Sunday, January 31, 2010

Stir-Fried Cashew Pork

This recipe made me wonder why we don't make stir fry more often. It's so easy and versatile, and a good way to use up any leftover meat or veggies you have hanging around in the fridge. There's really no need for those icky bottled stir-fry sauces either... you can make your own with just a few ingredients. Expect to see more stir fries in upcoming posts!

This dish features pork tenderloin (tip... it's easier to slice into strips if it's a little bit frozen), cashews, and snow peas in a simple sauce, served over jasmine rice. What did John have to say about it? "Are you going to put this on the blog?? I want to make it again but I don't want to forget about it!". Men have such a special relationship with pork products, don't they?

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Spaghetti alla Carbonara

I was discussing Belgian beers the other day with some friends, and it got me thinking about some good food pairings.  In the past I've always enjoyed Belgian beers with a nice steak, but I wanted something different.  For those that don't know, Belgian beers are amazing.  They are full bodied, complex beers, often fruity and very aromatic.  A true joy to drink.  Some people love to talk about wine, I love to talk about, and drink, Belgian beers.  In our discussions, we knocked around some ideas about salt crusted fish, spicy seafoods, and anything with lots of bacon.  The thoughts of bacon led me to think of Spaghetti Carbonara!  Oh yeah.  I would get to use my new pasta maker to make fresh spaghetti, and try a new recipe of something that was sure to be delicious.

I had this bottle of Delirium Nocturnum in the fridge just begging to be opened and enjoyed, and I knew it would go perfectly with the salty, bacony, goodness that is the Spaghetti Carbonara.  The Nocturnum is a great example of a fine Belgian strong brown ale.  So many flavors can be detected in it, from apples and berries, to raisins and bittersweet chocolate.  I love it.  I could start a blog on Belgian beers if I wanted to, but there's probably a million of those already.  As if there aren't enough food blogs! :)  Anyway, as usual I turned to the tried and true recipes of Cook's Illustrated's The Complete Book of Pasta & Noodles.  The book is 450+ pages of pretty much every kind of pasta dish and sauce you can imagine.  I use their basic recipe for all the pasta I've made so far (ravioli, spaghetti, and fettuccine), but this was the first time I used a real sauce recipe.

It turned out great, especially with the strong Belgian beer to wash it down.  If you're in the mood for a salty, bacony, pasta dish, this is it!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010


I'm not sure exactly what prompted me to make crepes the other night. Perhaps it was the lonely jar of Nutella in the pantry, calling out for some attention. Maybe I felt like reminiscing about my travels in Paris by recreating one of my favorite French treats.  Or maybe I was craving something sweet but wasn't up for baking anything. Whatever the reason, it was definitely the best idea I had all weekend. I was literally dancing around the kitchen with glee while eating these (those photos have been conveniently left out of this post).

These are easy to make once you get the hang of flipping them (you'll inevitably ruin a few while you figure it out-don't worry, you'll still have plenty of batter left for the good ones). We filled ours with Nutella and strawberry jam, but use whatever you like. Hmm... I think I still have some batter left in the fridge...

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Sichuan Pork Noodles

Here's a winning weeknight recipe for you, from America's Test Kitchen 30-Minute Suppers. Ground pork is cooked in a slightly spicy sauce and tossed with noodles (we used linguine since we couldn't find the Asian noodles called for in the recipe). The sauce has ginger and chili-garlic sauce for a little bit of spice, and peanut butter to add some depth. This was different, in a really good way, and I know we'll be making it again.

John cooked this, so when I asked him if he had anything to say about it, he replied, "It was awesome. And I liked the peanut butter sauce very much." So there you have it.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Turkey Chili

Chili is one of my favorite things to make: it's hearty, comforting, and you can cook your whole dinner in one pot. But perhaps most importantly, it affords you an opportunity to make corn bread.

This is a fairly standard turkey chili recipe, except that you add your ground turkey in two separate batches. The first half is browned along with the onions and pepper. Once you've added your tomatoes and let the chili simmer for about an hour, you drop the rest of the turkey in, in small chunks, and then simmer it some more. This method results in a slow-simmered, yet still chunky, chili.

We don't make our chili too hot around here, but you can add more cayenne and/or red pepper flakes if you're feeling spicy. And don't forget the toppings! This recipe recommends serving your chili with lime wedges (a different but tasty addition). I'm partial to a little bit of cheese, cilantro, and avocado as well.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Chicken with Israeli Couscous, Spinach, and Feta

I have an unhealthy obsession with feta cheese. Whenever I make salads for John and I, I always top them with a generous sprinkle of the stuff. John never wants to eat as much feta as I give him, so he always lets me finish his (which I greedily gobble up, pretty much licking the bowl for every last glob of salty, cheesy goodness). You'd think I'd just give him less, but I enjoy our arrangement.

But anyways, when I saw this recipe in my new Cooking for Two cookbook, I wanted to try it right away. I love finding non-salad uses for feta. And Israeli couscous just seemed like fun (but you could use orzo if you don't agree).

Needless to say, I loved this. I love the classic Mediterranean flavors of lemon, olive oil, and garlic. The Israeli couscous has an interesting texture, and the feta added a nice punch to it. I know I'm going to want to make this dish again and again.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Italian Sausage Soup

This soup is awesome because:

1. It's quick and easy to make. The only thing that required chopping was the basil, which took all of 20 seconds (I made this on Friday night. Fridays are usually when I have no energy or patience left for cooking, so this was perfect).

2. There's fresh spinach in it, so you don't even feel like you have to have to make a salad to go with this. The only accompaniment you need is crusty bread. Mmm... lazy.

3. It's hearty, healthy, and tasty, without being too heavy.

    My only critique of this recipe is that I think they're being a little stingy with the serving size. They say this serves 4, but I think you really get three dinner-sized bowls of soup out of the recipe. If you're really cooking for four, you should increase the amounts.

    This is the last of the week's Cooking Light recipes-I hope you've enjoyed them!

    Saturday, January 9, 2010

    Chipotle Pork Soft Tacos with Pineapple Salsa

    Yes, another recipe from the Cooking Light files.  They definitely got something right here by pairing the spicy pork mixture with the sweet fruit salsa. I made the salsa the day before in order to save myself some time, so I found these to be pretty easy to put together. John and his friend both had seconds, so the dish is certainly man-approved. Warning: eating fresh pineapple in winter will make you yearn for beaches and tropical locales. So much so, that you'll be pouring yourself a rum drink (or two) shortly after dinner. Cheers!

    Friday, January 8, 2010

    Homemade Ravioli

    One of the things I've always wanted to do in the kitchen was to make fresh pasta.  Well for Christmas this year, Bec bought me my very own pasta machine!  Not the silly Ron Popeil machine, although we did buy one for my mom when I was a kid, but a real hand-crank Italian pasta machine.  I've been seeing chefs on PBS make their own pasta since I was a kid and they made it look so easy.  Well, guess what, it IS easy!  2 cups of flour, 3 eggs, 30 seconds in the food processor, and viola!, you have fresh pasta dough.  You have to knead it for a minute or two until it's smooth, then let it rest for at least 15 minutes before you roll it into whatever pasta you want.  This pasta machine (made by Atlas) comes with two "cutters", fettuccine and spaghetti. Of course you can just roll it into thin sheets for lasagna or ravioli or whatever other stuffed pasta you want to make.  I will be tackling tortellini at some point soon.

    I've made fettuccine and spaghetti three times now, and am feeling pretty confident handling the dough so I thought I'd give ravioli a try.  It came out so well I decided to blog it instead of wait until I've perfected it, since they came out almost perfect!  You can make a big batch of these and freeze them, they'll be the best frozen ravioli's you've ever had.  I used this recipe below and had leftover pasta dough, next time I make it, I will double the filling recipe.  I think there were 22 ravioli's in this batch, I could have gotten 24 if I rolled out a little more dough though.  So next time I'll be getting close to 50!  Who wants to come over and eat some ravioli?

    Monday, January 4, 2010

    Baked Potato Soup

    Oh, Monday-After-a-Long-Weekend, how I hate you. You bring nothing but bitter cold weather, the beginnings of a sinus infection, and numerous trivial annoyances at the office. And yet you suddenly ceased to bother me after I had a bowl of this amazing baked potato soup from Cooking Light.

    It's honestly absurd that something this good could be considered "light." Bake your potatoes the night before, and this comes together for a quick weeknight meal. Make this soon, and don't skip the bacon... it adds the perfect salty crunchiness, in the way that only bacon can.

    Saturday, January 2, 2010

    Cincinnati Turkey Chili

    So here we go with the first of several Cooking Light recipes to help us all get off to a good start this new year. I'd never had this kind of chili before, but I like the idea of serving chili over spaghetti. I also have a special fondness for cinnamon in savory dishes. As a special treat, John whipped up some homemade spaghetti while I went to the grocery store to pick up the ingredients. He just got his pasta maker a week ago, and he's already got the whole pasta-making thing down to a science.

    John and I both enjoyed this... it's a warm and comforting meal for a cold winter day. It's not hot at all, so add more chili powder if you want a little more kick. We served ours with corn muffins... yum.

    Friday, January 1, 2010

    Chocolate Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Icing

    Happy New Year! I thought I'd get in an indulgent recipe before I go on my upcoming Cooking Light blogging streak.

    I finally got my dream appliance, a Kitchen Aid mixer, for Christmas (thanks Mom and Dad!). So now I have no excuse to not make decadent baked goods, right? I found the recipe for these cupcakes in another one of my Christmas gifts: a Barefoot Contessa Cookbook from John's mom (Ina Garten's cookbooks are so beautiful, by the way... I want to try just about every recipe in them).

    The only change I made was making mini cupcakes instead of regular-sized ones. I served them up at our New Year's party last night, so I wanted them to be bite-sized. If you go the mini cupcake route, try baking them for 12-15 minutes (and it will make about 4 dozen of them!).

    The results? Everyone loved these. Personally, I thought the cake part was perfectly good, but the real star here was the peanut butter frosting. Luckily, when I was done frosting all of my cupcakes, I had plenty left over to pipe straight into my face. Don't judge, you know you'd do it too.