Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Pasta Carbonara, oh my!

Since Jim has started back to school this semester there are some times during the week when he is free for lunch and we meet at the house for something homemade. Luckily I work close to the house so I am able to devote a full hour for lunch and on these days I tend to make more than just PB&J. Jim has expressed before how lucky he is to get chicken parm or a homemade meatball sandwich in the middle of the day! On one particular day I found this recipe by Pastor Ryan who posted on Pioneer Woman’s web site. At the time I had never heard of Pasta Carbonara and the step by step directions by Ryan made me want to make it THIS DAY. Coincidentally I actually had all the ingredients for this recipe on hand, so off I went at 11:45 to run home and attempt this new dish for lunch.

Here is what you need to start with:
1 lb linguine pasta (I suspect any spaghetti noodle would do here)
4 eggs
1 lb bacon or pancetta (I didn’t use the full pound, I used maybe 3/4 pound that was left over from another recipe)
1 ½ cups parmesan cheese
12 cloves of garlic, minced
1 large onion, chopped
1 cup chicken stock (I didn’t have any on hand, so I dissolved a bouillon cube into hot water)
1 cup white wine
½ stick of butter
1 handful of parsley
1-2 tablespoons black pepper
As I’m trying to do with all my meals these days, let’s prep all our food before we start cooking. That way we know if we need to do any substituting or make a run to the grocery store. First, slice up 1 pound of bacon into pieces about one inch wide. Mince garlic, or measure out your pre-minced garlic if you keep a large container of it in your fridge like I do! Chop an onion, shred your parmesan. I actually shredded mine by hand since I had a block of it in my fridge, I would otherwise buy a pre-shredded bag of parmesan from the store. Measure out your wine, rinse and chop the parsley and pull out ½ stick of butter to rest on the counter until the end of the recipe.

To start off put a pot of salted water on the stove for our pasta. When it comes to a boil add your linguine and cook until al dente, tender-firm.
Here is me in the apron Jim bought me for Christmas last year. I'm grating the cheese for our lunch.

Next, toss the cut up bacon into your pan and cook over medium high heat until browned and crisp. Remove with a slotted spoon and leave all the grease in the pan, reserving the cooked bacon on another plate.
Throw the diced onions into the bacon grease and give them a quick stir and let them cook down over a medium-high heat for a couple of minutes.

At this point, Jim walks in and wonders what I’m cooking…and he steals a piece of crispy bacon.
When the onions look translucent, throw in the minced garlic and cook for another couple of minutes. Then remove this goodness and set with the bacon aside. Put your pan back on the hot stove and add your white wine to deglaze the pan. Use your spoon to scrape any brown bits off the bottom and sides. Once the pan is thoroughly deglazed add your cup of chicken stock, return the bacon, onion and garlic back and let this simmer over low heat for a few minutes. I found that this was REALLY runny so I let this simmer down for about 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, crack four eggs into a large bowl. Add most of the grated parmesan cheese, and roughly chopped parsley, mix well with fork.

Drain the water from your pasta (be sure pasta is very hot) and add to egg mixture. Finally top with the bacon and onion mixture from the stove, top with a ½ stick of butter and mix it all together well. The hot pasta cooks the eggs and melts the parmesan.
Add pepper to taste and serve with a pinch of parmesan and a sprig of parsley. That’s it. You are done!
This was a really delicious lunch – a little heavy for a noon time meal but did I mention this was yummy? Lordy it was good!

ALSO, I need your help as I prepare for a camping weekend. What are some of your favorite camp ground foods? By tradition, Jim and I always have steak and potatoes one evening. I've successfully made tacos for lunch and used the left over ground meat to add to chili that evening. I need your tips! homewithmandy (at) gmail.com or leave your comment here.

And I have to let you know about this contest going on at The Downtown Boutique. These clutches are absolutely stunning and you could win one by visiting this post.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Pesto Pizza

There are many many ways to make homemade pizza, but this is one of those pull-it-together-last-minute-pizzas for a group of girlfriends who are sitting around drinking wine on your patio. Oh, how I love those nights! I have some of the best girlfriends and they never fail me. We may differ politically, but we accept each other and all our quirks, we think the same things are funny, rejoice in good times, share in the hard times.

This is the gang at my cinco de mayo party where we all wore stick on mustaches.

Yes, I do love my girlfriends and I don’t know what I would do without them. One evening this summer I invited the girls over for a late Sunday lunch. We started by opening a bottle of crisp white wine and then finished off all the white wine I had in the house (4 bottles). There were only five of us! Allyson (the baker) brought a homemade loaf of bread with her, we tore into it and dipped into my spinach artichoke dip. When the sun went down, we made this pizza and opened a lovely red wine.

Coppola's Rubicon Estate 2005 Merlot
For this pizza you will need a can of pizza dough, or a can of crescent rolls. I’ve learned that you should bake the crust halfway through before layering your pizza toppings – otherwise the crust would come out soggy. For sauce I used homemade pesto, but you could use store bought pesto. If you aren’t a fan of pesto, make tomato sauce or use store bought pasta sauce.

Next I tore fresh mozzarella and covered the pizza generously. I sliced tomatoes thinly over the mozzarella but if you aren’t a fan of this style pizza layer your pizza with other favorite veggies. The finishing step is to add a light layer of shredded cheese on top. I used parmesan. Bake your pizza according to your crust directions. I baked mine for about 15 minutes in a 425 degree oven.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

What's In My Fridge?

Wanna get personal? I love how at the end of each Rachael Ray mag she lets us look into a celebrity fridge. What do those people eat, really? Don’t you wonder if some of those photo shoots are staged?

This is real. The ugly truth. This is my fridge!

I always have a big jar of minced garlic in the fridge, I add it to everything! There are some healthy choices here, may I point out the fresh blueberries, grapes and yogurt? We eat lots of yogurt and granola.

For breakfast I mostly drink the HEB brand Double Chocolate pop top shake. I think they taste like chocolate milk, and they have around 10 grams of protein in each can…plus they are very very easy to grab and go, and I drink my breakfast on the way to the office.

We have a few staples here like the brita water filter that Jim gave me, I think I drink more water because it’s in there. The tub of dog food in the bottom left, always there. And at least one can of crescent rolls (those are so versatile.)

We got leftovers galore too. Chicken and rice, some tomatillo salsa, french toast casserole, rosemary and garlic new potatoes.

Does this feel like you are peering into my medicine cabinet? You know you’ve done that when at a friend’s house.

This is a great shot of my drawers. Bottom left is full of veggies, bottom right is ALL CHEESE (ha) and the small one is the meat drawer. We have bacon, sliced deli meat and sausage in there – almost all the time.

The door is full of condiments. All the regulars like ketchup, mayo, light soy sauce, ranch dressing, Italian dressing and mustard. I also have kalamata olives, pickeled jalapenos, A-1, basil in a squeeze tube, lemon and lime juice (from a bottle, yes), spray butter, hot sauce, spicy jerk seasoning and some other odd flavored marinades.
I wish I had a bigger freezer, but I’m working with the small space I have here. Homemade ice cream, store bought ice cream, a pound of frozen turkey meat, frozen homemade soups, frozen homemade chicken stock, puff pastry (extremely versatile), bagels, frozen veggies and odd things like Flax Seed, which I put in smoothies.
Yes, that is one large bottle of Jagermeister you are looking at. Frozen hash browns, frozen berries, quick sides (I love the broccoli and cheese stuff) and quick meals like frozen fish fillets.

So there you go… I feel so naked and exposed!!

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Lamb Chops

This was not only a quick dinner, but a delicious one. The lamb chops came from the Austin Farmers Market and that makes me feel good knowing I’m buying local and from a reputable farmer. I found several recipes online, but they all were a slight variation on a tried and true method – sear on each side for 2-3 minutes.
I rinsed lamb chops with water, then blotted dry with a paper towel.
Next I filled a sauce pan full of fresh spinach over medium heat and added a drizzle of olive oil, salt and pepper.
I also sprinkled both sides of the lamb chops with salt and pepper.
Add lamb chops to a hot skillet and sear for two minutes,
Then flip and sear for another two minutes.
To add mucho flavor I added a tablespoon of parmesan chive butter to each chop.
Then I simply turned the heat off and covered my pan so the butter would melt over the chops.
My spinach is nice and wilted by now. See how much it cooks down? That’s why I always add way more fresh spinach than I think we can eat.
I plated these by putting spinach on bottom, placing lamb chops on top and then added garlic and rosemary new potatoes.


Friday, September 26, 2008

Banana Crunch Muffins

What do you do with four very ripe bananas? Make Banana Crunch Muffins. I saw Ina Garten make these on Barefoot Contessa and they looked very wholesome. I downloaded the recipe and realized they weren’t as wholesome I thought they were. 2 cups of sugar, ½ pound of butter, sweetened shredded coconut? Yikes!

Here is everything you need:

3 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 pound unsalted butter, melted and cooled
2 extra-large eggs
3/4 cup whole milk
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 cup mashed ripe bananas (2 bananas)
1 cup medium-diced ripe bananas (1 banana)
1 cup small-diced walnuts (I didn’t have any kind of nut to add)
1 cup granola
1 cup sweetened shredded coconut
Dried banana chips, granola, or shredded coconut, optional

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
I put two sticks of butter on the stove and got them about half melted then took off the heat to let them melt the rest of the way and then cool off before I needed to use them.
Because Ina does it, I sifted the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt into the bowl of an electric mixer (this one happens to be Allysons, THANKS!) fitted with a paddle attachment.

I had to google "paddle attachment" and this is what one looks like if you weren't sure.
Add the melted butter and blend.

Combine the eggs,
and mashed bananas,

Add all this to the flour-and-butter mixture. Scrape the bowl and blend well. But don't overmix.
Dice a banana,

measure a cup of granola. This is the local granola I bought at the Austin Farmers Market.
Add all this and one cup of coconut to the mixture and fold in gently.
Looks good!
One tip I learned from Ina on her cooking show is to brush vegetable oil on the top of the muffin tin to keep the batter from sticking.
Next, Spoon the batter into the paper liners, filling each 1 to the top. Top each muffin with dried banana chips, granola, or coconut, if desired. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the tops are brown and a toothpick comes out clean. Cool slightly, remove from the pan, and serve.
Look how mine puffed out and over, and then landed flat. I think these are ugly. I’m going to fix these by peeling off all the muffin tops (which some people really love, so I’m saving for later) and then icing these muffins to make them cupcakes. It’s not like they were healthy to begin with. I’ve found a couple recipes online that looked really yummy so I’m going to combine two recipes and make my own.

8 oz Italian Cream Cheese, otherwise known as Mascarpone
Half stick of butter, room temperature
1 t vanilla extract
2 t cinnamon
2-3 C powdered sugar (add more or less to make it a stiffness that you like)
1 tablespoons honey
  1. Mix butter and mascarpone well.
  2. Add vanilla and cinnamon, mix.
  3. Add powdered sugar a little at a time, mix after each ½ cup addition.
  4. Add honey to taste.