Sunday, December 9, 2012

Photo: Art Museum in Black and White

Between class and dental work, no time for baking. Soon, my little kitchen, soon.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Quick Pasta Bolognese

Sometimes, panic is a good thing. And by that, I mean when I'm frazzled from studying and figure it's time to take a break by doing some cooking to get out of the academic funk. I have always had a fondness for Pasta  Bolognese and somewhere in my collection of dusty, unused cookbooks is a different recipe (one that takes twice as long as this new version) which I always trot out when I want to impress .  But I also have a fondness for simplification especially when I have a paper to write and a test to study for. Given how simple this was to make, and how good it tasted, this might be my new favorite Bolognese recipe. Overall grade: A

Quick Pasta Bolognese 
Adapted slightly from The Best Simple Recipes by America's Test Kitchen

1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 onion chopped fine
1 carrot, diced into small chunks
16 oz meatloaf mix (pork and beef)
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup dry white wine
1 28 oz can diced tomatoes
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 pound gluten free spaghetti
salt and pepper

Bring 4 quarts of water to a boil in large pot. Place 1 tbsp oil in large skillet turn heat to medium high until oil starts to smoke slightly. Add onions and carrots and cook for 5 minutes or until tender. Add meat and cook, using potato masher to break apart meat until it is no longer pink for about 5 minutes. Stir in garlic and cook for about 30 seconds. Add wine and cook until reduced by half, about 2 minutes. Stir in tomatoes and cook until slightly thickened, approximately 2 minutes. Add cream and cook until thickened, about 5 minutes.

Cook pasta and drain. Return to pot and add sauce, tossing to combine. Season with salt and pepper. Serves 4.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Roasted Halibut with Asian Cilantro Sauce

Thanks in part to a long weekend and some extra free time, I finally ran out of excuses and followed the trail of  imaginary bread crumbs back into the kitchen. As I've been relying way too much on prepackaged food and/or using ice cream for my dinners as of late, I'd had my eye on this for awhile in the hope of kick starting a healthier lifestyle. Sadly, this was cooked only because I was growing irritated with watching a baseball game but I'd like to think that getting this made at all is still a battle won. Overall, given my tendency to overcook fish, the green bean and mushroom blend was the biggest hit but this was still a quick, light Sunday lunch that I would make again as long as I had a kitchen timer on hand. Although the recipe calls for adding additional salt and pepper to taste to the vegetable medley and the cilantro sauce, I omitted it without any taste lost as a result. Overall grade B+.

Roasted Halibut with Asian Cilantro Sauce 
slightly adapted from Bon Appetit - Fast Easy Fresh 

2 cups loosely packed fresh cilantro leaves (1 large bunch)
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 green onion, chopped
1 tbsp ginger paste
5 tbsp olive oil (recipe calls for safflower oil)
2 tsp Asian sesame oil, divided
3 tsp soy sauce, divided

2 8 oz halibut fillets, each 1 inch thick
4 oz green beans
10 oz fresh stemmed shiitake mushrooms

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Place cilanto, lemon juice, green onion and ginger in food processor along with 3 tbsp olive oil, 1 tsp sesame oil and 1 tsp soy sauce and puree.

Place fish fillets, green beans, and mushrooms in single layer on baking sheet. Whisk remaining 2 tbsp olive oil, sesame oil and soy sauce in bowl to blend. Poor over fish, green beans and mushrooms. Toss green beans and mushrooms to coat. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast until fish is opaque in center and green beans are crisp-tender, approximately 8 minutes. Divide among two plates and serve with cilantro sauce.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

In Lieu of Cooking

 I've been either busy or lazy or both which is never a good combination in life when it comes to choosing cooking over takeout. This is a photo I took about two months ago after Spanish class.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Grilled Gorgonzola Chicken with Roasted Tomatoes

I had every intention of being superwoman this weekend - I was going to leap over Spanish infinitive verb endings with a single bound, rescue the world from assorted superlatives and defeat the evil infinitive and negatives words therefore making the world safe again for those of us who are currently befuddled by taking accelerated language courses in the summer. And completely clean the house. In other words, I was panicking over a final exam three days away.

I should confess, I am just about as confused as I was this morning. Sometimes the best laid plans are bound to disintegrate rapidly as soon as they feel that first cold touch of reality. Sinus headaches and sisters don't help matters much more either. Which is why I am glad that, despite slamming face first into the proverbial end of semester wall today, I still decided to get into the kitchen and cook something so that I would feel like I had accomplished something that had a breath of creativity in it.

It helped greatly that the recipe itself was pretty quick to pull together...combine the sauce in a blender, grill the chicken and serve. My kind of recipe for a day that just never quite got started. And all that butter basted chicken does help tame the stress to more manageable levels. Overall grade: A+  for being a quick and easy Sunday night dinner that I would make again.

Grilled Gorgonzola Chicken
adapted from "The Great Big Book of Butter Cookbook"

Gorgonzola Sauce
3/4 cup greek yogurt
3 oz cream cheese room temperature
5 tbsp gorgonzola cheese
2 tbsp chopped green onions
1 1/2 tps pepper with finely grated lemon zest
1/8 tsp salt

4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
4 tbsp butter, melted
Salt and pepper to taste
4 tomatoes, cut into slices and grilled

Preheat grill to medium heat.

In blender, mix yogurt and cream cheese until smooth. Add gorgonzola, green onion, lemon pepper and salt. Process until combined. Cover and chill until ready to serve.

Brush chicken with small amount of melted butter then sprinkle with salt and pepper. Grill chicken, uncovered, over heat for 5 minutes on one side. Turn and cook for another 7-10 minutes.

Serve chicken with cheese sauce and garnish with roasted tomatoes.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Lemon Pasta Salad with Tomatoes and Feta

Lately, I've been trying to focus more on eating healthier due in part to the cold hard truth..I am getting older. And after 40, while the mind might say "Of course you can still eat like you were in your 20's" your body is not going along with the sentiment at all. That's why I liked this recipe after finding it in one of my rarely used cookbooks (thanks to easy access to takeout and a genetic predisposition to laziness). Apart from having to slow down long enough to cook the pasta and toss the dressing, this was simple enough for me to pull off after a long day at work. Due to a gluten sensitivity, I used gluten free rice pasta but the flavor of the dressing helped make that difficult to taste. I also cut back slightly on the bell peppers as I'm not a huge fan of them.  Overall, a solid A-.

Lemon Pasta Salad with Tomatoes and Feta
Adapted ever so slightly from "Bon Appetit - Fast, Easy, Fresh"

7 oz tbsp extra virgin olive oil
4 tbsp fresh lemon juice
3 tbsp whole grain mustard
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tsp finely grated lemon peel

12 oz penne
2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
1  cup multi colored bell peppers
1 1/2 cups feta cheese crumbled
1 cup chopped green onions

Combine first five ingredients in bowl until blended. Add pepper and salt to taste.

Cook penne in boiling water until tender. Drain pasta and transfer to large bowl. Add tomatoes, bell peppers, feta cheese and green onions. Pour dressing over and toss to coat. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Mongolian Beef

I'm always surprised but delighted when I reach one of those lovely and often unexpected zones in life where classes are going well, the cat and I are are healthy, and I'm spending time away from the computer even if all I do is lay on the couch and read a chick lit book or anything else that I'm not going to be graded on. When these rare opportunities hit, it's often (happily) accompanied by the motivation to get into the kitchen and cook something delicious instead of relying on microwaved quick meals like I do during the week.

I had been planning on making this for awhile, but never managed to coordinate time and schedule to do so but this weekend, after finally getting my head (somewhat) wrapped around Spanish indefinite pronouns for Spanish 102, lo and behold I had a stress free afternoon and an working air conditioner which made cooking seem like a great idea.

I made a few minor modifications to the recipe. Given the amount of soy sauce and hoisin sauce, I omitted the 1/2 tsp of salt the recipe called for along with swapping terriyaki sauce for dark soy sauce because I couldn't find that in a gluten free form. Apart from having some cooking stir fry issues related to not having the heat high enough, it turned out pretty well even if it was slightly done due to my inherent nature to instinctively overcook meat (I think it's genetic). I found the dish to be a little on the salty side, so I think I would like to see if I could find a low sodium gluten free soy sauce the next time I tried this.

Overall, a good dish and quick to prepare with my handy cup of microwavable rice (laziness has to win out somewhere in life). Overall grade: B+ .

Mongolian Beef 
Adapted slightly from Quick & Easy Chinese by Nancie McDermott

2 tbsp gluten free soy sauce
1 tsp cornstarch
3/4 lb thinly sliced beef
1 tbsp hoisin sauce
1 tbsp dry sherry
1/2 tsp gluten free terriyaki sauce
1 tsp sugar
10 green onions
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tbsp chopped garlic
1/2 tsp Asian Sesame Oil

In medium bowl, combine soy sauce and cornstarch, mixing well. Add beef and toss to coat. Set aside for 10 minutes.

In a small bowl, combine hoisin sauce, sherry, soy sauce and sugar and stir to mix well until sugar is dissolved.

Trim green onions, halving them crosswise and separate green portion from white. Cut white part of onion in half and then cut into 1/2 inch lengths. Chop green tops crosswise into 1 inch lengths.

Heat vegetable oil in wok or large deep skillet over high heat. Add garlic and toss well. Add beef and marinade, spreading beef into single layer and letting it cook for 30 seconds without stirring. Toss well and add green onions. Cook, tossing often, until beef has changed color and green onions are shiny, fragrant and slightly wilted.

Add hoisin sauce mixture, toss well and add sesame oil. Toss again and transfer to serving platter. Serve warm or hot. Serves 4.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

TCS: Individual Meringue Blobs/Cups with Lime Cream

From: The Cake book by Tish Boyle

Optimism always reigns in my at least mind when it comes to culinary matters. Given my fondness for devouring the Miss Meringue cookies from my local store  and spending the rest of the day on a elevated sugar buzz, I had no qualms about trying this recipe despite my ongoing issues with egg whites that have at times in the past led to me having to leave the kitchen  and console myself with something deliciously unhealthy while I get over the latest egg white episode. However, I am pleased to announce that I have successfully conquered (for the most part) the egg white phobia even if it is clear from the photo that my piping skills are still lagging far behind. 

This was, surprisingly, at least for me a fairly easy recipe to assemble although it helped greatly that it could be done in stages. While I liked the meringue, I actually enjoyed the fruit with just the lime cream alone much more than the completed project. Without the meringue, it's definitely more on the tart side so I think I might sweeten the whipped cream a little more before folding it into the lime curd the next time. Overall, a yummy dessert, one that I hope to be able to serve to guests some day when my piping skills are a little more polished. 

For the recipe, please check out Tish Boyle's great book "The Cake Book" and look for page 290 or check out this link  at Cookstr for the recipe as well as the nutritional values. Until Monday, I am in complete denial of these pesky nutritional values however so I will be blissfully enjoying this dessert until then. .

Please check out the other Bakers over at The Cake Slice for their lovely and delicious posts on this month's recipe! 

Monday, April 9, 2012

For the Love of Bacon

Lo, it's been a long long time since I've posted about food, much less about the love of my love, bacon, due in part to going back to school to finally finish my bachelor's degree sometime in the next four, five, or six years (working full time and going to school part time makes for one crazy bacon fan). But I cannot excuse my neglect of bacon no matter how busy things have gotten. Sometimes, we have to make time for those happy, delicious moments in life which naturally include the culinary masterpiece known as bacon jam. Some time back, I had persuaded one of my coworkers to make bacon jam for our office which was so spectacularly wonderful that I cannot understand why she wouldn't want to spend her entire day to make this for us again. However, it was a happy day for me when I came across Martha Stewart's version of it (genius that she is) which involves crockpots and the same decadent deliciousness and realized that I could make Bacon Jam all by myself. And given the fact that Baconfest Chicago 2012 is this upcoming Saturday and I have tickets, I raise a cracker smeared with bacon jam to all of my fellow baconators around the world who, along with me, hold this fine food in such high regard. 

  • Martha Stewart's Bacon Jam
  • from 

  • 1 1/2 pounds sliced bacon, cut crosswise into 1-inch pieces
  • 2 medium yellow onions, diced small
  • 3 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
  • 1/2 cup cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup packed dark-brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup pure maple syrup
  • 3/4 cup brewed coffee


  1. In a large skillet, cook bacon over medium-high, stirring occasionally, until fat is rendered and bacon is lightly browned, about 20 minutes. With a slotted spoon, transfer bacon to paper towels to drain. Pour off all but 1 tablespoon fat from skillet (reserve for another use); add onions and garlic, and cook until onions are translucent, about 6 minutes. Add vinegar, brown sugar, maple syrup, and coffee and bring to a boil, stirring and scraping up browned bits from skillet with a wooden spoon, about 2 minutes. Add bacon and stir to combine.
  2. Transfer mixture to a 6-quart slow cooker and cook on high, uncovered, until liquid is syrupy, 3 1/2 to 4 hours. Transfer to a food processor; pulse until coarsely chopped. Let cool, then refrigerate in airtight containers, up to 4 weeks.

Friday, January 20, 2012

TCS: Tiramisu Cake

Life got in the way for a couple of months which meant I missed out on making some delicious cakes with my fellow bakers over at The Cake Slice. And given the fact that there's a whole lot of nothing going on because I'm sick, I figured for awhile that this was going to be a month I missed again which would have been a shame as I love love love Tiramisu.

As cakes go, this was pretty good. It's not the time of cake to bake on a fact, I ended up baking it two days before everything else and it still turned out well. The only major substitution I made was to use gluten free flour due to a gluten sensitivity in the house and that worked much better than I had expected especially with a genoise base cake.

Overall, I'm glad I tried it but I"m not sure I'd make it again. It was a bit of a complicated cake but a delicious one. My main problems were in not listening to the instructions...when it said to whip the marscapone for 30 seconds, I didn't think that was long enough and whipped it a little longer which ended up giving it a curd like texture for awhile until the rest of the ingredients were added. Also, I used a springform pan just a little bigger than the cake which may have been the reason for the uneven layer of frosting.

Overall Grade B+