Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Green Bean Salad

After a great season of whipping up comfort food dishes for the Food Network's blog FN Dish, it is time to begin a new series of weekly posts - Sensational Sides! Each week, myself, along with fellow bloggers, will be creating side dishes using the various ingredients/inspirations that are given.  For this first week, we were to create a side dish using items from our pantry.  Now, I do not know about you, but I have A LOT of items overflowing in my pantry, so I can always use an excuse to explore some new ways to use my pantry items.


After thinking about what to make, I realized that just about every week, I cook green beans.  However, I usually do not do anything special with them, so I decided to jazz them up a bit.  As a result, a Green Bean Salad was born! 

Green Bean Salad
Ingredients:
-1/2 pound fresh green beans, ends cut off
-1 small red onion, chopped (or half of one larger onion)
-1 cup chopped walnuts, toasted
-2 tablespoons olive oil
-2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
-1 teaspoon ground mustard
-Salt and pepper to taste

Direction:
Place the green beans in a small saucepan and fill with water.  Bring the pot to a boil and let the green beans steam, with the lid on, for about 5 minutes.  Drain the green beans and set aside. 

Meanwhile, mix together the oil, balsamic vinegar, and mustard.  Pour the dressing over the green beans and mix until the green beans are covered with the dressing.  Toss in the chopped onion and toasted walnuts (to toast the walnuts, just place them in a 375 degree F oven and roast for about 5-7 minutes, or until browned).  Season with salt and pepper if needed (you do not need much at all). 

You can serve the green bean salad warm or chilled, but no matter how you eat it, I hope you enjoy!
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Thursday, March 21, 2013

Brown Rice with Creamed Peas and Carrots

This month for the Improv Challenge, Kristen from Frugal Antics of a Harried Homemaker challenged us to use peas and carrots.  Initially, I thought that this challenge would be simple.  I mean, it's peas and carrots.  But then I realized... it was peas and carrots! The only thing that kept popping into my mind was shepherd's pie, but I have already posted my shepherd's pie and I wanted to do something different.


Since I like to eat as clean and as healthy as I possibly can (minus my dessert and pasta cravings that occur every week), I decided to make a healthy side dish - enter brown rice with creamed peas and carrots! This dish is really simple to make and it really dresses up the brown rice since it can be quite plain on its own.

Brown Rice with Creamed Peas and Carrots

Ingredients:
-1 cup brown rice (or rice of your choosing)
-2 1/2 cups of water
-1 cup frozen peas
-3 carrots, sliced (approx. 1 cup of carrots, can use frozen too)
-1 cup milk
-2 tablespoons butter
-1 tablespoon flour
-Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:
In a small saucepan, heat the rice with the water, and bring to a boil.  Once it boils, reduce the heat and allow the rice to simmer for about 30-40 minutes, or until it has been cooked and absorbed the water.  Set aside.

Meanwhile, in a heavy skillet or pan, melt the butter.  Add the carrots and saute for a few minutes until the carrots begin to soften.  Stir in the peas and flour.  Season with a little salt and pepper and then add the milk.  Let the mixture simmer for about 5-10 minutes, or until the milk starts to thicken.  Then, take your brown rice and add it into the creamy pea and carrot mixture.  Stir all ingredients together until the rice is nice and creamy and the milk is mostly absorbed.  Season with a little more salt and pepper if needed.

Serve warm as a side dish to any meal and enjoy!





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Friday, March 15, 2013

St. Patrick's Day Lineup 2013!

As March 17th approaches, and we all channel our inner Irishman (or Irishwoman) by drinking way too much Guinness and stuffing our faces with bangers and mash, fish and chips, brown bread, and much more, I figured that it would be a good time to share some of my favorite Irish recipes with all of you.

Here is this year's list of top St. Patrick's Day inspired recipes:

1.) Homemade Irish Cream

2.) Irish Pirate

3.) Irish Coffee 

4.) Scones

5.) Irish Soda (and Brown) Bread

6.) Irish Stew

7.) Shepherd's Pie

Happy St. Patrick's Day!






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Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Pasta alla Carbonara

This week's challenge for the Comfort Food Feast on FN Dish was to make a comforting pasta dish.  Now, there are so many comforting pasta dishes out there, that I wasn't sure where to start! Images of macaroni and cheese, stuffed shells, lasagna, baked ziti, four-cheese pasta, and many more ran through my head! But then it hit me! Pasta alla Carbonara.  Pasta carbonara is an egg and cheese based dish from Rome, and it is also one of the first pasta dishes that I can remember my grandmother making for me.



Although Pasta alla Carbonara is traditionally made with spaghetti, you can feel free to get creative and use fettuccine, bucatini, gemelli, rigatoni, and more! Additionally, the dish is also traditionally made with eggs, cheese, pepper, and pancetta, but when I have extra peas, I will throw them in as well to add a little more green to the dish.  Try making your own pasta too - it is a lot of fun and it just makes the dish that much more comforting! If you want to make your own pasta dough, click here for the recipe and directions.

Pasta alla Carbonara 

Ingredients:
-1 lb spaghetti (or homemade pasta dough)
-1/4 pound pancetta, chopped (approx.)
-1 teaspoon minced garlic
-4 large eggs (use 6 eggs if you are making a larger batch of pasta)
-1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
-Chopped parsley leaves
-Salt and pepper to taste
-Optional: 1/2 cup cooked of peas

Directions:
Bring a pot of water to a boil and add a little salt and the pasta to the water.  Cook until al dente for about 8-10 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat a saute pan and add a little olive oil.  Put the pancetta in the pan and cook for about 3 minutes until the pancetta is crisp.  Add the garlic and cook for about one more minute.  Turn off the heat and set aside (make sure you keep all of the fats/oils from the pan too).

Reserve 1/2 of a cup of pasta cooking water.  Then, remove the pasta from the heat and strain the pasta.  Return the pasta to the pot and pour in the pancetta and its fat/oil to the pasta.  Stir until the pasta is lightly coated with the pancetta fats.  Add the peas if using.

In a bowl, lightly beat the eggs and add the Parmesan cheese to the egg mixture.  Once combined, add the egg and cheese mixture to the pasta, stirring quickly so that the eggs do not cook.  The eggs will start to thicken, so you can add a little of the reserved pasta water to loosen the sauce up if desired.

Season the pasta with a little salt and pepper, top with parsley and Parmesan cheese, and serve warm.  Enjoy!

The Cultural Dish:Pasta Carbonara
The Sensitive Epicure:Individual Goat Cheese Mac & Cheese (Gluten-Free, Lactose-Free)
Feed Me Phoebe:Green Eggs and Ham: Pasta Carbonara With Zucchini and Crispy Prosciutto
Red or Green?:Spicy Italian Sausage and Peppers Pasta
Napa Farmhouse 1885:Pasta With Apple-Sage Sausage, White Beans and Greens
Jeanette's Healthy Living:A Healthier Crock-Pot Meat Lovers Pasta Sauce
Dishin & Dishes:Skillet Gnocchi
The Heritage Cook:Macaroni and Cheese for Everyone
Devour: Low-Key Lasagna
Virtually Homemade:Gluten-Free Macaroni and Cheese With Crispy Bacon
Cooking With Elise:Scallops and Linguini
Big Girls, Small Kitchen:Swiss Chard Lasagna
And Love It Too:Baked Spaghetti With Zucchini Noodles
FN Dish:The Most Satisfying Pasta Dishes Pin It

Friday, March 8, 2013

Homemade Irish Cream

Yes, it is that time of year again! That time when we can drink and drink and drink and not feel guilty!  Oh, and we can celebrate St. Patrick's Day too! ;)

I actually try to eat pretty healthy most of the time, and that includes not drinking as much. Of course, I still love having my glass of wine (or two) with dinner sometimes.  However, since I have not shared a cocktail recipe in awhile, and St. Patrick's Day is approaching, I figured I would booze it up for this blog post and share my Homemade Irish Cream recipe! My husband was also quite excited when I told him I would be making it again for him, since he likes his Irish drinks!

Making your own Irish cream is really very simple.  There are a few different ways that you can make it, but this is the recipe that I have come up with after a few years of trying and combining various recipes that I have researched online.

Homemade Irish Cream
Ingredients:
-1 cup heavy cream
-1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
-1 ½ cups Irish whisky (optional - leave out if you want the non-alcoholic version, just know that it will be a lot thicker without the alcohol)
-2 tablespoons chocolate syrup
-1 teaspoon instant coffee
-1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
-½ teaspoon almond extract (optional)

Directions:
Place all of the ingredients into a blender.  Blend, pour, sip, enjoy! 

See, wasn't that easy!? It is actually a bit dangerous to know how easy it is to make this, which is why I have to try and only think about this time of year.


Happy St. Patrick's Day! 


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Sunday, March 3, 2013

Homemade Pasta Dough

Since pasta is so easy to find, most people just buy it at the store and throw it in a pot to cook.  What most people do not realize though, is that making your own pasta can be just as easy! Okay, it may make a little mess in the kitchen, but it really is so simple and delicious.  I am a firm believer that there is just nothing better than something that is homemade! Plus, it allows you to have some fun and experiment with making basil or spinach pasta doughs! So don't be afraid. Channel your inner Italian and give it a try! 


Depending on where you are in Italy, pasta dough is made slightly differently. Some places use flour and eggs, some flour and water, and some even add a little olive oil. However, the most common and basic way to make pasta dough involves mixing together flour and eggs.  That's it! 

 Basic Pasta Dough

Ingredients (for approximately 1 pound of pasta):
-2 1/4 cups flour
-3 eggs

*Basic rule of thumb when making pasta: You use 1 egg for every 3/4 cup of flour.  So if you want to make larger or smaller batches, the recipe can easily be adjusted.  The portions that I gave above is plenty if you are cooking for 2-4 people and there will usually be some leftover! 

Directions:
On a clean surface, measure out all of your flour, and make a weld in the center. Lightly whisk the eggs with a fork and add to the center of the flour.  Slowly and carefully mix in a little flour into the eggs.  Be careful not to break the wall of flour holding the eggs.  Once the eggs have mixed with enough flour though, you can break the wall. 

 
If making a larger batch, you can also just use a kitchen aid mixer if you have one. I usually always mix it myself though.  

Once the dough comes together (it is okay if the dough seems a little "rough"), wrap in plastic wrap and let stand at room temperature for at least 30 minutes.  

After the dough has rested, unwrap it and roll out chunks of the dough one at a time.  Now, here is where things can get messy and you need to use your muscles. I ALWAYS use my pasta roller because it makes life so much easier.  However, if you do not have a pasta roller, that is okay.  It will just take a little longer to roll out and you will give your arms a great workout (see my products/store page to see the roller I have)! 

If using a pasta roller, using a lot of flour on the machine and dough, run the dough through the roller at a wider setting the first few times.  After each pass through, fold the dough in half.  Only do this the first few times.  Then, slowly change the settings on your roller to thinner settings.  It depends on the type of pasta you are making (i.e. spaghetti, ravioli, lasagna, etc), but your pasta roller should come with instructions on which setting is used for each type of pasta.  

 Sheets of pasta after being rolled

Once your pasta is all rolled out and you have thin sheets of dough, let it stand for a few minutes.  This will allow the pasta to dry slightly before passing through the machine to cut into spaghetti or fettuccine etc.  Do not let the pasta sheets dry for too long though, otherwise the dough will just break when you pass it through to cut.  

Once cut, you can let the pasta dry a little more if you wish, just make sure there is enough flour sprinkled on the dough to prevent sticking.  I usually make the dough and cook it right away though.  

I hope you give this homemade pasta a try and enjoy! 
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Friday, March 1, 2013

Luscious Lemon Squares

Spring is almost here! I cannot believe how quickly the past few months have flown by, but with the start of March comes the anticipation and excitement of warmer days and cooking with spring and summer fruits and vegetables again!

To kick off March, Helen Koval from Helen's Cooking was kind enough to ask me to be her blogger of the week.  I was so excited and honored, but I had no idea what I wanted to make for this post.  After much deliberation, it came to me! Lemon Squares! I absolutely love cooking with Lemons, and if I did not live in New England, you can bet I would have a lemon tree in my back yard! There is just something about lemons.  They always add that something extra to my dishes and even when they are the focus of a dish, they can be quite tasty.  Plus, my husband has been hounding me for awhile now to make him his lemon squares again, so I figured it was about time! :)


Luscious Lemon Squares 
Ingredients

For the Crust:
-1 ½ cups flour
-1/2 cup confectionery sugar (plus extra for sprinkling at the end)
-1/4 cup cornstarch
-12 tablespoons of unsalted butter, diced and cold 
-Pinch of salt

For the Filling:
-4 eggs
-1 ½ cup sugar
-1/4 cup flour
-2/3 cup lemon juice (about 2 lemons)
-Zest of 1 lemon 
-1/2 teaspoon baking powder
-Pinch of salt

Directions:
Lightly grease a baking pan and then line it with parchment paper.  Grease the parchment paper as well.  This will help in the end when you are trying to remove the lemon squares.  The parchment paper hanging over the ends will act as your handles.  Set aside.

In a food processor (or mixing bowl), combine the flour, sugar, cornstarch, and a little salt.  Then, mix in the butter until the dough begins to crumble up.  If you have a food processor, this process will be very easy and the dough will form right away for you.  If mixing, it will just take a little longer for the dough to begin to form since the butter is cold.

Take the dough and use your hands to spread and press it down into your greased baking ban.  Once you have evenly spread and pressed down the dough, let it chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.  Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

After being chilled, bake the crust in the oven for 20-25 minutes, or until lightly browned and set.  Remove the pan from the oven and reduce the temperature down to 325 degrees F.

In a bowl, mix together the eggs and sugar. Add the flour, lemon juice, lemon zest, baking powder, and pinch of salt.  Once the mixture is all combined, pour it over the crust and return to the oven.  Bake for 20 minutes or until the lemon mixture has set.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely.  Using the parchment paper, lift the whole square from the pan.  Sprinkle  confectionery sugar over the top and slice into squares.  Make sure to wipe the knife in between cutting so that the slices stay nice and smooth.


Once cut, dig in and enjoy!


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