Saturday, August 30, 2014

Ham Roll Ups

Beginning of the semester is always busy! You've made a committment to stay on top of your work load, at least for the first'll see how it goes! 

You're off to classes, home, ultimate frisbee, classes, study, gym, hang out, nap, etc.; and, somewhere between all those gotta eat. So make it good!

Take a stab at these handy snacks I found on the Food Networks 'after school' suggestions: Ham-Scallion Pinwheels. Great snack for tailgating or having people over, too! 

No cooking skills required!

Ham Pinwheel Rollups

Mixing bowl
Sharp knife

Sundried Tomato Wraps
1(8oz) Reduced-Fat Cream Cheese
(Or use 50% Boursin / 50% cream cheese)
2-3 green onions, finely sliced
Deli Ham, thin slices

Cucumber, thinly sliced

1. Definetely wash your hands!
2. Combine and whip softened cream cheese, boursin, and scallions with a fork.

3. Spread the cheese mixture across each wrap to the edges.

4. Add cucumber if you like. 
5. Arrange slices of ham next. 

6. Roll the whole thing up like a fat cigar.
7. Slice off 1/4"-1/2" rounds. 

8. Layer on platter and 
9. Serve with your favorite mustard!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Summer Garden Pasta

Nothing's more satisfying than hitting the farmer's market, buying fresh produce from local vendors and putting it into a delicious meal later that day!  What's even better when it costs under $10. And you don't need much as long as everything is fresh--the flavors of ripe produce whether tomatoes, asparagus, green beans, or squash will speak for themselves.  In fact, the less you manipulate them the better they taste sometimes.

This recipe is quite simple in that you only need a few ingredients: one vegetable, a few fresh herbs, and bowl of angel hair pasta.  I stumbled across this summer pasta from Ina Garten's recipes back in 2006, and couldn't get over how brilliant this was--marinate your veggie for a few hours, boil pasta, and toss it all together--done!

Satisfying. Fresh. Ingenious. Time-saver. Tasty. Scrumptious. Budget-friendly. Practically No-Experience-Needed. And this will feed a crowd, i.e. all of your roommates and then some.
If you can't live without meat, sear a chicken breast and slice it on top!

Mixing bowl
5-quart sauce pan to boil pasta

Angel Hair Pasta, 1 box, cooked al dente

4 pints cherry tomatoes, halved
4 - 6 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup olive oil
1-2 Tbls of fresh herbs, minced, i.e. thyme / oregano (or 1 tsp dried of each herb you use)
20 basil leaves, sliced into strips, 'julienned'...or chopped
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 tsp red pepper flakes

1 1/2 cups parmesan cheese, finely grated

1. Wash your hands.
2. Combine the cherry tomatoes with the oil, garlic, herbs, basil, salt / pepper, and red pepper flakes.

3. Let marinate x 4 hours, or so.

4. Boil your salted (1 tsp salt) water and make the pasta

***this pasta goes quickly, i.e. 2-3 minutes until done.
***this pasta is thin, so add 1-2 tsp olive oil to the water right before you drain the pasta

5. Combine the pasta directly into your vegetable marinade and toss.

6. Add the parmesan cheese and toss until well-combined.

That's 'all she wrote'. Eat up and enjoy the leftovers! Savor the rest of summer.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Challah Cheddar Grilled Cheese

There's a time and place for everything. Classic recipes have their place and will always be popular, but need to amp up the volume! 

So, after our recent vacay, we came home around 10:30-11:00pm to an empty fridge except for a small block of sharp cheddar, 2 granny smith apples, 2 jalapenos on the verge of going bad, and stale Challah. Reality check immediate!

What to do? Make the most of what you have!
Be creative when you are stuck with only a few ingredients. 
Combine them! Use them in different ways, but...

Waste nothing, and boy...are we glad we didn't.  
You can try this on any bread, but Challah has a little sweetness that carmelizes when you sear it with butter.

Simply delish with a touch of sweet, heat and crunch. Perfect go-to snack after classes! Of course, if you just like things they way they have always been, check out The 70s Grilled Cheese Classic posted way back!


2 slices of Challah
Softened butter
Sharp cheddar cheese
Granny Smith Apple, cored &sliced horizontally
Jalapeno, thinly sliced

1. Wash your hands. 
2. Prep your cheese, apples, jalapeƱos. 

3. Spread butter on each slice of Challah. 

4. Heat your skillet with butter on MEDIUM to MEDIUM-HI heat. 

 **Remember: Golden brown crust, perfectly melted cheese requires a slow heat!

5. Layer cheese, jalapenos, and apples. 

6. Cover with second slice of bread. 

7. When cheese begins to melt and crust golden brown, flip it gently.

8. Brown the second side until heated through and oozing cheese! 

9. Dig in for a surprise!

What a find!

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Awesome Fried Mozzarella Dippers

Settling in for next semester?
Planning on having everyone stop by later on? There are some great "crowd pleaser" recipes recently featured, so take advantage of them for sure, but...fried mozzarella with marinara will make everyone forget school is starting! 

I put this recipe off for weeks. Not really sure why, but the process--once you have everything set up--is very straight forward and worth the effort. Take the time to lay all your equipment out to proceed quickly.  You cannot step away from this once you start, so commit to making the best mozzarella sticks from the outset.

You can certainly make your own marinara sauce as I have posted in Simple Marinara Sauce from Mario Batali, but saving time is easily done with great options from Rao's, San Marzano, Paul Newman's line up or Mario Batali.

(Recipe from The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Food From My Fontier--great cookbook for delicious comfort food)

Awesome Fried Mozzarella Sticks

Cast-iron skillet (worth investing in and fairly cheap at most supermarkets)
Chopsticks or metal tongs (that won't melt in the oil)
Ideally: Wire-rack (like you use for cooling cookies)
If you do not have wire-rack, use a plate or cookie sheet with papertowels

16 pieces of string cheese, unwrapped and cut in half

1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp cayenne
Pinch of salt and pepper
2 eggs
1/4 cup milk
2 cups panko or Italian bread crumbs
1 Tbls dried parsley (if using Italian bread crumbs can skip)

Canola oil, enough to have 1/2" depth to whatever skillet you are using
Marinara Sauce

1. Wash your hands.
2. Prep all of your stations in shallow bowls / plates with edges
    --cut your mozzarella pieces
    --combine flour, cayenne, and pinch of salt & pepper
    --whisk eggs & milk
    --combine parsley and bread crumbs

3. Heat your skillet with 1/2" layer of oil. It should sizzle / bubble when flour flicked on the surface.
4. Have your wire rack / plate ready and spray with PAM Spray.
5. Lay out all of your stations: cheese, flour, egg, breadcrumbs, oil, wire rack / plate

6. Carefully, dip each cheese stick in flour, egg, and breadcrumbs.

7. Carefully, place the coated cheese into the hot oil, allowing to fry for 2-3 minutes before turning.

8. Once golden brown, remove cheese onto wire rack or plate, and quickly sprinkle with salt.

9. Have serving platter ready with a bowl of marinara sauce

Monday, August 11, 2014

Spicy Szechuan Peanut Noodles

Before we officially moved to Chicago, we would spend any opportunity staying in the city; and, every excuse delaying our return home!

One of those excuses was stopping into Gameworks for an hour or two of solid competition playing Time Crisis3, or House of The Dead 4; and, then having dinner at Big Bowl to tame the ravenous appetite we had worked up.  Everyone had a favorite item on the menu--Jon anything with potstickers, PL and Ben the Spicy Steak Skewers, Mom: Spicy Szechuan Peanut Noodles. Somehow, though, we'd all dig in to Mom's dish, even if just for a few bites. Eventually, we just started adding 2 orders.

The Spicy Szechuan Peanut Noodles became a favorite, but when we settled in Chicago, trips to the suburbs along with popular chain restaurants ended...unless we needed something from IKEA. 

These noodles are simple, satisfying, and delicious with just the right amount of heat, and barely any preparation! Enjoy them warm or cold.

(Adapted from Moosewood Restaurants most recent cookbook!)

Spicy Szechuan Peanut Noodles

5 quart or large pot for boiling water
Mixing bowl

2/3 cup chunky or creamy peanut butter
1/3 cup warm water (if sauce to thick add a little more)
2-3 Tbls of soy sauce
3 Tbls of vinegar (apple cider, white, or rice)
1-2 tsp of toasted sesame oil (if you do not like this flavor, add less)
1-2 tsp of siracha / chili-garlic paste 

1/2 lb linguini or spaghetti, cooked
1 cucumber, peeled, seeded, cut in halves
1/2 cup of green onions, finely sliced
1/4 cup of red onions, diced (optional)
Optional: jalapenos, snow peas, or sugar snap peas

1. Wash your hands.
2. Begin boiling your salted water (add 1 tsp of salt) and pasta.

3. Prep your cucumbers and onions. Use a spoon to remove the center seeds on a cucumber.

4. Combine first 6 ingredients into a bowl (or 'magic-bullet-type' blender) and mix until smooth.

5. Adjust flavors to taste.
6. Drain pasta and combine with peanut sauce once pasta slightly cooled.

7. Add in the cucumbers and onions.

8. Serve warm or chilled.