted them home.
Yesterday, I decided to pull one out and make some Caribbean Jerk.. well the one I went for came out of the freezer and landed hard on my toe, this was the one I was going to JERK!! Thought my toe may have been broken, but a bag of frozen corn later, it is fine, bruised but workable.
When I make jerk I use a  Jamaican recipe that I acquired from Jamaican Eats magazine. This time, not so much. I used a sauce from World Harbors, maker of various sauces found in the grocery store. I prepped the chicken, trimming off the excess fat and placed it all together in a ziploc bac and in the fridge for almost 10 hours.
While Steven grilled the chicken, I prepared sweet potato and plantain frites and mango rice.
I love my mango rice. It always turns out well, whether I cook the mango in the rice or add it after (Steven's preferred method). I will post that recipe, because I was lazy with the Jerk and trust me, it showed.

Mango Rice

1 c. white rice, jasmine or basmati
2 cups chicken stock
1 tbsp butter
1 shallot, minced
1/8th tsp ground allspice
1 ripe mango, diced

Place butter in sauce pan, melt and saute shallot til translucent, add mango and rice stirring to coat with butter. Add in chicken stock, bring to boil, cover, reduce heat to simmer and allow liquid to cook out of rice. Serve.
or you can cook the rice without the mango and add it fresh to the rice just before serving. I like to do that too, maybe chop up some cilantro and a squeeze of lime too. Really has an island flavor to it.

jerked chicken, broccoli, sweet potato and plantain frites and mango rice
I was not happy with the way dinner turned out actually. The jerk did not permeate the chicken like I had hoped, and I overcooked the broccoli. But, in addition to successes I should talk about failures too. I liked the way the chicken LOOKED almost like tandoori. When I do my jerk again, I will do it the right way, and not be lazy.