Spaghetti with Tomatoes and Roasted Chicken

I used to have this beat up red folder, the ones that have a spine to hold your papers in.  The kind that has three metal prongs to keep your paper intact.  You know what I’m talking about right? This beat up red folder with frailed corners was very special to me, but I’ve lost it!  Oh Ms. Thompson, can I enroll in your home economics class again even though I’m no longer an adolescent??  I promise to cherish every recipe even more than before!  Ms. Thompson was my home economics teacher in the 8th grade, I’m now twenty six years old.  She taught me the basic skills of cooking and sewing and have not stopped practicing since!  Well… I haven’t sewn in maybe 10 years and i’m afraid I’ve lost my touch.  I sewed my first pair of boxers and apron in her class, which I embarrassingly still have and wear! She taught us how to roast and cut a whole chicken from scratch and just because we weren’t adults, grading our knife skills was not something she was lenient on!  She would come around looking at our plump juicy (sometimes dried into prunes) chickens and would make sure we cut each joint cleanly with one smooth motion.

Every Thursday, Ms. Thompson would sell nachos to the entire school.  $2.00 for a container of chips with a half cup of nacho cheese and an additional $0.25 for each additional scoop.  My order was always one scoop of cheese and one scoop of chili.  I loved these nachos so much that sometimes I gave my sandwich away so that I could inhale these nachos (sorry mom!  At least I didn’t throw it away)!  Anyway, besides the heavenly taste of chili cheese nachos embedded in my mind, a dish Ms. Thompson had us make in home economics was pasta with tomatos and chicken; a dish that I will never forget.  I remember spending one day rubbing herbs and softened butter underneath and on the chicken skin then roasting the chicken the next day.  We spent most of the period roasting then cutting the chicken that when it came to eating, we had five minutes!  This pasta was so good, no way was I going to throw it away just because I had another class right after!  So what did I do?  I stole a ziplock bag from a cabinet and made myself a doggy bag, mmhmm!   I’ve  dreamt of having that exact same pasta again many a times,  but can’t remember the recipe for the life of me.  Darn, I’ll just have to make up my own recipe using the same main ingredients.

Thanks Ms. Thompson for teaching me my kitchen ones, twos, and threes!

Spaghetti with Tomatoes and Roasted Chicken

1lb. long pasta, (I usually use linguini but settled for whole wheat spaghetti this time). water salt

2 chicken breasts
salt and pepper
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. chipotle powder
1 Tbsp. dried basil
1/2 tsp. paprika
2 Tbsp. olive oil
(or use 2 breasts of a rotisserie chicken)

1 Tbsp. olive oil
2 large cloves of garlic, minced
3 roma tomatoes, diced or 8 oz. cherry tomatoes cut in half
2 C. chicken broth 8 oz.
sliced mushrooms
1 Tbsp. butter
salt and pepper to taste

If you aren’t using a rotisserie chicken, place your chicken breasts into an oven proof dish.  Sprinkle all of the spices all over the chicken. Cover and place the chicken into the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes. When the chicken is done marinating, preheat your oven to 350F. Drizzle the oil over the chicken. Bake your chicken breasts for about 40 minutes or until the juices run clear, flipping once inbetween.  Cover and set aside.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and throw in some salt.  Cook the pasta based on the instructions on its box.

In a large heavy frying pan, heat the oil.  Add the tomatoes and sautee for about 2 minutes. Add the mushrooms and sautee for another couple of minutes.  Add the garlic and chicken broth.  Bring to a simmer and cook for about 5 minutes.  Add salt and pepper to taste. Add the butter and stir.  Cook for another 2 minutes.  Slice the chicken and add to the sauce.

When the pasta is done, drain and directly add the pasta into the sauce and coat the pasta with the sauce.

It’s pasta time!  Garnish with basil or flat leaf parsley.  Make sure to include a piece of mushroom and tomato in every bite!

White Truffle Mac n Cheese

Wyatt and I had another day of cooking a few weeks ago.  What did we end up making?  White Truffle Mac n’ Cheese. Drooooooool.

I’ve always wanted to make homemade mac n cheese and Wyatt wasn’t very ambitious about making a cream sauce since he wasn’t quite successful the first couple of times.  This was the perfect challenge to face together and we’re both glad we took the challenge!  I’ve been following Curvy Carrot for a while now and when I saw her recipe for White Truffle Mac n Cheese, I literally gasped with excitement.  So far, everything I’ve tried from her blog has come out delicious and this specific recipe has become the base to all of my mac and cheeses.  Wyatt too!

Instead of using a tablespoon of truffle oil, we used only a 1/2 tsp. of white truffle infused oil.  I thought it was the perfect amount where you can taste just a touch of truffle without overpowering the entire dish.  We also baked our mac n cheese in seperate ramekins so that everyone could have their own individual serving.  The crispy panko on top was wonderful with the creamy pasta underneath.  Also, make sure to top the mac off with some green onions or chives.  They add another layer of flavors that will make your face look like this…. O_O

 

I’m warning you now… this sucker is rich but oh so good when eaten right out of the oven.

Here’s our version!

White Truffle Macaroni and Cheese
Got the recipe from Curvy Carrot

serves: 6

1 cup panko

1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated

1/2 tsp. white truffle  infused oil

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 heaping tablespoons flour

2 1/2 cups half and half

8 ounces white cheddar cheese, grated

8 ounces Fontina cheese, grated

Salt and pepper, to taste

16 ounces elbow macaroni (or your personal favorite type of pasta)

green onions, about 5 for mixing into the sauce and garnish

 

 

Preheat your oven to broil or bake at 450

Get your sous chef to grate all of the cheeses… then set aside.  Keep the parmesan seperate from the other cheeses.

 

In a small bowl, combine the panko, parmesan and white truffle oil.  This is also a good time to start a pot of boiling water.

In a large pot, melt the butter over medium heat. When the butter melts, add the flour and whisk.  When the mixture turns into a paste, slowly whisk in the half and half and continue whisking until smooth.  Cook for a couple of minutes until the sauce starts to slightly thicken. When the sauce starts to thicken, add the cheeses and stir until completely melted.  This is a good time to add a bunch of freshly cracked pepper, salt, and green onions.  The sauce should end up looking something like this.

Don’t forget about that pot of water!  When the water starts to boil, dump that pasta in.  Once cooked, drain the pasta and immediately add it to the cheese sauce (don’t rinse the pasta).  Put the pasta into a 9×13″ dish or individual oven-safe bowls.  Look at how smooth the sauce is!

 

You can sprinkle some cheese on top to make it even MORE cheesy.  Add the panko mixture over the top and bake in the oven until the panko topping is lightly golden. If you’re broiling, it’ll only take a couple of minutes.  If you’re just baking, it’ll take a good 10-15 minutes for a nice golden brown.  Take this time to take weird pictures.

(I had to take this picture because even though Wyatt is the youngest in the group, he has the taste of an old man. Not talking about prunes or anything like that.  More like wine and fancy stuff)

 

TIME TO EAT!!

Pesto Pasta with Zucchini and Sausages

Do you ever feel like your week is never going to end and that you’re just going to drop dead at any time because of lack of sleep?  That’s how my entire beginning of the week felt like and it’s already almost Friday!  The near weekend has truly crept up on me and is a very relieving surprise. I’ve already made plans to be out and about the entire weekend until I have to go back to work on Monday.  I’m anxiously looking forward to hanging out without having to worry about school work.  Yeah… I’m a worried nerd, so what!

Although this week has been crazy, we had some great sun this past weekend up until Tuesday.  With all the sun we’ve been getting in San Francisco, I was feeling a little summer-ish and had the urge to make some pasta with veggies.  A couple of nights before, I was experimenting with some Thai dishes so I had a handful of basil sitting on the countertop screaming to be used and not wasted.  The vitamix was also sitting in the corner all lonely cause I haven’t shown it any love in a while so pesto it was going to be!  I was going to be at school all hours of the day and night for the next few days and figured I’d make a bunch of pasta so I wouldn’t receive any phone calls demanding for dinner.  The entire time I was making this, I was thinking of Wyatt cause he hates zucchini and I have a master plan to convert him.  I’m absolutely convinced that he’s only eaten zucchini cooked improperly since he claims they have a chalky texture which makes me think he’s eating some raw zucchini! Yuck. Now I understand,

This pasta is extremely easy to make and is great either hot or cold.  The pesto sauce can be made a day ahead. Doing so makes the pesto even more tasty when it’s time to eat! The part that took longest was roasting the garlic, but even that is easy – throw it into the oven and find someone to bother for an hour.  Also, who doesn’t like gourmet sausages?? Pan-frying the sausages caramalizes them and makes them slightly sweeter. The spiciness and sweetness of the sausages pair perfectly with the firm crispness of the zucchini and mildness of the roasted garlic in the pesto.

Serves about 6 depending how hungry the guy is.
Pesto
1 bulb garlic-roasted
1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
2 C. fresh basil leaves
1/2 C. extra virgin olive oil
1/2 C. roasted salted almonds
1/2 C. grated parmesan
salt & pepper to taste

1 lb. pasta (I used fusilli wheat pasta)

Toppings

1 Tbsp. oil
4 spicy mango and jalapeno sausages or any other type – sliced diagonally into 1/2″ slices
salt
4 zucchinis – sliced into 1/2″ medallions
2 cloves garlic-minced
1/2 of a large onion – sliced
1 lb. mushrooms, sliced

Preheat oven to 350 F. Cut the top off of the garlic bulb so that the cloves of garlic are exposed and pour 1 Tbsp. of olive oil over it. Completely wrap the bulb with foil and bake for about an hour. The garlic should smell sweet and you should be able to press the garlic cloves out extremely easily.

In a food processor, add the basil, garlic, almonds, and about half of the extra virgin olive oil. Start blending everything, gradually adding the remaining oil. If you like a more watery pesto, add more oil. If you like a more thick pesto, use less oil. Stop blending every few seconds to check the consistency. Add the parmesan cheese, salt and pepper and blend for a few more seconds.

Cook pasta according to the instructions on its box. After the pasta is cooked, drain the water and immediately add pesto to the pasta and stir until the pasta is coated.

In the meantime, heat a large heavy skillet with oil on medium high heat. When the pan is hot, add the sliced sausages and flip them when undersides are brown and caramalized.

Put the sausages into a bowl and set aside, leaving the oil in the pan.

Now add the onions to the pan and cook until the edges start to get brown. Add garlic, zucchini, and sprinkle in a little bit of salt. After a few minutes, add the mushrooms and stir-fry until the zucchini is cooked. Add the sausages back into the pan and cook for another minute.

In your serving dish, add the pasta and top off with the sausage and zucchini mixture and sprinkle with some additional basil and grated parmesan!

Yum Yum!

Deep Dish Meaty Lasagna

Bites of meat and cheese in between layers of tender pasta topped with more ooey gooey cheese. Dig your fork in for a bite and be prepared for the involuntary mmmm..

Wyatt and I ended up hosting another cooking night since we haven’t had one in awhile.  Not sure how we ended up having a huge feast, but we did.  We had two 9″x13″ lasagnas between six people, one white and one red.  On top of that, we had cheesecake and brownies.

Lasagna is a horrible thing to cook when you’ve got hungry friends who show up and are ready to chow down immediately.  Why do I say so?  Well.. let me tell you that everyone in my group of friends run on his/her own separate clock. Each person is usually responsible for bringing a certain ingredient and if one is late, everyone must wait. It takes a while to make lasagna as every component needs to be cooked before assembling the lasagna together and popping it into the oven just to bake for another 45 minutes…. then cooling down before inhaling it in.

Although lasagna takes some time to make, it’s very simple and most of the time is waiting time.  To cut down cooking time, the sauce can be made the day before, which I recommend.  Using no-boil pasta can make it even simpler.  The hardest part is the layering, which isn’t even a difficult thing to do.

One serving of this will fill your belly just enough to have a sliver of dessert.

Although you can use no-boil pasta, I like to take the time to boil my pasta to the desired consistency.  I always prefer my pasta al dente so I stop cooking my lasagna noodles just before it reaches al dente.  That way, after baking the lasagna, the noodles are still slightly chewy.  Using the no-boil pasta, you don’t have control of that.  I also like to include a lot of pasta in my lasagna so boiling your own pasta beforehand can help with that.  When using no-boil pasta, you aren’t supposed to layer raw slices of pasta on top of one another as they may not cook completely during cooking.

I find that cooking the sauce beforehand is a lot more convenient than cooking everything at once.  Cooking the sauce beforehand also allows the flavors to mingle together, making the sauce tastier.

Sauce:

1 tbsp. oil

1 onion-diced

2 cloves garlic-minced

1 lb. ground sausage

2 lb. ground beef

2-15 oz. tomato sauce

1-15 oz. diced tomatoes

1-6 oz. tomato paste

1 tsp. dried oregano

1 Tbsp. dried basil

1 bay leaf

1 tsp. garlic powder

Lasagna:

1 box lasagna noodles

2 cups ricotta cheese

2 eggs

6 oz. grated parmesan cheese

1 tbsp. dried basil

1 bunch parsley

12 oz. mozarella cheese

Heat oil in a large pot.  Throw in onion and garlic.  When the onion is translucent, add the ground sausage and beef. Cook until the meat is browned.  Drain extra fat at the bottom of the pot.  Add the tomatoes and spices and stir.  Bring to a boil and stir.  Bring down to a simmer and simmer for about two hours.

 Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil.  When the water is at a rapid boil, throw a bunch of salt in along with the lasagna noodles.  When the noodles are al dente, take them out of the water and lightly coat them with some olive oil to prevent sticking.

When the sauce is done, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

In a medium bowl, add the ricotta, 2 eggs, 3 tbsp. chopped parsley, and parmesan cheese.  Mix well.  Set aside.

In a 9×13″ deep dish pan, put about 1/4 of the sauce onto the bottom of the dish.  Layer pasta noodles over the sauce then add some of the ricotta cheese mixture.  Spread the mixture evenly over the pasta.  Spoon sauce over the ricotta until covered then cover the sauce with cheese.  Repeat until there is no more sauce, ended the top layer with sauce then cheese.  Make sure nothing is past the rim of the dish.

Cover the pan with foil and bake in the oven for about 45 minutes.  During the last 10 minutes, take the foil off so the cheese on top can get bubbly and slightly brown.  Sprinkle some more parsley on top to make it look purdy.

Look at that cheeeese!!

Wyatt extremely tired after all of that cooking.  Happy and full!

Pad Kee Mao

My family and I used to go on vacations every year, but now that everyone has grown up and has school and work to worry about, family vacations are very rare.  Stumbling upon old photos always brings a little nostalgia.  I was going through some old photos and came across my Thailand trip.  Thailand is such a beautiful place to visit and created many memories for me.  Even the airport is beautiful!  The food was good and the people were very friendly. 

Suvarnabhumi airport

Making papaya salad alongside the beach

                                              baby bananas
                  Fruits galore! At the floating flea market

Since we joined a tour group, we were not able to walk around and explore as much as we wanted to.  We were only allowed to stay at each location for about an hour before it was time to go on to our next destination.  The restaurants we went to had a set menu for tourists.  The waitresses said typical Thai food isn’t served to tourists because it’s too spicy.  Too spicy?!  TRY ME!  We wanted to try foods that the locals ate so we were taken to the mall’s food court. We ordered some Thai fried rice and started with a mild level of spice.  I took one bite and said, “WOW, this is spicy!” but it was extremely tasty and I couldn’t stop feeding my face!   Washing it down with a cup of Thai iced tea was perfection.

One of my favorite dishes to eat at Thai restaurants is a noodle dish called Pad Kee Mao.  It consists of flat rice noodles with ground meat, basil, and usually some red bell pepper tossed in sauce.   The sweetness and saltiness of the sauce is a perfect match with the chewy consistency of the rice noodles, the sweetness and crispiness of the bell pepper, and the distinct taste of the basil.  You can also put as much spice as you’d like!  Here is my version of Pad Kee Mao.

Pad Kee Mau

Serves 4

1 Tbsp. oil

1 lb of your choice of ground meat

1 Tbsp. minced garlic

½ a red bell papper (cut into matchsticks)

20 string beans, cleaned and ends cut

1 C. packed fresh basil leaves(must be fresh!)

1/2 C. hoisin sauce

¼ C. oyster sauce

2 tsp. fish sauce

1 package fresh flat rice noodles

3 Tbsp. Sambal oelek (optional)

Heat oil in a large skillet and add the minced garlic.  When the garlic is fragrant, add the red pepper and string beans. Stir-fry for about 2 minutes. Add in the ground meat and stir to break the meat into very small chunks. Cook until it is almost all brown. 

When the meat is almost all brown, add in the hoisin, oyster, and fish sauces to the pan and mix to incorporate the sauces and the meat. 

 When the sauces and meat are mixed well together, throw in the basil and garlic chili sauce. Stir and cook for about five minutes.  Turn the heat off and toss in the noodles and stir until the noodles are well coated. 

If the meat is too dry, you can either add more sauce or a very small amount of water or chicken broth.