Thursday, September 29, 2011

Spaghetti bolognese - a plateful of meaty goodness

After yesterday's tragic (and repetitive) failure with patries, I decided to go for a fail-safe, always delicious recipe today.

This meal is the first thing I ever learned how to cook and what I ate almost every day through college, so at this point I blindly toss things into the pot. I will try my best to estimate quantities for this recipe, but really it is all about personal taste.

Presenting my family's spaghetti alla bolognese:

Spaghetti bolognese
Servings: 3 (I know, weird)
Prep time: 5 min
Cook time: 60 min
Total time: 1 hour 5 min

1 lb lean ground beef
1/2 tbsp all purpose seasoning
1 large clove garlic, minced
1/2 medium onion, minced
2 tsp olive oil
1 15 oz can of unseasoned tomato sauce
1 tbsp parsley
1/2 tbsp oregano
1/2 tsp basil
1/4 tsp sugar
salt and pepper to taste

In a medium bowl, mix the meat with the all purpose seasoning and 1/2 tbsp parsley. Break the meat down well with your hands so there are no big clumps.

In a deep pot, heat the oil to medium-high heat. Add the onion and garlic and saute for about 1 minute. Add the meat and cook until it's all browned, about 5-7 minutes. Continue to break it down with a wooden spoon while cooking.

When the meat is done, add the tomato sauce, then refill the can with water and add it in too. Proceed to toss in all the spices. Stir everything well and bring to a boil. Boil for 5 minutes, then reduce the heat to low and let it simmer, half covered, for 40-50 minutes.

Cook 1/2 pound of spaghetti according to package instructions, usually about 10-12 minutes, and drain. Serve spaghetti on a plate and pour bolognese sauce on top, make sure you get lots of meat! Sprinkle some parmesan on top and dig in.

This is one of my favorite foods and it is super easy to do. Bruno gives it a:

8.6 / 10

High marks!! But it was to be expected ;)

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Venezuelan bombas... i.e. the recipe from hell

Let me get this post started by saying that THESE ARE NOT RIGHT. I did something very wrong with this recipe and they are not AT ALL what they are supposed to be.

Imagine a donut without a hole, filled with vanilla pastry cream and coated with sugar. That's what these are supposed to be. Kind of like a Berliner. Round, fluffy heaven. Instead they are caved in (and raw) little messes. True to their name I supposed, bomb in Spanish. An explosion of chaos is what I have for you today.

However, since some of you expressed interest in trying these, I am posting the recipe. If you try this and have better luck, please let me know what you did :)

I'm going to try to give you the recipe without all the mistakes I made. First of all, let's list them so you know what not to do:

1. Didn't let the yeast rise.
2. I thought the dough was too sticky and put too much flour in it.
3. I covered it and let it rise in the fridge, but didn't let it rise after shaped into balls at room temperature.
4. My oil was too hot when I tried to fry them, so they were burnt on the outside and raw on the inside.

Okay, so here goes! Good luck!

Venezuelan bombas (Filled Venezuelan donuts)
Servings: 4
Prep time: forever
Cook time: 20 min
Total time: forever + 20 min

1 2/3 cups white flour
1/2 cup milk
1 large egg
3 1/2 tbsp sugar
3 tbsp butter
1 tbsp vanilla extract
2 tsp active yeast
1 tsp salt
1-2 cups canola oil
1 cup pastry cream (recipe below)
1 tbsp powdered sugar

Warm the milk in the microwave for about 30 seconds. Add the yeast and dissolve well. Let it sit for about 10 minutes. (Alternatively, you can add 2 tbsp of flour and 1 tsp of sugar, and let it sit that way). Here is where some recipes say this should rise for 1 hour.

In a large bowl, add the egg, sugar and softened butter. Mix well. Slowly add the flour, yeast, vanilla and salt. Mix everything well to form a soft dough. Cover with a kitchen cloth and let rise in the refrigerator for 1 hour.

After 1 hour, bring the dough out of the fridge and knead on a floured surface for about 2 minutes. Separate the dough into 4 balls, cover again and let rise to about twice their size (I didn't do this).

When done, heat oil to medium-low heat in a deep skillet. Make sure the oil is not too hot. Add the balls risen side down and fry for 8-10 minutes. Flip them over and fry for another 8-10 minutes. Watch them closely, don't let them burn!

Take them out of the oil and let them rest on a paper towel lined plate. Let them cool down a little, then slice in half and fill with pastry cream. There are a lot of ways to make pastry cream, here is one of them:

Pastry cream
Prep time: 5 min
Cook time: 15 min
Total time: 20 min

1 1/2 cups milk
4 large egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup flour
pinch of salt
1 tsp vanilla extract

Heat about 1/2 cup of milk in the microwave for 30 seconds. In a large bowl, mix the egg yolks with the warm milk. Then add the sugar and flour and mix well, until all ingredients are well blended.

In a deep pot, heat the remaining milk at medium heat. When warm, add the mixture, salt and vanilla extract. Stir everything together well and keep stirring until it starts to thicken. When large bubbles form, keep stirring for about 2 minutes.

Let it cool and store in the fridge until ready to use.

When you've filled the bombas, sprinkle some powdered sugar on top and they are done!! They are better when they sit for a little, because all the flavors blend together.

So, here is where the nightmare comes in. I tried to make these AGAIN. This time I tried to bake them, and although something pretty good came out of it, these are not at all like the pastry I was going for. Sigh, they hate me, someday I will try again!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Savory and sweet walnut pate sandwich

Tonight I am sharing quick, vegetarian eat-any-time idea inspired by The Enchanted Kitchen. Actually, it is more than inspired, it is actually their very own herbed walnut pate, and I largely based this dish on their menu descriptions with very minor changes.

If you find yourself in State College, either permanently or in passing, I highly suggest you try this place. It's a whole new ballgame for raw, vegan or vegetarian foods. Honestly, my it's-not-food-unless-it-has-meat Bruno keeps asking to go back, that's how incredible this place is.

Anyway, moving on, today I stopped by and bought myself some of their herbed walnut pate. And here is the result:

Savory and sweet walnut pate sandwich
Servings: 1
Prep time: 10 min
Cook time: 10 min
Total time: 20 min

3 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp maple syrup
2 slices of bread (preferably something dark)
1/2 apple of your choice, sliced (preferably sweet)
1/2 large carrot, peeled and grated
1/2 cup leafy and dark greens (like spinach or such)
2-3 "slices" of goat cheese (about 3 tbsp)
3 tbsp herbed walnut pate (or any nutty pate or hummus of your liking)

Now, the flavor of this pate is nutty and sort of garlic-y. Feel free to try to recreate that by mixing your pate with some chopped garlic and herbs of your choice in a food processor or blender.

Place the balsamic vinegar in a small skillet and turn to medium heat. When it starts to evaporate, lower the heat to the lowest setting and add the maple syrup. Stir well and let the vinegar reduce for about 7-10 minutes.

Toast the bread in a toaster. Spread the hummus on one side and layer the carrots, cheese, apples and greens on top. When the vinegar has reduced, spread it on the other bread slice.

Place the balsamic bread slice on top and squeeze down. Heat a griddle or skillet to medium-low heat and place the sandwich on it for 1-2 minutes on each side, until bread gets a little crunchy and everything is nice and warm. If you use another cheese, do this until it starts to melt.

And voila! An amazing, super healthy and delicious so-good-for-you sandwich!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Mini pumpkin-apple cheesecakes

It's pumpkin time!!!

So I realize pumpkin is not in season yet, however since Starbucks started with their pumpkin spice latte, I've been obsessed. I cannot stop. I want everything pumpkin. Soooo, I found a recipe at for Pumpkin Cheesecake cupcakes and I was inspired!

These are light and decadent at the same time, and incredible with a chai latte or a cappuccino.

Mini pumpkin-apple cheesecakes
Prep time: 10 min
Cook time: 60 min
Total time: 1 hour 10 min

1 12 oz can pumpkin puree
1/2 cup naturally sweetened apple sauce
1 tsp pumpkin spice
1/3 cup brown Splenda
1 cinnammon stick
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 oz pkg fat free Philadelphia cream cheese
6 oz fat free Greek yogurt
2 egg whites
1 tbsp all purpose flour
12 bite-size vanilla wafers

Mix the first 5 ingredients and 1 tsp vanilla extract in a pot over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat. Let it cook for 30-40 minutes, until it is very smooth in consistency.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the cream cheese, yogurt, egg whites, flour and remaining vanilla extract. Mix until it is all uniform.

Line a cupcake tin with paper liners. Place a vanilla wafer at the bottom of each. Fill halfway with the cheese-yogurt mixture, then add about 1 tbsp of pumpkin-apple mixture on top. Swirl the pumpkin into the cheese with a toothpick.

Bake in a preheated 350 F oven for 25 minutes. Let them cool to room temperature, then chill in the fridge for at least 1 hour.

To serve, adorn with whipped cream and sprinkle pumpkin spice on top!

These are SO GOOD! And light!!!!!

Bruno even decided to give them a rating! (He refuses to rate desserts, so take this as a good sign!)

7.7 / 10

Friday, September 23, 2011

Bacon and onion creamy pizzettes

A quick one today! Also from leftovers of course :)

So the puzzle pieces for this dish were: one piece of naan, 1/4 onion (already getting old), 3 strips of bacon, and a little bit of light cream and sour cream. How can you combine these things into something marvelous?! Well, take a look:

This dish is inspired by the German Flammkuchen. Now I know this is nowhere near that, however the flavor profile is pretty similar, not to mention awesome!

Bacon and onion creamy pizzettes
Servings: 1
Prep time: 5 min
Cook time: 17 min
Total time: 22 min

1 piece of naan (or pita, or ready-baked pizza crust)
3 strips of bacon, cut into small strips
1/4 medium onion, sliced thin
1 medium garlic clove, minced
1/2 cup light cream or half&half
salt and pepper to taste

Heat a nonstick pan to medium-high. Add the bacon and let it cook for about 2 minutes, until it releases grease. Add the onion and garlic and saute for about 3 minutes, until the onion is golden. Finally add the cream, lots of pepper and salt to taste. Mix everything well, lower the heat to medium and let cook for about 5 minutes.

While the creamy mix is cooking, heat the naan in a preheated 375 F oven for about 3 minutes. Then add the creamy onion and bacon mixture on top and spread evenly. Place back in the oven and bake for 5 minutes. Then turn the oven to broil and broil in the middle rack for 2 minutes.

You're done! So quick and easy! Take a big bite and enjoy :)

Bruno isn't here, but you don't need his opinion to know this thing is good.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Ricotta gnocchi with diablo tuna sauce

Today's post is in large part a showcase of Fasta & Ravioli's amazing products. I've written about them before (in my very first post actually!), and I went back today to get some more of those incredible ricotta gnocchis of theirs.

What a surprise when I arrived that they were giving away free samples of their new "Fasta Diablo" sauce! What a treat! And continuing with the eating my leftovers theme for this week, I could perfectly well mix it with my leftover marinara sauce and whip up a delicious and super fast gnocchi meal.

And so we have ricotta gnocchi with a somewhat spicy tuna marinara sauce!

Now, I never realized before I moved in with Bruno that making a red tuna sauce for pasta was so weird. I don't know, is it weird? My family sometimes replaced the beef in bolognese with canned tuna and it was not only perfectly normal, but incredibly good!

So I'm going to share my red sauce recipe, then I'll tell you how I put together today's meal.

Red marinara sauce
Servings: 4
Prep time: 5 min
Cook time: 25 min
Total time: 30 min

1 12 oz can tomato sauce
1 tbsp olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 medium onion, minced
2 tsp tomato paste
1/4 tsp oregano
1/4 tsp parsley
1/8 tsp basil
1/4 tsp sugar
salt and pepper to taste

Heat a deep pot to medium-high heat and add the oil, garlic and onion. Saute for about 2 minutes until lightly brown. Add the can of tomato sauce, then refill it with water and add that too. Add the tomato paste and spices and stir well to mix. Let the sauce come to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 20-25 minutes, stirring occasionally.

This is the basic procedure I follow for any red pasta sauce. If it is to include meat or in this case tuna, I would saute that with the garlic and onion at the beginning.

Today I wanted to try Fasta's "Fasta Diablo" sauce though. The sauce tasted and smelled incredible. I don't know how they make it, but these are the ingredients on the label: plum tomato, olive oil, garlic, onion, roasted red pepper, crushed red pepper, cayenne pepper, basil, salt, pepper and parmesan cheese. How can that not be incredible?!

So combining all these puzzle pieces, the following dish came out:

Ricotta gnocchi with diablo tuna sauce
Servings: 4
Prep time: 2 minutes (opening cans...)
Cook time: 25 minutes
Total time: 27 minutes

1 cup marinara sauce (above)
1 cup Fasta & Ravioli's Fasta Diablo sauce (sorry non-State College folks! You're missing out!)
2 cans of flaked white tuna in water
1 tbsp olive oil
1 lb Fasta & Ravioli's ricotta gnocchi

Heat a medium pot to medium-high. Add the oil and tuna. Cook for about 3 minutes until moisture evaporates a little and the meat is a little brown. Add both sauces and stir well to mix the flavors. Bring to a boil and lower the heat. Simmer for 25 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Bring water to a boil in another deep pot (Fasta & Ravioli recommends 6 quarts of water). When boiling, add the gnocchi and cook for 1 1/2 minutes. Drain and rinse with hot water.

Viola! A delicious tuna spicy and chunky red sauce with yummy melt-in-your-mouth gnocchis!

Bruno thinks:
8.0 / 10

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Cerdo en salsa verde (spicy green salsa pork stew)

It's leftover week at my house! Ever since the pizza flags we have an assorted variety of random dishes and dish components that need to be assembled like a jigsaw puzzle into something edible and hopefully even delicious!

Cue in the salsa verde, wild black rice, white rice and black beans. Beans and rice are a great side for almost any latin dish, so I decided to go for cerdo en salsa verde and use up all of these leftovers!

This dish is especially awesome because:
  • Bruno has been wanting it for a while
  • I get to use my crockpot for the first time!

So exciting, and so easy, check it out.

Cerdo en salsa verde
Servings: 2 (or 3, maybe even 4)

1 lb pork meat for stew, cut in chunks
1/2 tbsp all purpose seasoning (adobo)
1 large garlic clove, minced
1 tbsp oil
2 cups green salsa (recipe here or you can use Herdez brand)
5 sprigs of cilantro
1 medium zucchini, cut into cubes
1 tbsp chicken bouillon powder

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Rub the all purpose seasoning into the meat very well. Add the garlic and pork meat to the skillet, cooking about 5 minutes to brown evenly.

Transfer the meat (garlic and all) to a slowcooker. Pour the green salsa over the meat, then add the zucchini, chicken bouillon powder and top with cilantro sprigs. Cook for 4 to 5 hours on high heat or 8 to 9 hours on low heat.

Go out and forget about this and come home to some seriously delicious smells! Pair it with rice and beans or corn tortillas and viola, a hearty homey meal.

If I cook this again I might not brown the meat in the skillet beforehand. I think it will cook just fine in the crockpot and it would have an even more melt-in-your-mouth consistency!

Bruno gives this meal a:

8.1 / 10

He said he could not ignore the unfamiliar consistency of the wild black rice... I on the other hand loved it!!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Flavorful pizza flags in honor of the PSU Economics Department

This is our second year at Penn State, and at the beginning of each Fall semester, Bruno's fantastic faculty hosts an "Econ Department Picnic" so all the students can mingle and get to know each other better.

The picnic is held at a really nice house, and they set up a tent and lots of long tables for food. I repeat, lots of long tables for food :) To say the least the 'picnic' is actually a feast, and this year we wanted to contribute.

I stumbled across a really great idea over at the Tiny Urban Kitchen, and thought it would be perfect to create my own version of these cute little pizza flags for Bruno's professors and colleagues.

The PSU Economics Dept has students and faculty from all over the world, so the first thing was to create a list of all the nationalities. That was Bruno's job. My job was to find typical or common food from all these countries and try to create a mini dish to put on pizza dough. It was a lot of work, but I tried to say genuine to all the cuisines wherever possible.

Without further ado, here are my worldy pizzas:

I won't list recipes for each of the pizzas, but if you're interested in any let me know and I'll write it up! The whole process took about 7 hours... but they loved them!

Blue-dyed cream cheese, mozarella cheese slices and yellow pepper

Green peppers and spinach sauteed with garlic and oil, yellow pepper and blue-dyed cream cheese

Red peppers cooked in sweet and sour sauce, yellow pepper decorations

Costa Rica
Blue-dyed cream cheese, mozarella cheese slices, marinara sauce topped with grape tomato slices and a touch of spinach

Boiled purple potatoes, brie cheese slices and grape tomato slices

Black wild rice, beef lebanon bologna and sauerkraut cooked with bacon and caramelized onions

Blue-dyed cream cheese and feta cheese strips

Hong Kong
Red peppers cooked in sweet and sour sauce, grape tomatoes and rice

Chicken curry, palak paneer, rice and a touch of blue-colored cream cheese

Palak paneer, marinara sauce and grape tomato slices

Spinach, black beans with wild black rice and boiled plantain strips

Sushi rice and raw tuna

Huevos divorciados: Fried egg with green and red salsa and a dollop of refried beans

Blue-dyed cream cheese, marinara sauce, grape tomato slices and rice

Blue-dyed purple mashed potatoes, mozarella cheese slices and strawberry jam

New Zealand
Blue-dyed purple mashed potatoes and bacon slices

Marinara sauce, tomato strips, mozarella cheese slices, grape tomato and green pepper

Marinara sauce, lebanon bologna, mozarella cheese

Blue-dyed purple mashed potatoes, mozarella cheese slice and Russian beet salad

Marinara sauce, grape tomato slices, white rice and a bit of mozarella cheese

South Korea
Sushi rice, blue-dyed cream cheese, raw tuna and seaweed decorations

Marinara sauce, tomato slices and mozarella cheese shapes

Blue-dyed cream cheese and sauerkraut cooked with bacon and caramelized onions

United States
Blue-dyed purple mashed potatoes, mozarella cheese and bacon strips

Marinara sauce, assorted tomato slices and a yellow pepper star

Whew! Needless to say, I was beat after this project. Here's the before and after:

5:00 PM - Super excited using all burners at once

12:00 AM - Completely finished

But aren't they so worth it?!

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