Friday, May 28, 2010

Pasta with Bacon and Shallots

First, let me say this.  I once saw an episode of Anthony Bourdain's show on the travel channel.  I don't remember where he was or what he was eating, but he basically said that the difference between regular old people and people who know how to cook is their use (or lack thereof) of shallots.

Yes.

Shallots.

It seems that in our house at least one meal a week has the lovely purple shallot as a main ingredient.  I love these little onions.

This pasta dish is quick to whip up and sure to delight.  The ingredients are simple:

4-6 slices of thick bacon
1 whole shallot
1 cup milk
frozen peas
enough pasta for 2-4 people

The steps are as easy as the ingredient list.
1.  slice your bacon into small pieces and cook it in a large pan (not a skillet).
2.  remove bacon and cook your thinly sliced shallot in the bacon grease until the pieces are soft and beginning to brown.
3.  Add 1 cup milk to the shallot and bacon grease and stir until the milk starts to simmer.
4.  Once your sauce starts to simmer (it will happen quickly), turn down the heat, add your frozen peas, and give everything a stir.

This whole process takes about 15 minutes.  Long enough for you to boil water and cook your pasta.  Once the sauce is done, and your pasta is cooked and the water is drained throw your pasta into the sauce pan and mix it all together.  Let it stand a few minutes (leave the heat on very low if you'd like) so that the pasta starts to soak up the sauce.

Serve, top with bacon and enjoy.

Side Note: 
*Adding chicken to this dish is a nice touch, if you feel it needs some more protein.
*You can cook your shallots separate of the sauce, removing them from the pan before you add the milk and peas.  As they cool, they'll get crunchy adding a layer of texture to the dish.  You can just sprinkle them on top with the bacon when you're ready to serve.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

:: weekly menu :: may 23-29 ::

sunday :: sushi rice bowls ::
monday :: pizza on the grill ::
tuesday :: mediterranean mac + cheese ::
wednesday :: thai chicken + noodle salad ::
thursday :: chicken enchiladas ::
friday :: huevos wrap cheros ::
saturday :: broiled pork tenderloin ::

option 1 :: natural lasagna ::

pretty sure it won't go down like this, especially with a bertolli and several frozen pizzas in the freezer.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Pasta dinner for four.....or more

I enjoy cooking for other people.  It's not something that I've always been able to say that I enjoy.  In my life right now however, I like it.  Cooking, baking. Food means a lot to me and so does sharing it with family and friends.

About a year ago I found a great baked pasta recipe.  After dozens of times making it, I dare say I've perfected it.  We had it for dinner the other night - and shared the batch with my sister's family.  If you ever need to fix dinner for someone else, but need dinner for yourself as well, this recipe is for you.  Or, if you just want to be a tad bit lazy - cook the recipe and eat one for dinner and freeze the other.  A second nights dinner for next week is already in the freezer.

Warning:  From start to finish, before baking, it takes about an hour.  A labor of love I tell you.

Here are your instructions:
1- Boil 1 lb. of penne pasta.  Leave it al dente so cook it a few minutes less than the instructions say.
2 - While your pasta is boiling, cook some bacon in a big skillet.  4-6 slices will do, depending on how much bacon you like.  Before cooking it, cut it into small pieces.  This will speed up the process and then you don't have to cut cooked bacon.
3 - Remove the bacon from the grease and cook 10-12 chicken tenders or 4 chicken breasts about 90% in your bacon grease.  (I never said that this recipe was perfectly healthy now did I?)  You don't want your chicken pink anymore, but don't cook it all the way or they'll dry up in the oven.
3 - While your bacon and chicken are cooking, cut up some sun dried tomatoes.  I use about 12 but that's because I like them.
4 - Once the bacon and chicken are cooked set the bacon aside with the tomatoes and slice the chicken into small chunks.  Set it aside as well.

5 - Now, in a really big, tall pan your going to make the sauce.  You start by making a rue (a fancy French sauce base).  For your rue, you'll need (gulp) 6 tablespoons of butter.  Melt the butter in your pan.  Once the butter is melted add 1/2 cup plus two tablespoons of flour and 2-3 teaspoons of minced garlic.  Mix all this together with a whisk.
6 - Once your rue looks like a paste, start adding milk.  You will add a total of 6 cups of milk (whole, 2% or 1%.  NOT SKIM!), one cup at a time.  You'll need to constantly whisk this so that the rue paste breaks up in the milk.
7 - After adding all the milk, continue whisking until your sauce comes to a simmer.  Once it's simmering add your bacon and sun dried tomatoes.  Cook for one minute, stirring with a wooden spoon.
8 - Next, turn off the heat and add the cheese.  1/2 cup of grated Parmesan and provolone.  Stir until the cheese melts.
9 - The final step is to add the chicken pieces and the pasta (remember I told you that you needed a really big tall pot?) and stir until all the pasta is coated with the sauce AND the tomatoes and bacon appear to be evenly distributed.  Sprinkle the top with Parmesan cheese

Pour the pasta mixture into to baking dishes, each smaller and deeper than a traditional 9x13 cake pan.  Dare I say a good casserole dish?

Bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes until golden brown.

If you are cooking from the freezer, bake at 400 for 35-40 minutes.

Serve with brushetta and crusty bread.  Which by the way, is great for a leftover lunch the next day.  Especially when you ate all your pasta at dinner the night before.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Weekly Menu 5/17-5/21

Monday - Cafe Rio (we just got back from being out of town and almost literally had no food in our house)
Tuesday - Pork chops, green beans, and yellow potatoes
Wednesday - Baked pasta with garlic bread
Thursday - Tin foil dinners on the grill (hamburger, potatoes, onions, and carrots
(we didn't have any tin foil so instead we had hamburgers and fruit and potato chips)
FridayPasta with bacon and shallots (plans foiled again.  Too tired and too many bugs in my house.  we ordered a pizza and had it delivered.)

Tune in for next week's menu - I'm going to try and do the whole week (much to the chagrin of my husband, I'm sure) from a Weight Watchers cook book.

Rainbow Brite

I came across this cake today.  Not only is it one of the most beautiful things I've ever seen but the thought of making it both thrills and terrifies me at the same time.

I found the pictures at Twig and Thistle, here.

The instructions for baking can be found on Whisk Kid,  here.

If I actually dare make it, I'll let you know.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Mexican Fiesta!

Yesterday was Mother's Day.  We had a huge family party, thrown together last minute by my mom, for the celebration.

We decided on a Mexican fiesta to honor all our mothers.

The food was fantastic:
chips and 2 kinds of homemade salsa
sweet pork tacos
beef tacos
chicken with green chilies and corn tacos
chicken enchiladas
lime cilantro rice

There was more side stuff but I can't remember. 

And the dessert bar was almost a mile long.

What a foodie family I've got.

I contributed a few items to the pot-luck buffet, but the tastiest by far were my home-made crustos.  I don't know what you really call them, but the local taco joint calls them crustos.

deep fried tortillas drenched in cinnamon and sugar.

So good.  They disappeared pretty fast yesterday.  I guess I should have made more.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Cake Mix Cookies


I learned from the mom of a friend about 9 years ago how to make cookies out of a cake mix.  it was a revolutionary food concept to me, and probably because it produces some of the tastiest cookies around, became an addiction for me as well.

Cake mix cookies are so yummy, so fast, and so easy it's a wonder I don't literally make and devour them every single day.

All you need to do is:
1- select the cake mix of your choice.
2 - open said cake mix and dump it into a bowl.  Add one egg and a stick of melted butter.  Stir.
3 - add your extras of choice - I tend to always use chocolate chips.  Mix and taste the dough.

Bake these cookies in a 375 degree oven for 5-7 minutes.  Do not over cook them.  You want them to still be super squishy and soft when you take them out of the oven.  They will stay soft for days - though they won't last that long.

My favorite cake mixes?
Cherry Chip
Yellow
Milk chocolate or German chocolate

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Smokey Shredded Beef Tacos

Another Martha Stewart recipe that makes a regular appearance in our dinner rotation.

I don't follow the recipe exactly, but it always turns out pretty darn good.

Start with a big oven safe dutch-oveny sort of pot/pan.  Make sure that you actually have the lid because you'll need it.

In the pan combine the following ingredients with a whisk.
1/2 c. ketchup (gross, I know but it works)
1 c. water
2-3 tbsp. chilies in adobo sauce (this is where the smokey and the spicy come from)
3 tbsp. minced garlic
couple shakes of onion powder
coarse salt
pepper

Next, add the meat.  You'll want a medium sized pot roast for this.  Cut it into four equal sections and set it down into the mixture in your pan.

Bake at 350 degrees for about two and a half to three hours.  Once cooked, shred the meat and put it back in the pan so it can soak up all the juices.

Enjoy with whatever you like to eat tacos with: rice, salsa, chips, sour cream, cheese, etc.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Weekly Menu

I make my dinner list and my grocery list on Saturday.  We shop on Monday night.  That way, I know ahead of time when our menu has a gap - like a family party or a grumpy mom night, that sort of thing. 

Monday - Lemon and oregano sauteed chicken with pasta and garlic bread
Tuesday - Honey baked ham, garlic mashed potatoes, green beans in brown sugar
Wednesday - Smokey beef tacos
Thursday  - Burgers after my brother-in-laws college of nursing graduation
Friday  - pasta with meat sauce or out to dinner (we've got a b-ball game to hit at 6:00 pm, right at dinner time)
Saturday - Family dinner - I don't have to cook.  Yeah!
Sunday - Happy Mother's Day - Mexican fiesta at my grandma's house  I'm bringing chicken with green chilies and sweet corn.