Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Sweet n' Spicy n' Sticky BBQ Sauce

I made my own BBQ Sauce!

Queen B's Sticky BBQ Sauce

Ingredients:

1 Cup Stock (I used home made Quail Stock, no reason other than I just had it on hand)
1/3 Cup Red Wine
1/2- 2/3 Cups Honey
2 Tablespoons Fancy Grade Molasses
2-3 Tablespoons Brown Sugar
3 Tablespoons Poultry Seasoning
1-2 Tablespoons Worcestershire Sauce
1-3 Tablespoons Paprika (to taste, one will be still sweet with a spicy kick, three will make it quite spicy with a note of sweet)
Salt and Pepper
2-4 Tablespoons lemon Juice

Optional* Gravy Darkener
1/2 Tablespoon Cayenne Pepper (To make it really spicy)

Instructions:

Bring the stock to almost boiling, add the wine and continue to simmer for about 5 minutes, to give the alcohol a chance to boil off.

Add the honey, molasses, poultry seasoning, Worcestershire sauce, and 1 Tablespoon paprika. Season with salt and pepper and reduce heat to low. Let simmer together for about 10 minutes.

Taste the sauce.

If it is sour or acidic add brown sugar 1 tablespoon at a time, letting it simmer for 5 minutes and tasting again.

If it tastes too sweet add 2 tablespoons of lemon juice, let it simmer and taste again.

If you would like more spice/heat add more paprika 1 teaspoon at a time, or add the optional cayenne pepper.

If your sauce isn't a very pretty color you can use a bit of gravy darkener to make it a deeper color.

Taste, adjust and simmer your sauce until it is thick and sticky and tastes perfect to you. Making a sauce takes time and patience. Once made though you can keep it in the fridge for about a week in an air tight container.

Enjoy!

Notes:

Don't be an idiot like me and leave it a bowl with a press and seal lid. Cause when this stuff spills in your fridge it does not make for the easiest of clean ups. Ugh at least I needed to really clean the fridge out anyways before we move at the end of the month!

Other Places:

Something for dessert

Chocolate Chip Cookies

Buttermilk Marinade

Excellent for any kind of poultry. Especially before frying. I used it for Quail last night with just a simple seasoned flour coating and the Quail was divine!

Buttermilk Marinade

Ingredients:

2 Cups Buttermilk
1/8th Cup Fresh Basil leaves
1/8th Cup Fresh Parsley
1/8th Cup Fresh Oregano leaves
1 Tablespoon dried/crushed Rosemary
1 Tablespoon Paprika
2-4 Cloves Garlic
2 Teaspoons dried Onion powder/flakes

1 Teaspoon Cayenne Pepper* Optional

Instructions:

Finely chop the basil, parsley, and oregano leaves. Mince the garlic. In a large bowl add all the ingredients. Stir well to mix. Let stand about 5 minutes. Add desired poultry to the marinade , turn to coat and let sit in fridge for as little as 1 hour, or overnight. Stirring occasionally to ensure everything stays submerged.

When it's time to cook, drain poultry from marinade using a colander. Dredge in flour and fry, or cook as desired.

Enjoy!

Other Places:

Did you know you can switch milk for buttermilk in most recipes to switch up the flavor? Try it in:

Muffins

Succotash

Best when made with fresh local corn on the cob, but I think frozen corn fills in pretty well when it just isn't corn season.

Succotash

Ingredients:

6 Slices Bacon
1 Smallish Onion
2-4 Cloves Garlic (I use 4 but I love garlic)
1 Green Bell Pepper
Corn from 2-3 shucked/cleaned cobs (About 2 cups frozen kernels)
2 Jalapeno Peppers
1 Cup Edamame, shelled/frozen (Or lima beans)
1 Cup/1 pint Cherry Tomatoes
2 Tablespoons Cider Vinegar
1/4 Cup fresh chopped Basil leaves
Salt and Pepper

Instructions:

In a large skillet over medium heat cook the bacon slices until nice and crispy. Transfer cooked bacon to a plate lined with kitchen paper to drain.

Finely dice the onion and garlic cloves while the bacon cooks.

Now you can be naughty and leave all the delightful bacon fat in the pan, or drain away most of it leaving about 3 tablespoons. I wont tell if you go the naughty route, promise. Leave the skillet on a medium heat setting.

Add the onion the skillet with the bacon fat.Season with salt and pepper. Cook the onions until they are soft and translucent, about 10 minutes.

While the onion cooks, shuck/clean the cobs (measure out frozen kernels), finely mince the jalapeno peppers*, slice the cherry tomatoes in half, dice the green bell pepper and measure out the frozen edamame.

Add the minced garlic to the skillet. Stir fry cook an additional 2 minutes.

Add the vegetables we just prepared to the skillet. Season well with salt and pepper, stir to mix evenly. Cook for about 10 minutes, until vegetables are soft, stirring occasionally.

Chop the bacon and basil leaves. Add to the skillet. Pour the cider vinegar over top, stir well to mix evenly.

Cook for an additional 5-10 minutes. Or if you want to get some blackened edges to some of the vegetable you can cheat by lining a large baking sheet with parchment paper and turning oven to broil. Spread the succotash over the pan in a thin even layer and broil for 3-5 minutes. Watching carefully to prevent everything from burning.

Serve hot as a side, goes great with Fried Chicken.

Enjoy!

*I suggest wearing cooking-safe gloves or a ziplock bag like a glove while chopping the jalapeno peppers. The insides are a strong irritant and it's really not something you want on your hands. Since once its on your hands it will for sure end up in your eye ball. Also if you are a wimp with spice you can use only 1 pepper, or none at all. Also the seeds and pale interior edges of the pepper are the strongest in heat.

Notes:

Sometimes I like to pretend like I know everything, so I might have been making my own knock off succotash for about a year now. Except I got most of it wrong except what is obvious in pictures like corn and tomatoes. This recipe is revised from an allrecipes collection of succotash recipes and the pretend succotash I used to make.

This recipe is much nicer than all my previous attempts, especially since I had never noticed succotash has bacon in it! Any side with bacon is automatically better. Plus the cider vinegar and basil seasoning really makes all the vegetables taste enhanced but not covered up.

Also the original/true succotash might be supposed to have okra in it, but decent okra is impossible to get on my small island home. Plus I am pretty sure I wouldn't be able to cook it right, so I used a bell pepper instead to get some extra green in the succotash. Cheating I know, but I like what I like and wont apologize for it. (Same reason why I used edamame instead of lima beans like most traditional recipes call for, beans are a no go in this house)

Other Places:

Something for dessert:

Chocolate Cake

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Baked Sugar n' Spice Doughnuts

Not my Grammie's doughnuts but they do fill in quite well, and the spice taste really brings me back to being a kid.

Sugar n' Spice Doughnuts




Ingredients:

2 Cups Flour
1 1/2 Cup Sugar
2 Teaspoons Baking Powder
1/2 Teaspoon Cinnamon
1 Teaspoon Nutmeg
1/2 Teaspoon salt
1 egg beaten
1 1/4-1 2/3 Cups Buttermilk, or Milk
2 Tablespoons Vegetable Oil
1 Teaspoon Vanilla extract
* or 1 Vanilla bean, seeds scraped from the insides

4 Tablespoons butter, melted
1/2 Cup sugar
1 Teaspoon nutmeg
1 Vanilla bean, seeds scraped from the insides

Cooking Spray

Special Tools:

Doughnut pan, or a mini-tart pan. Doughnut pan will obviously make doughnuts, and a mini-tart pan can be used to make knock off baked Timbits/ Doughnut holes/Robin's Eggs' etc.

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350°F

In a medium bowl gently whisk the egg, add the buttermilk (starting with only 1 1/4 cup), vegetable oil, vanilla bean extract and seeds if using them. Whisk to mix.

In a large bowl sift together the flour, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, and baking powder. 

Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients. Stir until just evenly combined. If batter is too thick add more buttermilk just a little bit at a time. Should be like a slightly thick cake batter.

Lightly spray doughnut pan with cooking spray, fill each mould 3/4 full with batter. Bake for 15-17 minutes. Let stand in hot pan another 5 minutes. Carefully remove doughnuts from pan to cooling rack.

Melt the 4 tablespoons of butter in a small bowl.

Combine the 1/2 cup sugar with the nutmeg and vanilla bean seeds.

Dip tops of baked doughnuts into butter, then into sugar. Return to rack. 

Doughnuts are now ready.

Enjoy!!

Notes:

You could also make a different flavor combination for the sugar topping by omitting the vanilla bean innards, and switching instead for some grated lemon rind, lime rind, orange rind, or even some grated fresh ginger root.

Other Places:

Something else?

Banana Bread

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Lemon and Wine Scallop Fettucini

This was seriously my first time cooking scallops or eating them. A surprise success!

Lemon and Wine Scallop Fettucini

Ingredients:

1 Pound Dried Pasta
2 Tablespoons olive oil + Extra to season cast iron if you use it.
1 Tablespoon Butter
3 Cloves Garlic, finely minced
1 Cup White Wine (Dry*)
Zest of one lemon
Juice of 1/2 Lemon
1/4 Cup Green onion, finely sliced
1 Can of Diced Tomatoes, Drained in a strainer and seeds rinsed away under running water
Parsley
Parmesan Cheese, fresh, shredded

Instructions:

Get a large pot of well salted water boiling on the stove.

Preheat either a stainless steel or cast iron skillet to a medium temperature. Season with oil lightly.

Remove fresh, never frozen scallops from their packaging and place on kitchen paper towels to dry off for a minute.

Once pot of water is almost boiling and skillet is well heated, melt the butter in the skillet, and season the scallops with salt and pepper while still on the kitchen paper towels. Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil to the skillet.

If that pot of water is boiling, add the pasta around now and let cook for about 8-9 minutes till done, or follow the package/recipe instructions for your pasta.

Place the scallops seasoned side down, without crowding the skillet, and sear for about 1 minute until there is a nice golden sear on the bottom and the bottom third of the scallops look cooked. Season tops with salt and pepper, and turn over. Sear once more for about a minute. Transfer cooked scallops to a clean plate.

Add the remaining tablespoon of olive oil to the skillet and add the minced garlic. Saute for 2 minutes till just golden. Add the wine, lemon juice, and lemon zest, bring to a simmer and de-glaze the bottom of the skillet. Simmer wine sauce for about 2-3 minutes. Add the green onion and diced tomatoes. Stir well, reduce heat, place scallops over top of sauce and continue to simmer until pasta is cooked.

Drain cooked pasta and return to pot. Add contents of skillet to pot, toss/stir well to coat the pasta in the sauce.

Divide the pasta onto four warmed plates. Try and get the scallops divided evenly between plates, garnish plates with fresh Parmesan cheese and chopped parsley. Serve right away.

Enjoy!

Notes:

*Dry Wine means that it isn't a sweet wine.

Only buy fresh scallops from a local fish market/monger. Or from the seafood counter at your local grocery store. Fresh scallops (and all seafood really) shouldn't smell fishy when you buy it. It should smell clean and maybe lightly salty. Like ocean water. A strong fishy smell means the seafood is about ready to go off.

I rinsed the can of tomatoes in a strainer under running water just to get rid of the seeds and make the final pasta even prettier.

Scallops must be cooked in stainless steel or cast iron. A nonstick pan wont give you a nice sear and they will likely end up rubbery. Also the trick to a good sear is a hot pan, and not moving the protein until its time to flip. Plus only flip once!

This recipe would also work well with an equal weight of small bay scallops instead of the full sized scallops. Same rules apply just half the searing time for the small delicate bay scallops.

Other Places:

Something baked and sweet instead:

Pumpkin Spice Muffins

Quick at Home Tooth Whitening

Since Miss Busy Bee is getting ready to get her MRS, teeth whitening is very much on my agenda. Can't wear a white dress with yellow teeth after all.

However I don't really want to pay for a professional whitening or white strips that don't really work. So I set out to test some at home methods and it turns out the simple ones are the better way to go.

Some things to keep in mind:

1) This is a recipe/method which will remove surface stains, not severe discolorations. This is good to get a few months of tea/coffee/wine/cola drinking to vanish. But wont improve deeper damage.

2) Do not try this if you have overly sensitive or damaged teeth or any current tooth pain. The baking soda will act as an abrasive agent, literally scrubbing the stained layer off your teeth.

3) Miss Busy Bee also suggests not trying this one if you have any open mouth sores, as the combination of strong mouth wash and hydrogen peroxide could be most unpleasant.

4) I swear I tried this and got a nice subtle but noticeable result, your results may vary.

5) Also don't do this any more than twice a year or you will risk permanent damage to your enamel layer.

At home Tooth Whitening

Ingredients:

1/2 Ounce Mouthwash
1/2 Ounce Hydrogen peroxide

Pea-sized Tooth paste blob
1 Teaspoon Baking soda
1/2 Teaspoon Water

Water

Tooth brush

Instructions:

In a shot glass combine the 1/2 ounce of hydrogen peroxide and mouthwash.

In a small container combine the baking soda, toothpaste and water until an even paste forms.

Get another glass of water ready on stand by.

Gargle the hydrogen peroxide and mouthwash mix for about 1 minute. Do not swallow. Spit it out down the sink.

Dip tooth brush in the baking soda, toothpaste and water mix, brush teeth without adding water for about 3 minutes. Re-dipping the toothbrush in the mixture every so often.

Rinse off toothbrush and brush once more with rinsed tooth brush.

Swish the water we had waiting on the side in several goes until mouth feels clean and fresh.

You will now have cleaner teeth, I suggest waiting an hour, then brushing with a protective toothpaste if you have one before eating anything strongly dyed or colored.

Enjoy your new fresh smile!

Other Places:

Something sweet instead:

Porcupine Cookies

Sunday, 20 April 2014

Parmesan Roasted Asparagus

Parmesan Roasted Asparagus




Ingredients:

About 1 pound Asparagus
Olive oil
Salt
Pepper
Lemon juice
1 Lemon
About 3 Tablespoons Shredded fresh Parmesan Cheese

Instructions:

Bring about 1 inch of water in a medium sized pot with a close fitting lid to a full rolling boil.

Prepare the asparagus by first gently washing in cold water, and holding the asparagus tip in one hand and bend the bottom to one side. Where it snaps is where it is no longer woody. Discard the snapped off wood-like bottom and hold on to the top half. If desired, you can chop the asparagus tops into one inch sections to make it more bite sized.

Once the asparagus is prepped and the water is boiling, add the asparagus to the pot, cover and let steam/boil for about 4 minutes until just tender.

Preheat oven to broil or about 475°F.

Slice the lemon into nice slices and arrange on a pan lined with parchment paper to one side.

Once the asparagus is cooked, strain it from the pot and shake the water off. Transfer to a large bowl and toss with olive oil, salt and pepper. Add about 2-3 tablespoons of lemon juice and toss again to coat well.

Pour the asparagus onto the parchment lined baking sheet and arrange into a single layer along side the lemon slices. Sprinkle the Parmesan cheese over top the asparagus evenly, use more or less to suit your taste. Keep in mind Parmesan is salty and rich in taste though.

Place prepared asparagus in the preheated oven on a rack placed near the top third of the oven and roast for between 5-8 minutes, until lightly toasted in appearance.

Serve hot, right away.

Enjoy!

Notes:

Will make an asparagus lover out of almost anyone!

Other Places:

Something for breakfast instead:

Dutch Baby

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Spaghetti alla Carbonara

A simple pasta dish with a creamy egg based sauce. Made even more delicious by the addition of salty pancetta.

Spaghetti alla Carbonara

Ingredients:

1 Pound Spaghetti, dried or fresh
4 Eggs
1/4 Cup Milk or Cream
1/4 Cup shredded fresh Parmesan Cheese
Salt
Pepper
Fresh Parsley, roughly chopped
About 500 grams Pancetta or 8-10 slices Bacon

Instructions:

If you are making fresh pasta get that all done and then pasta rolled out ready to be cut before starting the sauce.

Preheat oven to about 200°, or the warming setting.  Place 4-6 bowls in to warm up.

This is an easy recipe but you must listen to my words or else you will end up with scrambled eggs and pasta. It is also impressive for a dinner party if you have the pasta ready to be cut, and have all the ingredients pre-measured in cute bowls on the counter and then whip it up in about 10 minutes. People love it.

Get a large pot of well salted water on the stove and on a pretty high heat to get it to a rolling boil.

Cook the pancetta or bacon until the fat renders and is slightly crisp, Drain the fat from the skillet. Chop up the bacon if you used it.

While that is cooking, cut the pasta in to spaghetti or fettuccine noodles.

In a small bowl gently whisk the eggs and milk/cream. Season well with salt and pepper.  Fold in the Parmesan cheese and chopped parsley.

The large pot we set to boiling should be ready to go by now, add about 1 tablespoon of olive oil to help prevent the noodles from sticking together. Add the noodles and cook according to their package or recipe. If you are using fresh pasta it's cooked when it floats and only takes a minute. Turn off the burner.

Once pasta is cooked, quickly drain the pasta and return it to the pot. Add the cooked pancetta to the pot and the whisked egg mixture. Using a large wooden spoon, gently turn the pasta or cover the pot with a lid and gently toss the pasta to coat the pasta in the egg sauce. Continue to stir/toss the pasta while moving it on and off the hot burner until the pasta looks glossy and there isn't much runny egg mixture left on the bottom.

Serve immediately in the pre-warmed bowls we set up at the beginning, garnish with some extra Parmesan cheese and chopped parsley.

Enjoy!

Other Places:

Something Asian instead:

Tonkatsu 

A Ladies Lemon Cake

Maybe a lovely lady like Sansa Stark. . .

Gentle note, I googled lemon cakes so I could celebrate the return of Game of Thrones on HBO. Found what I thought was going to be an excellent recipe but some other less careful blogger left out several instructions. Sad times when you are already halfway through a recipe.

So this is my fixed Lemon Cake recipe. Light, delicate and lemony!

Lemon Cake




Ingredients:

Lemon syrup and Candied Lemon Slices

Cake

4 Eggs, separated
1 Tablespoon water
1/2 + 2 Tablespoons white sugar
1/2 Cup Butter, melted and cooled slightly
3/4 Cup flour
1 1/2 Cup Milk
2 Teaspoons vanilla
Juice of two Lemons (1/2 Cup)
Zest of one Lemon
1/2 Cup Lemon Syrup

Lemon Cream

1 Cup Whipping/ Heavy Cream
1/4 Cup Confectioners sugar
3 Tablespoons lemon pudding mix (Bulk Barn should have it, and you only need a little bit)

Instructions:

Leave the milk and separated eggs at room temperature for at least 30 minutes. Cold eggs and milk will ruin everything.

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Spray an 8 inch round cake pan with cooking spray and if desired line the bottom with parchment paper. I suggest using an 8 inch spring-form pan to make life easiest.

Using an electric or stand mixer whip the egg whites only until stiff and fluffy. Careful to not over mix. When you pull the beaters out stiff upright peaks should be clear and evident.

Beat egg yolks, sugar, vanilla, and the tablespoon of water until light, frothy and yellow. Slowly pour and whip in the melted butter until well combined.

Whisk in milk, lemon juice, lemon zest, lemon syrup until combined. Gently mix in flour until combined.

Gently fold the whipped egg whites, or mix in stand mixer on level one. Batter might look a bit lumpy, that is totally ok. As long as it an even consistency of small lumpy parts all over.

Pour the cake batter into the prepared pan and on a flat surface give the pan a little wiggle to evenly distribute in the pan.

Bake for 60 minutes. Remove cake from oven and let stand in pan for about 2 hours. The cake might sink a bit from it's fresh baked height. Don't worry about it.

Turn cake out onto a pretty serving dish, pretty side up.

Prepare the whipping cream by adding everything to a stand mixer and whipping on a medium setting until the cream has become whipped cream and holds it shape. Fill a pastry bag with a star tip with the whipped cream and pipe small stars all over the cake. Garnish with the candied lemons.

Enjoy!

Other Places:

Learn to make a gravy without any pan drippings or a pre-made package:

Gravy

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Syrups and Candied Fruits

Simple Syrup

Ingredients:

1 Cup White Sugar
1 Cup Water

Instructions:

In a clean nonstick skillet combine the water and sugar together. Whisk together over medium heat until the water is just simmering/ almost boiling. Reduce heat to low once all the sugar has dissolved. Continue to simmer for about 1 hour.

Side note, if it is too thin, let it simmer longer, if it is too gummy for your purpose then while it is still warm whisk in a little bit more water. The final viscosity is really up to you.

Syrup can now be used to:

  • Moisten a freshly baked cake by simply pouring the syrup over the top.
  • In drink recipes that call for a simple syrup in the ingredient list
  • To make other sauces

Flavored Syrup and Candied Fruit

Ingredients:

1 Cup Water
1 Cup Sugar

Other things you might need:

Medium pot of freshly boiled water
Ice Bath
Mandolin, or some serious knife skills
Strainer
Food coloring, if desired
Parchment paper
Tray

Flavor Options:

1) Cinnamon - About 3, 3 inch cinnamon sticks, (use whole)
2) Citrus fruits - One lemon, or lime, or orange, or tangerine, or grapefruit etc. (Thinly sliced)
3) Ginger - Ginger root piece about the size of your palm, peeled of course and thinly sliced
Instructions:

If you are making cinnamon flavored skip ahead.

Using the mandolin, thinly slice either the citrus fruit of your choice or the ginger root. Once sliced blanch the slices in the pot of freshly boiled water and stir for about one minute. Strain the slices from the boiling water carefully and transfer to the ice bath. Stir and let sit a moment.

Hello cinnamon people, nice of you to rejoin us. Let's all continue together now.

In a clean nonstick skillet combine the water and sugar together. Whisk together over medium heat until the water is just simmering/ almost boiling. Reduce heat to low once all the sugar has dissolved. 

If desired you can now add 2-4 drops of food coloring to give your syrup a light tinting. for example, I used yellow to make lemon syrup and candied lemon slices. Otherwise as you cook the citrus fruits they will loose their color to the syrup and become pretty translucent. Still pretty, but I wanted some extra color for my purposes.

Carefully remove the slices from the ice bath and place the slices in a single layer over top of the syrup. Or just throw the cinnamon sticks in there. Allow to simmer on low for about 1 hour. Keep an eye on it as you don't want things to burn dry. 

After about an hour, use tongs to fish the slices/cinnamon out of the skillet and transfer to a parchment lined tray to dry and set for about 4 hours. Sorry but the cinnamon sticks are mostly only good for garnish now, They will look lovely and have a bit of shine from the candy coating, so I suggest maybe making a lovely little coffee cake, doing a rosette of whipped cream and sticking some cinnamon right on in. Martha Stuart couldn't do any finer.

The ginger and citrus you can eat like literal candy though!

To finish the syrup, use a spoon and to dip and test how thick the syrup is, if it is too thick and gummy water it down with about 1/4-1/2 cup water while it is still warm. If it is too thin let it simmer on low for another 10 minutes or so.

Enjoy!

Bonus:

Fuzzy Lemon Brandy ~ A lovely drink for lovely ladies

2 Ounces Brandy
1 Ounce lemon syrup
1 candied lemon slice, garnish
Optional: 1 mint leaf, lightly pressed
Soda water

In a shaker with ice combine the brandy, and lemon syrup. Prepare a highball glass with ice, add the candied lemon and mint leaf. Pour shaker over ice, top with soda water. Sip delicately, like a lady.

Enjoy Several. . .

Other Places:

Something spicy:

Thai Sauce


Thursday, 10 April 2014

Classic Mac n' Cheese

Know why this one took too long? Because Miss Busy Bee is not a patient woman and always screwed up making the cheese sauce. But Finally got those kinks worked out!

Classic Mac n' Cheese

Ingredients:

About 2 Cups dry pasta
1 Cup shredded Cheddar
1/2 Cup shredded other cheese (Mozza, Gouda, Swiss. . . )
Pepper
Salt
1/2 Cup Milk
2 Tablespoons Butter
1-2 Tablespoons Flour

Optional:

Bread crumbs or extra cheese to bake over top.

A spice blend of;
1 Teaspoon Garlic powder
1 Teaspoon Onion powder
1 Teaspoon Paprika
1 Teaspoon Turmeric
Can help make the color Kraft Dinner Orange and add extra cheesy flavor to the final meal.

Instructions:

In a large pot bring well salted water to a boil and cook the macaroni according to package directions. Drain, return to empty pot and set aside. Or cook the pasta  while making the cheese sauce if you can handle multi-tasking.

In a large skillet over medium heat melt the butter until it is all melted but not quite browning yet. This is an art and takes a keen eye and attention. Once butter is melted and just beginning to maybe bubble sprinkle 1 tablespoon of flour over the melted butter evenly. Whisk the melted butter and the flour together over heat. If the butter is still very very runny add another tablespoon of flour. Continue to whisk and reduce heat to medium-low for about 5 minutes. Or until you have a nice even paste in the pan and it doesn't smell like raw flour.

Season with salt and pepper.

Pour the milk slowly into the skillet, while still whisking. Continue to whisk for what might seem like forever (10-15 minutes) until everything is smooth, no lumps or bumps and the sauce is beginning to bubble and thicken.

Allow the sauce to continue to thicken for a few minutes. (2-3 minutes)

Add the shredded cheeses and continue to whisk until the sauce is smooth and all the cheese has melted.

Pour the cheese sauce into the pot with the cooked pasta. Stir well to evenly mix everything.

Lightly oil a casserole dish or the stoneware from a slowcooker with cooking spray.

Pour the prepared mac n' cheese into the baking dish.

If using this recipe to make ahead, cover the stoneware or casserole and refrigerate until about 1 hour before serving time or a casserole or 3-4 hours for slowcooker. Then remove from fridge and let stand about 20 minutes on counter to warm up.

If desired, top mac n' cheese with shredded cheese or bread crumbs.

For oven, preheat oven to 350°F, and bake room temp casserole for 30-40 minutes until heated through.

For slowcooker, place insert into slowcooker and turn to high for about 3-4 hours. Or until bubbly and warmed through.

Enjoy!

Notes:

Ps: Do your kids only like the boxed and processed mac and cheese? Try adding roughly:

1/2 Teaspoon Garlic powder
1/2 Teaspoon Onion powder
1/2 Teaspoon Paprika
1/2 Teaspoon Turmeric

These were the spices I used in my cheese crackers and I found it gave them that extra tang that processed cheese snacks have, without adding any chemicals or processing. I highly recommend it.

Other Places:

Something easy and sweet:

Berry Sauce

Friday, 4 April 2014

Spaghetti and Meatball Dinner (Three recipes, one awesome dinner)

Super easy and everyone loves spaghetti and meatballs!

You could also be adventurous and make your own pasta!

Basic Tomato Sauce:

Serves Four

Ingredients:

1 Can Diced, whole or crushed tomatoes
1 Tablespoon Olive oil
4 Cloves Garlic
1 Onion
1 Tablespoon Oregano
1 Tablespoon Basil
Salt and Pepper
2-3 Bay Leaves

Special Tools:

Immersion Blender, or a blender/food processor safe for use with hot sauces.
You could also make the sauce ahead of time, and then cool it and puree it later. Then the sauce would just need to be reheated when you needed it. Or if you want a chunkier sauce you can just mash the tomatoes a bit with a spoon. The choice is yours.

Instructions:

In a large pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. 

Finely dice the onion and cloves garlic, or pulse in a food processor until fine.

Once oil is heated, add the onion and garlic. Season with salt and pepper and stir fry until onions are soft and beginning to cook down. About 10 minutes of cooking. 

Add the can of tomatoes, basil, oregano and bay leaves. Season again with sat and pepper. Stir well.

Reduce heat and simmer the pot for about 5 minutes.

Taste the sauce. Adjust seasonings as needed. If it's too bitter more basil, maybe a little brown sugar (1/2 tablespoon), too sweet, more pepper and oregano. If it's just bland more salt. Tomatoes need a bit of salt before they really shine.

Cover and continue simmering on low for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. 

Remove bay leaves from the sauce and Blend smooth with an immersion blender*.

Serve hot over noodles. 

Enjoy!

Beef Meatballs:

Ingredients:

1 pound Ground Beef
1/2 Cup fresh bread crumbs
1 small Onion
2 Cloves garlic
1 Egg, lightly beaten
2 Tablespoons fresh chopped Parsley
1 Tablespoon Oregano
Salt and Pepper
1 Teaspoon nutmeg, or a bit more if you like nutmeg.

Instructions:

Let the ground beef stand in a large stainless steel bowl on the counter for about 10 minutes. This just makes it less cold when it comes time to work it into balls.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a large baking sheet with Tin foil.

Finely dice or pulse in a food processor the onion and garlic. 

Add the diced vegetables, parsley, oregano and nutmeg to the ground beef. Season well with salt and pepper. Mix well. Add in the bread crumbs and egg and mix everything really well with your hands until evenly blended and balls retain shape when rolled into balls. 

Roll out the meatballs in your hands and place on the prepared baking sheet, close together but not touching. 

Once all the meat mixture have been rolled, bake meatballs for about 20-25 minutes, until cooked through. Remove from oven.

Serve hot as a cocktail snack, in a sandwich or wrap, or with a sauce on pasta.

Enjoy!

Basic Pasta Recipe

Ingredients:

For three to four people

1/2 Cup Semolina Flour
1/2 Cup White Flour
Generous pinch salt
1 Egg
1 Egg Yolk
1/2 Tablespoon Olive Oil

Special Tools:

Pasta roller and cutter

Instructions:

On a clean dry work surface, sift together the semolina flour, white flour and salt until evenly mixed. 

In a small bowl gently whisk the egg, egg yolk and olive oil together to just break the yolks up a bit. 

Pile the flour mixture up on your work surface. Create a well in the center. You should now have what looks like a child's volcano project on your surface made from the flour, and a bowl of yellow "lava" waiting on the side. 

Another analogy is that the pile of flour mixture should look kind of like a doughnut. 

Pour the egg and oil mixture into the center of your volcano or doughnut of flour. use a fork to gently begin to whisk the flour mixture into the egg mixture, slowly expanding the well in the center until a dough begins to form, continue to mix in more flour with the fork until it becomes to stiff. 

Knead the dough with your hands, working in more of the flour mixture as your go. If things remain too sticky once all the flour is incorporated, add a little bit more semolina flour. If it is still too sticky a little bit more white flour. The dough should be smooth and dense when it is done. If it is too sticky or too dry it wont roll/cut right.

When dough is ready, roll it into a ball, wrap tightly in plastic wrap and let the dough rest at room temperature for about 20 minutes. This is a very important step. DO not skip it.

After the dough has rested, divide the dough into four equal chunks, roll out slightly with a rolling pin, and then feed through a pasta roller until desired thinness is reached. I have a Kitchenaid stand mixer attachment set of pasta rollers, and I have been finding about a 5 on the roller is good for spaghetti, it's a little finer than box spaghetti but I like it.

Get a large pot of well salted water with 1 tablespoon olive oil, on the stove over medium high heat. Get it to a boil and keep it there.

Ok so here is when life will get complicated. Pasta sheets will dry out in the air, and then you wont be able to cut them later. They also like to stick together and become unworkable. Since I was not raised with an Italian Grandma to help me out I learned with trial and error. What I do is get out my giant cookie platter usual reserved for Christmas parties, and after rolling out the sheets, i place them along the try in a single layer and then cover with plastic wrap, and then layer more pasta sheets on top and repeat until all my pasta is rolled. The bonus of this method is when it comes time to cut the pasta I can lift up the layers of plastic wrap and start cutting the pasta sheets that I rolled first. Then flip the layers of pasta and plastic wrap and continue cutting pasta that was rolled first. Kitchen prep rule 101: first in means first out!

After rolling out all the pasta, switch to the cutter, or if you are truly ambitious cut it by hand. Cut the pasta sheets into workable lengths, and place the freshly cut pasta on a clean tea towel laid out as straight as possible and in a single layer if possible. You can also use plastic wrap to separate layers of pasta. We are trying to prevent the pasta from clumping back together before we get a chance to cook it. 

Once all the pasta is cut. Dump it all into the pot of boiling water. Stir gently. Pasta will be cooked in about a literal minute. Once cooked, drain from water and serve hot with desired sauce or topping.

Enjoy!

Notes:

To pull this off easily as a dinner for a guests, I would start by getting the pasta ready and letting it rest. Then start on the sauce, once the sauce is simmering, prepare the meatballs.

Once meatballs are cooking, roll and cut the pasta as desired. 

Once meatballs are cooked, add them to the fully cooked sauce after it has been blended smooth. Simmer meatballs for about 5 minutes.

While meatballs and sauce come together, finish cutting the pasta, cook the pasta and now everything is ready to serve.

Serve on warmed plates with salad and maybe some bread.

Other Places:

Something for dessert:

Avocado Loaf