Thursday, February 25, 2010

Noodle Expansion

Cold days=Hot Soup and anyone who is here in Colorado this year knows it’s been cold an long.

I made some minestrone soup that was amazing. Parmesan rind is the secret flavor in this ever popular soup. I made mine with vegan beef bouillon cubes and a can of diced tomatoes for the base. Cannellini beans, potatoes, rainbow chard, traditional mirepoix which is 2 parts onion, 1 part carrot and 1 part celery, garlic, and shallots. I also added some fresh rosemary and basil. It was phenomenal the first day and second day then the third day I made a huge disaster out of the leftover soup.

The first two days I kept the noodles separate. I cooked them very al dente then added soup to the cooked noodles. Than the third day I took the remaining half pot of soup over to a friend’s house. I was starving and they didn’t have any clean pots so I added an extra 2 cups of water to the soup and brought it to a boil. Against my better judgment I added the noodles to the soup. Now I know better than that but being starving I let my stomach take over. My bowl of soup was great, but no one else was hungry 7 minutes later so the noodles sat in the pot. BIG MISTAKE! I ended up with a pot of completely expanded star noodles. After simmering for another hour or two the noodles absorbed all the liquid that was in the pot… I ended up with mushy slimy noodle based soup. Lesson learned; cook the noodles separate and add the soup, if not you will end up with a pot of slimy noodles.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

MmMmMM Enchiladas

Having more than just my usual “dinner guest” over for dinner is by far one of my favorite things to do. I always cook for more than two and have tons of leftovers so it is a treat to be able to feed friends and family. I’ve recently been on a Mexican food kick and enchiladas have been a once a week experiment for me. Over the last few weeks I have created vegan enchiladas which I used roasted red bell pepper, roasted Anaheim pepper, and cashew butter blended together to make almost a really heavy cream in place of the cheese. I have experimented with Queso Fresco which my “dinner guest” thought was a big chunk of cottage cheese in the middle, not so great if you don’t like cheese, and definitely weird to have in the middle of your enchilada. Yesterday I made them with pepper jack cheese, Monterey Jack cheese, and mild cheddar cheese. They were the best I made so far besides the vegan ones (surprisingly the cashew/pepper butter was amazing). I always put different veggies in the middle but generally include spinach.

I try to sneak dark greens into almost everything I make. They are so good for you. No food compares to dark green veggies in nutritional value. I like to add squash, zucchini, potatoes, corn, pretty much a variety of different colors. If I am filling them with a cheese I stay away from potatoes, it seems like a little bit too much when cheese is your main focus. I prefer to use the canned green enchilada and make the red. There is a weird taste to me in the can of red, whole foods where I work doesn’t even sell red enchilada, but they do sell the dried peppers to make it with! I also add refried beans and some sort of rice. A little bit of onion and tomato sauce spice up rice in the most pleasant of ways. My guests thoroughly enjoyed the enchiladas and even after dinner for three I managed two more meals of leftovers. The next time I make an amazing enchilada I will keep you all posted.

Now the real question is; does anyone in the Denver/boulder have an amazing authentic Mexican restaurant to suggest? I am dying for some real Mexican food!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Cooking Adventures in the Life of ME!

Pasta is by far my favorite food. Anytime anyone wants pasta I am more than willing to come up with an idea. Right now in my life I am not eating meat so adding something to replace the meat is always my search. My favorite lesson in cooking that I learned in Italy was in the homes of all the people that I spent my time with. Pasta is what Italy is known for, and I learned it’s the love that people put into their dishes is what makes it so good. Pasta in your home is putting anything and everything you have lying around. The difference is the people in Italy always have some sort of tomato product, garlic, table cream, some sort of cheese, cured meats, and other vegetables.

Last night I made a simple veggie marinara sauce. I half a sweet onion, 3 cloves of garlic, half of a green pepper, 4 mushrooms, and 4 leaves of fresh basil and sautéed those up. I added a large can of organic diced tomatoes and let it simmer. I than used my immersion blender to blend all these ingredients up and made a smooth sauce. The immersion blender is honest to god the best creation and replacement for a blender. You can make any sort of sauce, soup, chop up nuts and not have to dirty a separate pan! Than I chopped up the other half of the bell pepper, onion and 6 mushrooms very small and I caramelized those in a separate pot. You always want to add some salt and pepper and if I had a small can of diced tomatoes I would have added them to the smooth sauce with the caramelized veggies to give it some more texture. The sauce was great, not too many herbs and all the flavors blended together than with extra veggies to enhance it.

When I was in Italy I learned it’s not necessarily what you put into the pasta but who you are sharing the pasta with. And one critiscm any Italian has the right to dish out is if the pasta is more cooked than al dente. I agree. Unfortunately my “dinner guest” doesn’t like the tiny crunch in the pasta that me and so many Italian truly appreciate so I am stuck cooking it a minute or two longer…. I try to get away with al dente as frequently as possible but generally I get “Next time Dana, you should could the pasta a little bit longer.”

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Getting Hot...

For 1lb Chicken wings

½ Cup flour

Cayenne Pepper to taste

Salt and pepper to taste

½ Cup Franks Red Hot Sauce

¼ Cup Medium Wing Time Sauce

¼ Cup Butter

Enough High Heat Oil to cover and Fry wings

Pour oil into fryer or pan and heat up to 375 degrees. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Cut chicken wings in half if you want them to look like the “traditional wings” you buy in a restaurant. Coat the wings with flour, cayenne, salt and pepper to get rid of all the moisture. Put wings into the oil and allow to cook for about 6 to 8 minutes. You want them to be golden brown. While the wings are cooking mix the butter, franks hot sauce, and wing time sauce in a small saucepan. Once you drain the oil from the wings put them on a cookie sheet and bakes for another 5 minutes in the preheated oven. Coat with sauce and enjoy. Add carrots, celery, ranch and blue cheese to make it a real snack!