Sunday, March 28, 2010

Tilapia in a Pouch

I have been eating a lot of fish lately. Its tasty, good for you, quick...what else can a college student ask for (other than cheap)! Anyway, I usually just season the fish however I want it and then cook it in a skillet on the stove for a few minutes each side. Last time I wanted to try and bake it! The whole oven seemed like a waste for one tiny piece of fish, so I baked it in my little toaster turned out great!

What You'll Need:
  • Tilapia filet
  • olive oil to drizzle
  • salt/pepper
  • garlic
  • onion
  • mushrooms
  • red peppers
  • lemon slices
Now, this is just the way that I did it... you can use any combination of spices and vegetables you want in this. You could do it Asian style with some water chestnuts, soy sauce, bamboo chutes, and bok choy... Mexican style with tomatoes, peppers, onion, jalapeƱo, and taco seasoning... Italian style with fresh basil and lemon etc... really, the possibilities are endless.

All you have to do is sliver up the vegetables, chop your garlic, slice your lemon, season your fish, wrap it up in a foil pouch, and bake it at 375 degrees for 30-40 minutes until the fish is flaky. The worst part about baked fish is usually the tendency to dry it out. When it is wrapped up in the pouch though, it holds in the steam and the fish is pretty hard to overcook.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Bleu Macaroni and Cheese

I first made this dish for Thanksgiving dinner 2 years ago. It was a minor disaster (equivalent to a small California earthquake)! I don't mean the flavors were a disaster, they were great, it was more of the proportions that were "off," to say the least.

Long story short: the recipe I followed said to use 2 cups of macaroni to serve 2 people. I quadrupled the recipe in order to serve it as a side dish at my big family Thanksgiving dinner. Does anyone know how much 8 cups of macaroni is once you cook it? It's probably enough to feed the entire population of Wyoming for about a week...

Needless to say that we had WAY to many noodles, not enough sauce, and nowhere to put it! However, I didn't realize the noodle sauce ratio would be off until after I mixed it all together and filled up 6 casserole dishes with the macaroni.

Conclusion: Flavor= fantastic; Proportions = disagreeable

ANYWAY: we figured that the recipe must have meant 2 cups cooked macaroni, not 2 cups uncooked macaroni... either way I still think that would have been too many noodles... I have fiddled with the proportions and come up with this: a good noodle sauce ratio that makes ONE casserole dish of gourmet macaroni and cheese.

What you'll need:
2 3/4 cups elbow macaroni (uncooked)
3 cups whole milk
8 oz. Gruyere cheese
6 oz. Sharp White Cheddar
4 oz. Bleu cheese (I love a great Roquefort)
pinch of nutmeg
4 Tbl. butter
4 Tb. flour
salt and pepper to taste
breadcrumbs and dried basil for topping

Warm the milk in a sauce pan over medium heat. In the meantime use the butter and flour to make a roux (melt butter and sprinkle in flour and cook for a few minutes until lump free and doesn't smell like flour any more--should be golden colored). When milk is simmering, add the roux and thicken to a saucy texture. Add in the pepper and nutmeg for flavor (don't add salt until after you've added cheese... you probably won't need any).

When the sauce has thickened, remove it from the heat and stir in the monstrous pile of cheese that you've convinced your family to grate up. Stir in until incorporated and smooth. Pour the sauce over cooked noodles in a baking dish. Sprinkle the breadcrumbs and basil over the top before baking.

Bake for 30-45 min at 400 degrees or until the cheeses are bubbling and the top is crispy and browned. It wont need the full 45 minutes unless you refrigerate it overnight before cooking...could be done as soon as 20 min. Just watch for bubbly cheese!

Monday, March 15, 2010

How To: Spruce up Sauce from a Jar

Welcome to the first of (hopefully) many in the " How To" series! This firs t one is just an easy way to spruce up any pasta sauce from a jar. You don't have to make homemade sauce if you want great flavor, but you also don't have to settle for just the typical jar sauce either.

Here's what I like to do:

  • Saute a few cloves of garlic and some sliced onions in olive oil
  • Slice up Italian sausage and throw in with onions (ground sausage fine too... whatever you have)
  • Pour in jar of sauce (vodka sauce is what I had... anything you like will do)
  • Add a few tablespoons of balsamic vinegar or a full flavored wine if you like-reduce the sauce to your liking
  • Add in some chopped fresh basil or parsley. Wilt the herbs as you stir them in and add some freshly graded Parmesan Cheese
  • Pour over your favorite noodle (whole wheat penne) and enjoy!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Spicy Asparagus Pasta

"Asparagus made into a pasta sauce...interesting..." That's what I thought too. Honestly, the first go round was "interesting" at best.

The original recipe I found used asparagus, but also called for A LOT of parsley in the sauce. Don't get me wrong, I like a little parsley here and there to lighten up a dish. However, I think my sister said it best when she pointed out that the first attempt tasted quite similar to grass.

I still liked the idea of the asparagus pasta sauce, though so I have fiddled around with this dish a few different times and the current (parsley free) version is by far one of my favorite vegetarian dishes.

What You'll Need:
Asparagus (estimate-depends on how much you're making, I used about a half a bundle)
3 cloves garlic (obviously increase if you make more)
Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper
Red Pepper Flake
Parmesan Cheese
Whole Wheat Spaghetti

Cut the asparagus into 1 inch pieces and blanch in boiling water for about 5 min. Ice it immediately to stop the cooking, blend up with garlic, olive oil, red pepper flake, and salt pepper. The seasonings are all just to taste. I love spicy food so I like to use about a teaspoon of red pepper flake to give it some heat! Use as much olive oil as you need to get to the consistency you want... probably a couple of tablespoons will do.

The end product is sort of like an asparagus pesto, mix over whole wheat noodles with freshly graded Parmesan. Genius...quite a change from its grassy beginning

Monday, March 1, 2010

Ye Big Ol' Pot of Irish Stew

So, I must admit that this post is LONG overdue!!! I promise the cooking has continued even though the blogging has not. This has left me with a long list of delicious concoctions that deserve a proper posting, although most likely they will receive a castrated version of their former glory (however, some cultures really value eunuchs).

I digress: this pot of stew was the perfect winter warm-me-up and it fed my 2 roommates and me for about a week and a half! The thing that makes this stew so great is the really rich broth. Don't get me wrong the medley of delicious veggies and perfectly tender meat was scrumptious, but the broth was so flavorful that I could have lived off the liquid alone for a week and a half and still been satiated.

The other great thing was how easy it was: chop, stir, wait, stir, wait, stir, eat, stir, get the idea.

What you'll need:
1 1/2 lb. Stew Beef
1 lb Red Potatoes
1 lb Yukon Gold Potatoes
1 Large Yellow Onion
3 c. Carrots, Chopped
4 stalks Celery, Chopped
1 Large Head of Garlic (8-10 cloves)
6 c. Beef Stock (I like starting with low sodium so I can control how salty to make it)
1 c. Red Wine (anything will do, I used a Pino Noir)
1 1/4 c. Guinness (almost one whole big can of theirs)
1 Tbl. Dried Thyme
1 Tbl. Sugar
Salt and Pepper to taste

All you do: Chop your meat into 1 inch cubes and brown in the pot with some olive oil. after a few minutes add in the crushed garlic (don't chop it even if you're tempted, the smashed cloves will break up and then later you get sweet garlic pieces...yum!). After another minute or so add in your stock, wine, Guinness, tomato paste, Worcestershire's, and herbs. Let the mixture boil and then reduce the heat to low and cover.

While the beef and liquids are simmering away, cut up all of your vegetables then brown them in a big pot with the butter (about 15 min or so). They don't have to cook through, they will do this in the stew, but it gives them a little more of a caramelized flavor.

Add the veggies to the beef and broth mixture and simmer for another 30-40 minutes. Stir every once in a while to prevent sticking to the bottom and sides. Thicken if you want to with a little roux of cornstarch or flour and water (I didn't find this necessary. It's stew, not a thick soup, I liked the thinner broth with the chunky veggies). Make sure to remove the bay leaves before you serve it.

Honestly, I don't usually even like stew. But this one will become a yearly tradition... maybe even bi-yearly (and that's saying a lot for me)!