Thursday, August 20, 2009

Linguine Alla Puttanesca

Considering that Pasta alla Puttanesca is my blog's namesake dish, this is the first time that I've made it for the blog, which is shameful. There are so many great stories around it's name. I like that it's called "puttanesca" because it's fast, cheap, and easy. Another story is that it's what the whores in Italy ate because the ingredients kept well in the cupboard and were quick to prepare in between customers.

But really, it's a great, classic dish that can be scaled to whatever number of people you're feeding. It's deliciously salty and has incredible depth of flavor considering the precious few ingredients used. Joe picked out his chunks of olives, but I didn't mind adding them to my portion.

Pasta alla Puttanesca
source: Rachel Ray via Cheap, Healthy, Good
Serves 4-6

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
4 to 6 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tin flat anchovy fillets, drained
1 /2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
20 oil-cured black olives, cracked away from pit and coarsely chopped
3 tablespoons capers
1 (28 to 32-ounce) can chunky style crushed tomatoes
1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes, drained
A few grinds black pepper
1/4 cup flat leaf parsley, chopped
1 pound spaghetti or other long noodle, cooked to al dente (with a bite)
OPTIONAL: 1 14.5-oz can artichoke heart quarters, drained

1) Heat a large skillet over medium heat and add oil, garlic, anchovies, and crushed pepper. Saute mixture until anchovies melt into oil and completely dissolve and garlic is tender, about 3 minutes. Add olives, capers, tomatoes, black pepper, and parsley (and artichoke hearts, if using). Bring sauce to a bubble, reduce heat, and simmer 8 to 10 minutes.

2) Toss sauce with cooked pasta.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Grandma's Banana Nut Cake

My dad has been requesting that I make this cake for some time now, and since I had a bunch of ripe bananas in the freezer, I asked for the recipe. It's my grandmother's recipe, though it's very similar to any kind of banana bread recipe but with a lot of sugar to make it more cake-like. I wanted to make it as-written the first time. Next time I think I'll sub butter for the Crisco and maybe top it with a cream cheese frosting. My dad enjoyed it thoroughly! He did specify that nuts were a necessity in this cake, so don't skimp on those.

Grandma's Banana Nut Cake
source: Family Recipe

1/2 cup Crisco
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 eggs, slightly beaten
1 cup bananas, mashed
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup nuts
2 cups flour
1/2 tsp baking soda (or 1 tsp if sour milk is used)
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup milk - sweet or sour

Cream Crisco and add sugar gradually. Add eggs and beat thoroughly. Add banana pulp and vanilla. Sift dry ingredients together and add alternately with the milk. Bake at 350-degrees for 30-35 minutes in greased 9 x 13 pan.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Oatmeal Crisps

I must've not been paying very close attention to the title when I decided to make these and was surprised when they came out quite crispy. Good work, Kira. I agree with Erin's assessment that they're like a dessert granola bar. These are a nice, easy, quick treat. I threw mine in the refrigerator to harden up the chocolate a bit. I've been kind of mindlessly munching on these, which perhaps isn't the best plan knowing that there's a stick of butter in there...

Oatmeal Crisps
source: Rebecca Rather's The Pastry Queen via Dinner and Dessert


½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter

½ cup firmly packed dark brown sugar

1 tablespoon light corn syrup

2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats

1 teaspoon baking powder

¼ teaspoon salt

1/3 cup shredded coconut

½ cup bittersweet chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease an 8-inch square baking pan with butter or cooking spray. Melt the butter, brown sugar, and corn syrup in a saucepan set over medium heat. Stir 1 to 2 minutes, until the brown sugar is no longer grainy. Remove the pan from the heat. In a medium bowl, stir together the oats, baking powder, salt, and coconut. Add the butter mixture and stir to combine.

Spoon the dough into the pan. Lightly coat your fingers with cooking spray or butter and press the mixture evenly into the pan.

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes. Cool for 20 minutes and cut into narrow fingers. In a small, heavy saucepan, melt the chocolate chips over low heat, stirring constantly. Drizzle over the bars.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream

This is the second time I've made this ice cream recipe. The first time, I made a batch to take to a dinner party with the apparently misguided assumption that there would be some leftover to bring back home and take a picture of. It was not to be. The six of us polished off the whole container. What is it about homemade ice cream that makes people go crazy? I'm of the opinion that it always tastes so good because there aren't all kinds of chemicals and preservatives in it. I just don't have any potassium sorbate in my pantry. Also, I make all of my ice cream with love, which could have something to do with it.

But really, if you were so inclined and had green food coloring, you could add some so it looked like the mint chocolate chip ice cream from the store. This is a Philadelphia-style recipe, which means no egg yolks. It's not quite as rich or creamy, but it's very simple to mix together. The mini chocolate chips seal the deal for me. The first time I made this, I think I used something like 1 cup of heavy cream, 2 cups half-and-half, and 1 cup milk, and it worked out really well, so feel free to experiment a little depending on what you have in your fridge.

Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream
source: Amber's Kitchen

2 cups 2% milk
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon peppermint extract
green food coloring (optional)
1 cup miniature semisweet chocolate chips

In a large bowl, stir together the milk, cream, sugar, salt, vanilla extract and peppermint extract
until the sugar has dissolved. Color to your liking with the green food coloring.

Pour the mixture into an ice cream maker, and freeze according to the manufacturer’s instructions. After about 10 minutes into the freezing, add the chocolate chips. After the ice cream has thickened, about 30 minutes later, spoon into a container, and freeze for 2 hours.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Easy Paella

For our honeymoon, Joe and I went to the Excellence Punta Cana resort in the Dominican Republic. It was absolutely perfect, but one of the things that really struck us was the food. One night, at the Spanish/Mediterranean-themed restaurant, Joe ordered paella and subsequently fell in love. Whether it was the dish itself or the atmosphere, any other paella that he has ever had has not been able to measure up. This was no exception, but it was easy to throw together and tasty. There are no mussels to scrub or expensive scallops to buy, hence "easy" paella. Heck, it doesn't even have saffron in it. But it did help me use up some shrimp and peas that were in the freezer. And it was very good. I liked the flavor and color of the turmeric. I used brown rice, so the cooking time was slightly longer.

Easy Paella
source: Everyday Food via Joelen's Culinary Adventures


2 tablespoons olive oil
3/4 pound peeled and deveined medium shrimp
1 package chicken sausage, (12 ounces), sliced into 1/2-inch rounds
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic , minced
1 1/2 cups long-grain rice
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 can diced tomatoes, (14.5 ounces)
2 cans reduced-sodium chicken broth, (14.5 ounces each)
Coarse salt and ground pepper
1 cup frozen green peas, thawed

In a heavy 12-inch saute; pan, heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium-high heat. Cook shrimp until just pink on both sides, 4 to 5 minutes (do not overcook). Transfer to a plate.

Add remaining tablespoon oil and sausage to pan; cook over mediumhigh heat until beginning to brown, about 2 minutes. Add onion, and cook, stirring frequently, until translucent, 3 to 4 minutes. Add garlic and rice; cook, stirring to coat, until rice is translucent, 1 to 2 minutes.

Stir in paprika, turmeric, tomatoes, and broth, scraping up browned bits from bottom of pan with a wooden spoon. Season with salt and pepper.

Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer. Cover, and cook until rice is tender and has absorbed almost all liquid, 20 to 25 minutes. Stir in peas; cook 1 minute. Stir in cooked shrimp; serve immediately.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Chicken Gyros

When we lived in Houston, one of our favorite places to eat was a Greek place called Niko Niko's. The parking situation was atrocious, and quite often, there was a line out the door. The reason for the line out the door was obviously the food, and you could see all kinds of people in that line waiting for a piping hot plate of gyros or spanakopita. However, I tend to find the food at Greek restaurants on the oily side, so when I found this recipe, I looked forward to making it at home.

After Joe's first bite of the chicken, he wailed, "How come this is the first time you've made this?" It was definitely a hit. Joe devoured the chicken, and I ate the rest of the tzatziki sauce and pitas for lunch the next day. A tip that I got from Annie regarding the cucumber: shred it in your food processor, and then wrap it in paper towels to squeeze the liquid out. It works like a dream. My garlic press also got some use!

Chicken Gyros
source: Elly Says Opa via Annie's Eats

For the tzatziki sauce:
16 oz. plain yogurt (not nonfat, if possible) (I used Greek yogurt.)
1/2 hothouse cucumber or 1 regular cucumber, peeled and seeded
2-3 cloves garlic, pressed through a garlic press (or finely minced)
1 tsp. white wine vinegar
Salt and pepper
Squeeze of fresh lemon juice
Extra virgin olive oil

For the chicken:
4 cloves garlic, smashed
Juice of 1 lemon
2 tsp. red wine vinegar
2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
2 heaping tbsp. plain yogurt
1 tbsp. dried oregano
Salt and pepper
1 1/4 lbs. chicken pieces (I used boneless, skinless chicken breasts)

To assemble:
Pita bread
Fresh tomatoes, seeded and diced
Red onion, sliced thin

To make the tzatziki sauce, strain the yogurt using cheesecloth over a bowl. Let strain for several hours or overnight, if possible, to remove as much moisture as possible. (Not necessary if using Greek yogurt.)

Shred the cucumber. Wrap in a towel a squeeze to remove as much water as possible. Mix together the strained yogurt, shredded cucumber, garlic, white wine vinegar, salt and pepper to taste, and lemon juice. Drizzle lightly with olive oil. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before serving to allow the flavors to meld.

To prepare the chicken, combine the garlic, lemon juice, red wine vinegar, olive oil, yogurt, oregano, and salt and pepper to taste in a medium bowl. Whisk together until mixed well. Add the chicken pieces to the bowl and mix well to coat. Cover and refrigerate for about 1 hour.

Cook the chicken as desired, either in the skillet or with the broiler. (We grilled them.) Once the chicken is completely cooked through, transfer to a plate and let rest for 5 minutes. Cut into strips.

Heat pitas (I wrapped them in some paper towels and microwaved them). Top with chicken, tzatziki sauce, diced tomatoes and sliced onions. Serve immediately.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Banana Coconut Muffins

Every week, I buy a bunch of bananas for Joe at the grocery store. I know they're the opposite of "local", but bananas are an easy snack or supplement to a meal for him to take to the hospital. Inevitably, there are some weeks that he doesn't eat all of them before they turn brown, so I peel them and shove them in a freezer bag in a freezer waiting to be used for recipes like this one.

Is there anything about the banana coconut combination that doesn't say, "tropical vacation in my mouth"? This recipe falls into the muffins-as-cake category, and they are so good, especially with that browned coconut on top. This and a good mojito (not in the morning though) is the closest I'm getting to a tropical vacation for a while so eat up!

Banana Coconut Muffins
source: Epicurious via Joelen's Culinary Adventures

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 very ripe bananas, mashed (3/4 cup)
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, melted
2/3 cup sugar
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
3/4 cup sweetened flaked coconut


Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 375°F. Line muffin cups with liners.

Whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt in a bowl. Whisk together bananas, butter, sugar, egg, vanilla, and 1/2 cup coconut in a large bowl until combined well, then fold in flour mixture until flour is just moistened.

Divide batter among lined muffin cups and sprinkle with remaining 1/4 cup coconut. Bake until muffins are puffed and golden, about 25 minutes. Transfer muffins to a rack and cool slightly.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Slow-Cooker Cuban-Style Black Beans and Rice

Like I said before, we are buying a condo, so at the moment, it feels like we're hemorrhaging money. It seems like every day we write a check for something, so it's more important to me to be frugal in the kitchen. Enter a standard staple meal: beans and rice. I like this version because it adds some color with the pepper and tomatoes. I did find it a tad bland, so I spiced mine up at the table with Tabasco sauce.

I changed up a few things in the recipe, which is reflected below. I soaked the beans overnight and then cooked it on low for 8-10 hours. Here's another reason to feel good about using your slow-cooker: it's been shown that cooking in a slow-cooker is the "greenest" and most energy-efficient way to cook! This also makes a ton of food, so I'm set for lunches for the next week.

Slow-Cooker Cuban-Style Black Beans and Rice
adapted from: Andrea's Recipes

16 ounces dried black beans, rinsed and drained and soaked
1 large onion, chopped
1 large bell pepper, chopped
5 garlic cloves, minced
2 dried bay leaves
1 can (28 ounces) diced tomatoes, undrained
1 (28 ounce) can water
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1 (4 ounce) can chopped green chilies
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Rice, to serve


1. Stir together all ingredients in the slow cooker.

2. Cover and cook on low heat setting 8 hours or more, until beans are tender and some of the liquid is absorbed. Remove bay leaves.

3. Serve beans over cooked rice.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Coffee Ice Cream

I know it's difficult to tell from the picture, but this is the smoothest, creamiest, most flavorful ice cream I have made to date. We are currently under contract on a condo, so in preparation for moving, I'm trying to empty out some things in the freezer and pantry. We had bought some whole-bean decaf coffee for a dinner party, and since we rarely drink coffee, it just sat in the freezer taking up space. And then I came upon this ice cream recipe. It was my first time making a custard-based recipe, and I was a little scared I would scramble the eggs or not cook it long enough, but it was a lot easier than I thought it might be. I made some breakfast tacos with the leftover egg whites.

The coffee flavor in this ice cream is pretty strong, so if you're not a fan of that flavor, this is not for you. The whole beans infuse the cream mixture deliciously, and I loved seeing the white cream slowly turn a hint of brown. By no means low-calorie, you'll only need a small scoop to be satisfied because it's so rich.

Coffee Ice Cream
source: Annie's Eats

1½ cups whole milk (I used 2%)
¾ cup sugar
1½ cups whole coffee beans
Pinch of salt
1½ cups heavy cream, divided
5 large egg yolks
¼ tsp. vanilla extract
¼ tsp. finely ground coffee or espresso powder

Combine the milk, sugar, coffee beans, salt and ½ cup of the heavy cream in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Once the mixture is warm and just begins to bubble, remove from the heat and let steep at room temperature for 1 hour.

After steeping, return the saucepan with the coffee mixture to the burner over medium heat. Pour the remaining 1 cup heavy cream into a large bowl and set a mesh strainer over the top. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg yolks until smooth. Once the coffee mixture has become warm again, slowly pour the mixture into the bowl with the egg yolks, whisking constantly to temper the eggs. Return the egg-coffee bean mixture to the saucepan over medium high heat.

Cook the mixture, stirring constantly and scraping the bottom, until the mixture thickens and coats the spatula or spoon (about 170-175° F.) Pour the custard through the strainer and stir it into the cream. Press on the coffee beans in the strainer with a can or heavy-bottomed glass to extract as much of the coffee flavor as possible, then discard the beans. Mix in the vanilla and ground coffee or espresso powder. Chill the batter over an ice bath, or in the refrigerator. Chill thoroughly in the refrigerator and then freeze in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Gnocchi with Summer Vegetables

This is actually the second time I have made this dish, but the first time I completely forgot to photograph it. It's a great, light summer dish that comes together quickly and uses a bunch of fresh, in-season produce. I loved how juicy the cherry tomatoes got when I cooked them. The sauce is primarily made with the pasta water but flavored with some cheese and butter, so it ends up a lot more appetizing than it may sound. You could also top this with a quick marinara sauce.

Gnocchi with Summer Vegetables
source: Everyday Food via Proceed with Caution

1 tablespoon olive oil
2 zucchini or summer squash or one of each, quartered and sliced
2 garlic cloves, minced
course salt and ground pepper
1 pint grape tomatoes, halved
1 package (15-16 ounces) gnocchi
1/4 cup fresh basil
2 tablespoons grated Pecorino Romano cheese (I used Parmesan.)
1 tablespoon butter
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

1. In a large skillet, heat oil over medium high. Add squash and garlic to skillet, season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until squash is crisp-tender, 4-5 minutes. Add tomatoes and cook, stirring occasionally, until juicy, about 2 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, in a large pot of boiling salted water, cook gnocchi according to package instructions. Reserving 1/2 cup cooking liquid, drain gnocchi and transfer to skillet. Toss gnocchi, adding enough cooking liquid to create a sauce. Remove from heat and stir in basil, cheese, butter, and lemon juice.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Peach-Oat Muffins

Please pardon the commission of the number one sin of food photography: the flash. I made this later in the evening on Sunday, and I knew they would all disappear the next morning. A few of the other women in my CPE group and I had talked about baking for the group, and since I was on-call Sunday and couldn't go anywhere, I figured I would make some muffins for our Monday morning session. After demolishing all but 4 peaches from our 27 pounds of peaches, I decided to use the last few and make these muffins.

They turned out deliciously. The peach flavor shone through, and I've come to appreciate whole-wheat flour and oats for making muffins taste more like breakfast and less like dessert. The recipe said they would make 20 muffins, but I shoved it into 12 and was left with beautiful muffin tops. I might overfill my muffin pan more often now!

Peach-Oat Muffins
source: Woman with a Whisk

  • 1 c. all-purpose flour
  • 1 c. whole-wheat flour
  • 1 c. old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 1/2 Tbsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. nutmeg, freshly grated
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 c. applesauce (the no-sugar added kind)
  • 1/4 c. vegetable oil
  • 3 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 c. white sugar
  • 1 c. brown sugar
  • 4 peaches, pitted and chopped
  • Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a muffin tin with baking cups. (I sprayed with Pam because I couldn't find my baking cups.)
  • Combine the flours, oats, spices, baking soda and salt in a bowl.
  • In a separate bowl, combine the applesauce, oil, eggs, and sugars.
  • Add the wet mixture to the dry mixture and stir to combine. Fold in the peaches.
  • Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin pan. Bake for ~25 minutes. Cool in the pan for ~10 minutes, then remove to a wire rack. If freezing the muffins, freeze individually for 30 minutes before storing them in a Ziploc freezer bag.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Cauliflower and Chickpea Curry

A couple weekends ago, Joe and I were out with our realtor looking at houses. We walked into one of the places that was still presently occupied, and I noted that the family appeared to be Hindu based on religious figurines. Our realtor quickly picked up on the smell of curry in the house and asked if that bothered us. I responded, "Of course not! Our house smells like curry sometimes!"

The night I made this dinner, our house certainly smelled like curry. The fragrant garlic, onion, and ginger sauteed with the curry powder filled the house, which some people might mind, but I certainly don't. The chickpeas add some heft, though I still haven't mastered a good way of cutting a cauliflower into florets. I found the cooking times to be slightly longer than listed in the recipe, and I was concerned about getting the cauliflower soft enough, as there did not seem to be enough liquid for it to cook in. It turned out to be delicious though.

Cauliflower and Chickpea Curry
source: Closet Cooking

1 tablespoon oil
1 onion (chopped)
2 tablespoons curry powder
1 tablespoon garlic (chopped)
1 tablespoon ginger (chopped)
1 (14 ounce) can diced tomatoes
1 tablespoon chili sauce (optional)
1 head cauliflower (cut into florets)
1 (19 once) can chickpeas (rinsed and drained)
1 cup water
1/2 pound green beans (trimmed and sliced into 1 inch long pieces)
salt to taste
1/4 cup cilantro (chopped)

1. Heat the oil in a large pan.
2. Add the onion and curry powder and cook until the onion is tender, about 5-7 minutes.
3. Add the garlic and ginger and cook until fragrant, about a minute.
4. Add the tomatoes, chili sauce, cauliflower, chickpeas and water and and bring to a boil.
5. Reduce the heat and simmer, covered, until the cauliflower is tender, about 10-15 minutes.
6. Add the green beans and cook until they are just tender and still crisp, about 3-5 minutes.
7. Serve on brown rice and garnish with cilantro.