April 27, 2012

Italian Marinara sauce

I learned how to make basic marinara sauce the other day.
It was much more simple and different than I would of thought.
To be honest, I didn't really give it that much thought until I saw it being made.

When I make spaghetti sauce, I usually start with dicing onions and sauteing them
while adding diced peppers, celery, mushrooms etc... thinking the more veggies the healthier right?

While adding more veggies is way healthier of course...
when it comes to basic marinara sauce- it is quite the opposite.

You start off with a can of tomatoes, it can be stewed whole tomatoes, diced or crushed like
the ones I used. You still want to add your onion, carrots and celery but you don't actually 
dice or chop them up. Wash and just cut them in half so they fit in your pot.
One onion, 2 carrots and 2-3 celery stalks.

Throw the veggies into your pot whole...  (technically cut in half) along with the can of tomatoes,
a bay leaf or 2, a sprinkle of black pepper and some whole or smashed garlic. I decided to go with 3.


Let the sauce have a boiling party for about 30 minutes. Once the sauce has bubbled,
take the veggies out with a tong or wooden spoon.  That's pretty much it!
Carrots are a sweet vegetable and onions are typically on the sweet side
as well so they really help take out the acidity from the tomatoes.
If you taste the sauce in the first 10 minutes or so and then taste it again
after 30 or more minutes- You will certainly taste the difference in the
slight tartness and it becoming less acidic.

I took some shredded cheese I had in the frig  and mixed it with the linguine that
I pre-boiled and set aside.
Mixing the cheese with the pasta allows the sauce to stick better and mix better if you are
tossing the sauce with the pasta rather than just adding the sauce on top of your chosen pasta.

Voila! Linguine with home-made marinara sauce.  (Those are chicken sausages with spinach
and mozzarella.)  I like to rip up basil leaves with anything tomato and on the bottom right is just
potato bread fried in a pan with a little butter, then sliced into long strips.

April 23, 2012

Personal Mini Apple Pie

Apple pie is commonly known as the all-American dessert.
We can make pies in many different ways but a new favorite is
the personal and mini pie.  

You know about double-duty and triple duty... BUT!---
the muffin pan has a record for the many things it can make, bake, store and hold.

The newest is making mini little pies in the muffin pan.  
What's nice about the mini pie isn't JUST the fact that they are cute.
They are easier to eat, store (if you have any left over that is!)
I think we all have a muffin pan also which makes it easy. 
(even the single guys have a muffin pan) ---right?

fruit for pie (depends on the type of pie you're making)
(I choose 2 small apples for this small batch
1 pie crust - already made pie crust (makes 5 mini pies)
butter (to saute apples (fruit) in on the pan)
milk to brush onto pies

Start with dicing 1 large or 2 small apples and saute them in a pan on medium high heat with butter
It's easiest if you have your filling cooked and ready to go.
Add a sprinkle of cinnamon (optional)

Take the Pillsbury or whatever brand all-ready made pie crust and cut them out
with a cookie cutter, (you will need 2 circles for every mini pie- top and bottom)
or the lid of a jar works really well. (Just keep in mind-
you want the circle to be able to fill the muffin tin.

 Spray some oil on your pan and place your pie crust in the pan.

After you've placed your apple filling in, take your second little circle pie crust and place on top of the cooked apple. (You can cut other little shapes with a mini cookie/fruit cutter to place on top if desired)
Heavily brush some milk or equivalent. (I used almond milk for this batch)

Cook in the oven on 375 for about 35-40 minutes or until golden brown.
It's best to lay the muffin tin in the middle rack so the bottom and top have even distribution of heat.

 I will say... these were quite tasty!  On to blueberry and blackberry next!

Hwa, a childhood friend of mine, gave me the idea of making mini pum-pples after the original "Pumpple"....
One of these weekends,  I'll have to try the mini Pumpple or Blupple.
Actually it would be Van-pple...? If it was a single layer of vanilla cake and apple pie.
You get what I'm saying though right!?

Sweet Mini Pies!

Grilled Cheese Spinach Sandwich

The other night, after a busy, busy day- I was in the mood for grilled cheese and upon taking
the cheese out, I realized I had a lot of spinach in the frig.  So, I had an Ah-ha moment
and decided to make grilled cheese spinach sandwiches.

Take some bread, and just make grilled cheese on the pan.

Slap a slice or 2 of cheese on the bread. Followed by adding chopped spinach on the cheese
and to keep it in place, just add another slice of cheese. It's really easy right!?

Carefully flip the sandwich over- (I like to add butter on the bread before flipping it over)

April 19, 2012

Soba Noodle Salad

Soba Noodles are thin grayish noodles that are made from buckwheat.
Ok. Cool, but what the heck is buckwheat... exactly?

No, no, not the kid named "Buckwheat" from "The Little Rascals" from waaay back in the day.
Buckwheat is a plant, strangely NOT in the wheat family tho!   You would think it was in the
wheat family right!?  Nev-er assume! It's actually closer and in the same family as rhubarb and sorrels- which kind of look like spinach more than a grain. Buckwheat is more of a green plant rather than a grain and therefore it isn't used in cereals like the way almost every other grain is.
The noodles are made from the dark seeds. The flowers of the plant look like this.

Japanese buckwheat is always wrapped in bundles like it is in the picture below.

Soba noodle salad can be made as an entree or a side salad.

Soba Noodles 
     (2 bundles is a good amount for 3 people for an entree 
     or a side salad for maybe 4-5 people)
Grapes (maybe 1/4 cup or 2 or 3 branches of the whole bunch)
Salad tomatoes (10-15 tomatoes) 
2-3 leafs of Romaine lettuce

Ingredients for sauce:  
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 TBSP of Rice or Balsamic Vinegar
Sesame oil -(drizzle - about 1/2 TBSP)
1-2 TBSP of Agave or any sweetener (grate in an apple)
1 TBSP of hot pepper paste (more for desired level of spiciness)
Sesame Seeds (roasted is best and you want a heavy sprinkle)

The best step to start with is probably boiling some water to cook the noodles.

It's usually best and easiest to make the sauce first in most recipes.
Measure and make the sauce/dressing and set it aside so that it is ready to pour or mix in.
If you haven't put the noodles in the hot water- now is a great time to do so. 

I started by cutting the grapes and tomatoes.

Here is a neat, double duty trick. You want to slice your tomatoes and grapes in half.
Now, you can take a pairing knife and cut each one individually or.... kind of recycle your
take-out food container lids.  You will need 2.  Simply lay one down and place your tomatoes
on it and then top it with the 2nd lid. While slightly pressing down to hold the tomato- lid
sandwich,  take a large knife and slice away!

Ta-Da!  You cut them all half in a matter of seconds.

Now, do the same with the grapes!  Make your grape lid sandwich and then slice away!

By the way... you can use any type of grapes... grapes that are seedless will work best of course!

Take 2-3 stems of romaine lettuce and cut them into long slivers almost like the way cabbage
looks for coleslaw. Combine the noodles, tomatoes, lettuce and grapes into a large bowl.

Add in your already made sauce/dressing  little by little as you use tongs or your hand with
one of those handy plastic throw away gloves.

Hard boiled eggs are another option to adding to the Soba Noodle Salad.
This noodle salad is good to have as an entree or a small side salad with a good steak.

April 9, 2012

Fast Maryland Crab Cakes

When I think of crabs, I think of the shore and summer.
Even though it isn't summer just yet-
I wanted to make some crab cakes at home.

This is a pretty quick and easy way to make them at home.

1 egg
2.5 TBSP of mayonnaise
1.5 teaspoons of Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon of Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon of Old Bay seasoning
1/4 teaspoon of salt
1 stalk of celery diced up finely
2 TBSP finely chopped parsley (maybe 6-8 stems)
1 pound- (ish) of crab meat
1.5 cup of Panko bread crumbs
drizzle of oil (any oil is fine)

I mixed all these ingredients in a bowl, stirred them, formed them into
little patties and fried them.   You could also lay them on a pan and bake them
on 400 until each side gets brown.
I recommend frying them in a pan on the stove though!

A squeeze of lemon makes seafood even better including these crab cakes!