Rustic Bow Tie Pasta

My future mother-in-law gave me cherry tomatoes from a farmers market this past weekend. I could’ve gone the easy way out and had them with some salad or even eatm them by itself. But, I thought why not use them to make pasta for dinner. I already had pasta bow tie pasta in the pantry and fresh basil so I didn’t even have to go to the market for anything. I don’t have an exact recipe but if you cook, you’ll get the gist of it.

Here’s what I did:

  • minced a few cloves of garlic
  • diced a quarter of a medium sized onion
  • chopped about 10 leaves of fresh basil
  • removed the casing from one Italian sausage
  • washed the cherry tomatoes (probably equaled to a small box you could buy at the store
  • cooked enough pasta for two

I took a medium sized pot and brought water to a boil. As the water was heating up, I sautéed the garlic and onion until it was fragrant. Then I tossed in the tomatoes and when they started to burst open I smashed them until it started making a sauce. That’s when I started cooking the bow tie pasta (you could use any pasta you wanted to though) which took 10 minutes to become al dente, then I threw in the basil and sausage into the skillet I was using for the sauce, as the tomatoes started to cook down I put some of the water that the pasta was cooking in into the skillet, cooked it down some more for a few minutes and by the time the pasta was done the sauce was done too, so I strained it and put it right into the skillet, tossed it all together and was ready for dinner!

If you decide to try this, I hope you like it. It was very fresh and easy. 🙂

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Feeding Your Partner

Every now and then you gotta show your partner that you love them. I say, the way to ANYONE’S heart is through their stomach. Although we have a 5 month old baby girl and a busy schedule, I try to cook something special for the hubby once a week so he knows how much I love him. Last week, I prepared filet mignon with a balsamic reduction.

Let’s just say, he was very happy… 😉

So sharpen those kitchen knives and get cooking!

Father’s Day Weekend and Breakfast

If you live in the Bay Area and have never been or are a tourist looking for some daytime fun, I would suggest going to the California Academy of Sciences. Khanh, Elsa and I enjoyed a lovely day there on Saturday. Admission is $30/Adult. I definitely thought it was worth the money. We were there for about 3 hours, would have been longer but we didn’t get to go into the Planetarium because Elsa isn’t old enough. Anyway, there were many different exhibits and we walked around for a good while when I started getting really hungry. They have a restaurant there called The Moss Room, but there wasn’t anything we felt like eating on the menu so we had a nice little lunch in the cafeteria which had many different options. Khanh had fried chicken and chips and I had a reuben sandwich that I thought was pretty good.

After lunch, we continued on… my favorite part of the day was seeing the live animals. Even though it was Father’s Day Weekend, I couldn’t have asked for more. It was an amazing day with an amazing man and our baby.

After our eventful day yesterday, we just wanted to relax. I did wake up a little earlier than him to make a Father’s Day brunch. I recently learned how to make pancakes from scratch so I decided to make banana pancakes, a side of bacon (because he’s the biggest bacon fan I know) and blueberries to garnish.

I found a delicious recipe on the Food Network for blueberry buttermilk pancakes. I made those a few days ago and it was a success, so I used the same recipe but substituted the berries for a ripened banana. I hope you like them as much as we did.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 21/4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups buttermilk
  • 1/4 cup melted unsalted butter, plus some for frying
  • 1 cup blueberries, fresh or frozen
  • Serving suggestions: whipped cream and maple syrup

Directions

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

Beat the eggs with the buttermilk and melted butter. Combine the dry and the wet ingredients into a lumpy batter, being careful not to over mix, see Cook’s Note*.

Heat some butter in a skillet over medium heat. Spoon 1/3 cup of batter into the skillet and sprinkle the top with some of the blueberries. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes on each side.

Serve with a dollop of whipped cream and maple syrup.

*Cook’s Note: Over mixed batter will result in flat, heavy pancakes.

Eggplant and Green Bean Stir-Fry

This is something the hubby and I like to eat pretty regularly. I thought since this is something we really enjoy it’d be a good way to start sharing my recipes. I don’t normally cook with exact measurements when it comes to dinner, I just make everything to taste. Measuring and weighing everything was a first for me. I tried the recipe twice and it’s perfect (at least it is to us)! So, I hope you all will like it as much as we do!

Servings: 2  Prep Time: 5 minutes  Cook Time: 10 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 7 ounces sliced eggplant (about 1 Asian eggplant)
  • 4 ounces green beans
  • 2 green onion stalks
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 2 tbs vegetable/olive or any kind of cooking oil

Sauce:

  • 5 tbs water
  • ½ tsp cornstarch
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 1 tbs brown sugar
  • 2 tsp chili oil
  • 2 tbs oyster sauce

Directions:

Trim the ends of the green beans then slice the eggplant diagonally and cut the pieces in half lengthwise. Cut the green onions in 1-inch pieces. Mince the garlic cloves and set aside.

In a little bowl, put 2 tablespoons of water in it and save the other 3 for later. Add the cornstarch to the water and mix until it’s dissolved.  Mix in the rest of the ingredients for the sauce.

Heat a non-stick frying pan to medium heat. Pour the oil in and wait for about a minute. Put the minced garlic in and stir with a wooden spatula until fragrant. Now add the green beans and turn the heat up to medium-high, stir for 1-2 minutes. Then add the eggplant and the rest of the water for about 5 minutes or until you’ve reached the desired tenderness of the vegetables. Turn the heat back down to medium and throw in the green onions and pour the sauce over and stir for about a minute or until the green onions are cooked. Serve with jasmine rice and enjoy!

Red (Wine) Velvet Cupcakes

I had been wanting to try this recipe for a couple of weeks. I just kept looking at the photo on gilt and imagining the velvety sweetness in my mouth. I had gone to target the other day to pick up a couple of items I needed and since I was already there I figured I’d try to pick up whatever ingredients I could for the recipe. This target had almost everything I needed, including wine; but, I didn’t feel like spending more than a few dollars for some wine I’d only be using to cook with. So I picked up a bottle of zinfandel from Trader Joe’s, only $3.99. Then I had to go looking for vanilla beans, I first stopped into Andronico’s but they only had a package that was 25 smackers! I definitely didn’t want to pay that much for something I didn’t know when I’d use again. I got home and called Whole Food’s, they had a few different packages ranging from $8-12. I picked up the cheapest one since this was a first-time-try recipe. It came with 2 vanilla beans but I only needed to use one. I’ll probably use the other one for creme brulee in the near future.

This is a layer cake recipe but there are only two adults and an infant in my household therefore a whole cake doesn’t make sense, so cupcakes it is! I divided the recipe by 4 to make about 10 cupcakes so we wouldn’t kill ourselves to finish them. The only thing I couldn’t find were the cocoa nibs, but I didn’t think they were all that important because it’s basically just garnish. The cupcakes still came out very tasty. 🙂

I have to say, it’s been about 4 days and I just had another one of these, they’re still extremely moist and delicious. You must try this recipe!

Here’s the Stella Parks’ recipe I copied and pasted from gilt:

Cream Cheese German Buttercream
Makes about 10 cups, enough to generously finish a 3-layer, 8-inch cake

I highly recommend making the buttercream before making the cake itself; the frosting will benefit significantly from a little refrigeration before use.

The average buttercream is 50 percent butter (or more!) but German buttercream, with its custard base, clocks in around 25 percent, making it rich (but dangerously consumable). And it’s not dissimilar to Red Velvet’s traditional cooked flour frostings (also known as ermine or boiled milk frosting), making it something that even our great grandparents would love.

16 ounces whole milk
2 vanilla beans, split and scraped, seeds reserved for cake
10 ounces sugar (1¼ cups, by volume)
1½ ounces cornstarch (6 tablespoons by volume)
2 eggs
2 egg yolks
16 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
16 ounces unsalted butter, room temperature
¼ teaspoon salt, or more to taste

  1. Bring the milk with the vanilla bean pods (not the seeds; save those for the cake) to a simmer in a medium pot. Turn off the heat and set aside to steep for at least one hour, or as long as time allows.
  2. After steeping, remove the vanilla bean pods, using a rubber spatula to extract the thick vanilla milk from inside each. Return the milk to a simmer. Meanwhile, whisk together the sugar, cornstarch, eggs, and yolks in a medium bowl.
  3. Whisk about a half cup of the hot milk into the egg mixture—it will be thick at first but will loosen as the milk incorporates. Whisk in more hot milk until the egg mixture is fluid and warm. Next, whisk the tempered egg/milk mixture back into the pot of hot milk, putting on medium heat whisking all the while. Once the mixture starts to thicken and bubble sluggishly, continue whisking and cooking for a full minute more, then remove from heat and pour into a bowl.
  4. The custard may be cooled quickly by mixing it continuously in a stand mixer. If time isn’t an issue, press a layer of plastic wrap against its surface and refrigerate until cool.
  5. In either case, once the custard has cooled, use a hand or stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment to whip it until creamy. Begin whipping in the cream cheese, one tablespoon at a time, until it has fully incorporated. Then repeat with the butter. Add the salt and whip a minute more.
  6. Refrigerate until needed. When ready to use, whip until creamy and proceed.

Red (Wine) Velvet Cake
Makes three 8-inch layers or about 42 cupcakes
Despite containing both “red sugar” and red wine, your batter will look purple-gray. Don’t worry! It bakes into a chocolaty brown cake.

12 ounces all purpose flour (about 2¾ cups if by volume)
2 ounces natural cocoa (½ cup if by volume)
16 ounces unsalted butter, room temperature
2 ounces safflower oil or other neutral flavored oil
18 ounces brown sugar (3 cups, moderately packed, if by volume)
1 teaspoon salt
2¼ teaspoon baking soda
¾ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon, preferably freshly ground
scrapings from two vanilla bean pods or 1 tsp vanilla bean paste
6 eggs, room temperature
12 ounces red wine (Zinfandels work especially well)
1½ ounces vanilla extract
1 batch cream cheese German buttercream (See above)

To finish:
5 ounces white chocolate, preferably in a block or bar
½ ounce cocoa nibs

  1. Preheat the oven to 350° F and line three 8” by 2” cake pans with parchment rounds. Grease lightly with nonstick spray.
  2. Sift together the flour and cocoa, set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, combine the butter, oil, brown sugar, salt, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon and vanilla bean seeds. Use a hand or stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment to cream the ingredients for 10 minutes on medium speed. Periodically, stop mixing to scrape the bowl down with a rubber spatula.
  4. Turn the mixer to medium low and add the eggs, one at a time. Continue mixing after each addition until the egg has fully incorporated before adding the next.
  5. Reduce mixer speed to low. Add the flour/cocoa mixture alternately with the red wine in about three additions. Add the vanilla at the end. Shut off the mixer and give the batter a few turns with a rubber spatula to ensure a homogenous mix.
  6. Divide the batter evenly between the three prepared cake pans (25 ounces each).
  7. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes. The oil in the batter makes the cakes slightly more forgiving of over-baking, but try not to let it come to that. Bake until the cakes have puffed but will still retain a slight impression if touched gently with a fingertip. A toothpick inserted into the center should have a few moist crumbs still attached.
  8. Cool the cakes on a wire rack. At first, they will have pronounced domes and a slightly gray-brown color, but as they cool the domes will settle down somewhat and the color will deepen. When they have cooled, run a knife around the sides of the pan and invert onto a parchment lined tray or cooling rack. Continue cooling until no trace of warmth remains.
  9. Before frosting, use a serrated knife to level the cakes. If you have found this step difficult in the past, refrigerate the cakes for 30 minutes beforehand, making them easier to handle and cut.
  10. Assemble the cake on a platter or cake stand, topping each layer with a generous amount of buttercream. Crumb coat by spreading a thin, smooth layer of buttercream over the tops and sides of the cake; this will prevent stray crumbs from flecking the finished layer. Refrigerate the crumb-coated cake for 30 minutes before applying the final coating of buttercream to the top and sides.

To finish the cake:

When I learned that Red Velvet’s traditional accompaniment was a boiled milk frosting, I suddenly had visions of royalty. You see, boiled milk frosting is also known as ermine, a name meant to evoke the fluffy softness of fur. Of course, ermine and red velvet are the traditional trappings of English royalty, and even today the Pope himself wears a cape of red velvet and ermine. I couldn’t resist the sumptuous connotations and created a finish for the cake that would give Red Velvet its proper ermine robes.

To do this, I dust the cake with copious amounts of white chocolate shavings and cocoa nib “spots.” The white chocolate shavings are so fine that the heat of your mouth melts them completely before they hit the tongue, leaving only a sweet whisper of flavor and no discernible texture.

To create this finish, grate 5 ounces of white chocolate with a Microplane or Parmesan grater and dust the top and sides of the cake until completely coated. It’s easiest to use a folded piece of parchment paper as a “scoop” to distribute the white chocolate as the warmth of your hands will melt the chocolate.

Scatter the cocoa nibs over the cake in a haphazard manner to mimic ermine spots. To make the nibs stick to the side, you truly have to fling the nibs at the cake; it’s incredibly fun. Try it.

Grown Up Mac N Cheese

I looked in the fridge today and I realized I had too much cheese! I had a chunk of goat cheese and parmigiano-reggiano left from other dishes I made a couple weeks ago. I didn’t know what to do with all of it so I googled goat cheese recipes and this is what I found. I went through the recipe and realized I already had most of the ingredients. I just had to pick up some fresh parsley and since Khanh is a bacon-head, I picked up some thick cut bacon to add to the recipe. I followed the directions completely, only I cut the recipe in half because the one I’m posting serves 8. Before I started cooking the mac, I prepared my bacon. For half this recipe I used 3 strips of bacon. If you want to add bacon to the full recipe I’d use 6 strips. I like to cook my bacon in the oven because it’s less messy and doesn’t leave as much grease on it. If you have a metal baking sheet and a cooling rack that would be ideal, if not, you can use a broiling pan. Put the cooling rack on the baking sheet, lay the bacon strips on top and broil. It doesn’t take long so you’d have to stay close to the oven and watch them. When the bacon is crisp take it out and wait for it to cool and chop it up. When you pour the cheese sauce over the pasta add the bacon and mix. That’s how I prepared mine, but if you don’t like bacon it still tastes great without it!

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 pound(s) penne
  • 3 cup(s) heavy cream or half-and-half
  • 1/4 cup(s) finely chopped sweet onion
  • 2 clove(s) garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup(s) all-purpose flour
  • 1 10-ounce log goat cheese
  • 6 ounce(s) sharp white cheddar cheese, shredded 1 1/2 cups
  • 1 packed cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • 1/4 cup(s) sour cream
  • 1 tablespoon(s) chopped parsley
  • 2 teaspoon(s) chopped thyme
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon(s) grated lemon zest
  • Salt and freshly ground white pepper
  • 3 large egg yolks

before it went in the oven:

Directions

  • 1. Preheat the oven to 400° and butter a 10-inch cast-iron skillet. In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the pasta until al dente. Drain the pasta; return it to the pot.
  • 2. Meanwhile, in a large saucepan, bring the cream to a simmer with the onion and garlic. Transfer 1 cup of the cream to a bowl and whisk in the flour; return the mixture to the saucepan. Whisk over moderate heat until thickened, 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and whisk in the goat cheese, cheddar and half of the Parmigiano until melted. Whisk in the sour cream, parsley, thyme and zest and season with salt and white pepper. In a bowl, gradually whisk 1 cup of the sauce with the egg yolks, then whisk the mixture into the saucepan.
  • 3. Pour the sauce over the pasta and stir to coat. Spread the pasta in the cast-iron skillet and sprinkle with the remaining Parmigiano. Bake for about 45 minutes, until bubbling and golden. Let the mac and cheese rest for 15 minutes, then serve.

done baking:

Back and Forth

When I started this blog a few weeks ago I had all the intentions to cook as much as possible, live life and write about it regularly. It’s been kind of rough because my little family is going back and forth from San Francisco and Sacramento all the time. We’re in the middle of transitioning to move back to our hometown, Sacramento. We’re also moving back in with family until we can find a home to call our own and so that they can help us with our baby. It’s going to be hard to cook there because I won’t have any of my kitchen tools. In the meantime, I’ll probably be dining out a lot and talking about that. So bear with me!