Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Pasta with Tomato Cream Sauce 4/5 Spoons

The queen of pasta and all Italian food is Lidia Bastianich. Go ahead and find me another woman who tops her skills. I'm waiting..... Nope? I didn't think so. Okay, well I mean there are probably women living in middle of nowhere Genoa making the ultimate pasta dish in the world but I can only work with what I have and know. Anytime I watch her show on PBS, I have to make pasta either that day or as soon as I can. She encouraged me to work on this dish again. Although Lidia might not approve of my changes or my use of boxed pasta, I think she would be proud of my brand new pasta outlook.

(Photos courtesy of Pioneer Woman)

This is my second time making Pasta with Tomato Cream Sauce. The first time I made it, I did not like it all. It was too soupy and rich for my taste and I almost gave up on the recipe. I am so glad I didn't! With my own tweaks and changes, I think I made this recipe damn near perfect. Here are my notes:

-- The first time I made this I used gnocchi. I thought maybe I could somehow copy my favorite dish at Angelina in Green Bay but that did not work out so well. I think gnocchi (in my kitchen) works better with simple butter based sauces, not complex tomato based sauces. I tried fettuccine instead and thought it was spot on. The noodles pick up the thick sauce and are hearty enough to not fall apart like spaghetti.
-- I used only one can of Contadina sauce instead of two because only two people were enjoying this dish. But I still used a whole onion, 4 cloves garlic and all the rest of the ingredients the same because I wanted a really thick but not fatty sauce.
-- Speaking of fatty sauce, I hated using the heavy cream in the first try of this dish. I don't like to use thick dairy products because I hate the way they make me feel while eating them. They are too heavy and make me feel gross after eating. Instead of the cream this time, I used 4 ounces of low-fat cream cheese. It worked SO WELL. You have the richness of the cheese but a lot less fat than heavy cream.
-- I prefer this dish without the fresh basil. I make the sauce and add dried basil and oregano and also omit the sugar. The fresh basil is too overpowering and it is all you can taste when you eat it.
-- When the pasta is done, I do not save the water either. Like I said already, I wanted a really thick sauce but if you want it thinner, save the starchy cooking water.

Once the sauce is thick and rich, drop the delicious al dente pasta into the pan and mix it around until it is totally coated. Turn it quite a few times and top with a nice sprinkling of parmesan on top. When I picked this up with a tongs, I swirled it into a beautiful little pile on my plate and served it with some warmed Tuscan bread. It is rich, tart and salty without being too heavy or overpowering in any particular flavor.

I give this recipe:

4/5 Spoons!

Less than a day to enter the first No Meat Mama giveaway! I will announce it tomorrow afternoon and good luck!

Friday, March 18, 2011

New Things Happening in the Kitchen....


So I've been inspired by my new favorite TV show on PBS (America's Test Kitchen) to start doing product and ingredient reviews. Since I don't have a budget like America's Test Kitchen, I will be buying a new ingredient every two weeks or so and reviewing it for you!

I have a list about a million things I want to buy and make and use, so hopefully I can make this happen twice a month like I plan.

Thanks for all the comments on the giveaway post! I did a slight pity post on my Facebook and Tumblr, so now I have more people. Thanks to Holly, the co-creator of the best fashion blog on the damn internet for telling people about my giveaway.

See you again this weekend with a review (and some serious tweaks of mine) for this recipe. Ta-ta!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The first No Meat Mama GIVEAWAY!

There is nothing like a giveaway to make people flock to your website! And since I'm assuming some people are seeing this and I don't know who they are, I'd love to hear from you!

Just leave me a comment saying anything (well ya know, don't make fun of me or anything) and I will randomly pick a winner and give you your choice of homemade treats listed here....

1. La Fuji Mama's Deadly Chocolate Almond Toffee

2. Nutella Chip Cookies from Love and Olive Oil

3. Vegan Chocolate Truffles from Vegetarian Times (for my lovely vegan readers)

So comment and tell me your name. Or your favorite recipe (and the link of course). Tell me your dog's name. Or your kids. Anything!

This contest will end next Wednesday (03/23/2011) at 12pm/CST. I can only ship within the United States, I apologize to foreign readers (the cost is too much for me as a poor baker in Chicago). Pass this on to your friends and loved ones.... who doesn't love free dessert?

Thanks readers! And you will see me again this week with new recipes!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Enchilada Bake 5/5 Spoons

Hey everyone! So it's been almost two weeks since I've written here and I have missed it so. We are moved into our new place and unpacked and everything is pretty wonderful where we are. I love being near restaurants, the train and like a block away from a post office. So to make my transition back into the blog, I will review a regular recipe that comes up my menu repertoire. A wonderful recipe that my whole apartment loves. I am talking Enchilada Bake......

So I was browsing through Mercy for Animal's Vegetarian Starter Kit (and that is the link to order one) at The Chicago Diner one day and found this recipe and it popped me right in the face. I love Mexican food and all the components seem to work so well together (diced green chiles, pinto beans, etc.), so I made sure to try it. YUM. So good. The wonderful combination of melty cheese, beans, green chilies and enchilada sauce just blows me away every time I have it. It is ridiculously easy to make and gives you plenty of food for leftovers. And who doesn't love food with Fritos crumbled on top? Seriously.

(This is a weird sad bastard picture of someone's enchilada casserole... sorry. I'll take my own picture next time!

Here are my notes:

-- I use flour tortillas instead of corn. I love corn tortillas but I know a lot of people don't like the texture of them (my roommates included).
-- Sometimes I make my own enchilada sauce (recipe here) but mostly I just buy the canned stuff, I ain't picky.
-- This is a vegan recipe but I use regular cheddar cheese but I imagine the Daiya Cheddar would work some serious magic here.
-- I always forget, but I mean to buy two cans of diced green chilies every time I make this. It can definitely use two cans, especially if you love the flavor and not necessarily the spiciness of chilies.
-- And when this is about done, I usually broil the top on high for about 2 minutes because I really like a crunchy crust on top.

I give this recipe:

5/5 Spoons!

I'm going to be making more new food this week and it will be amazing. See you again soon!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Asparagus-Goat Cheese Pasta 4/5 Spoons

Howdy loves! I have a little down time today after moving boxes this morning and having a phone interview this afternoon so I'm here to review a wonderful recipe for you all. I made this Asparagus-Goat Cheese Pasta one night for my friend Kristin and I. I am always broke, so she often comes over for dinner instead of going out and blowing tons of cash.

(Photo courtesy of Real Simple)

I love any excuse to eat goat cheese. It is an acquired taste for sure but I think if you like stinky, weird cheeses you would love goat cheese. I mean really, it is pretty mild compared to say French aged cheeses. It has a lovely smoothness to it with a mild twang that lets you know what you are eating. So combine the twang of goat cheese with the salty earthiness of roasted asparagus, I'm so in.

Here are my notes:

-- I never boil or steam asparagus. I love the flavor of roasted veggies and anytime I can, I love to make them that way.
-- Like any happy home cook, I like any excuse to make a roux. I think it worked well with this dish but that there may have been way too much broth (vegetable in this case) and it made the sauce too watery for my taste. I would probably use half of what the recipe calls for next time. I like a richer sauce when it comes to dishes like this.

I served with this some sliced French bread and it worked wonderfully to sop up all the extra sauce in our bowls. This took about 30 minutes to make so if you want something easy and slightly fancy, I would totally choose this again.

I give this recipe:

4/5 Spoons!

Packer Cupcakes or Vegan Red Velvet Cake next? Hmmmm.......