Monday, March 28, 2011

#23 - Piselli alla Fiorentina

We were planning on having meatloaf for dinner tonight (tasty Italian this-is-really-a-big-meatball-that-calls-itself-meatloaf meatloaf not gross random-low-quality-meat-covered-in-ketchup-and-shaped-into-a-loaf meatloaf) and we needed a new vegetable side dish. We opened up the Villa cookbook, and found this pea recipe.

Piselli alla Fiorentina

Adapted from The Villa Cookbook
Emily has made a name for herself at the Wheaton Giant deli counter for being the only person to ask for slabs of pancetta. If you don't feel comfortable being that person, you can make this recipe with just regular ham.
After cooking the peas for a little while, we noticed that there still was a lot of water in the pan, so we tried to let some of the liquid escape by using a trick we learned from Nori. Just like she does when making pasta sauce, we rested the lid of the pan on top of a wooden spoon so it's still covered, but some of the steam can get out.
These peas were really easy to make, and they came out pretty good. Seeing that we usually just microwave frozen peas with a little butter, this was only slightly more work and a lot more delicious. If we keep making these though, Emily won't even need to take a number at the deli counter - they'll just have the pancetta ready.
To make your own Florentine peas, do this:
  • 2 Tbs olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced
  • 4 oz pancetta, diced
  • 1 1/2 lbs frozen petite peas
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 Tbs parsley, chopped
  1. Heat the olive oil in a medium sauce pan over medium heat.
  2. Saute the garlic and pancetta for 2-3 minutes, not browning the garlic.
  3. Add the peas, water, salt, and pepper, and cook covered for 10 minutes.
  4. Rest the top of the sauce pan propped open on a spoon, and cook for 5 more minutes.
  5. Adjust salt and pepper to taste and stir in the parsley.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

#22 - Sweet Potato Pancakes with Pecan Honey Butter

Last year, we went to Disney World, and we ate at The Wave…of American Flavors at the Contemporary Resort. We had a great dinner, and since it happened to be Food Week of our PhotoADay challenge, we got a nice picture of our delicious meal.

So when we saw that the Disney Parks Blog had a recipe from The Wave, we knew we had to try it.

Sweet Potato Pancakes with Pecan Honey Butter

From Disney Parks Blog
We picked up some fresh eggs and a sweet potato from Star Hollow yesterday, so we were all set for breakfast this morning.
To get ready for the pecan honey butter, the first thing we did was toast up some pecans. We're not huge honey fans, so we were a little hesitant about that part, but pecans make everything better (see last Thanksgiving) so we were excited to get them in the oven.
This is the second time that we've gotten sweet potatoes from Farmer Randy (remember the first time?), but this is the first time that we got to mash them. They turn out really pretty, right?
After mixing together all the ingredients, you get a gloppy pancake batter that smells delicious. It is pretty thick, though, so once on the griddle they took a little longer to cook than the pancakes we're used to. As the recipe suggests, it's a good idea to put the finished ones in the oven while the rest are still cooking.
While the pancakes were still on the griddle, we made the pecan honey butter. After toasting the pecans, all we had to do was mix together the three eponymous ingredients in a bowl, and that's it.
These sweet potato pancakes came out really nice and are definitely a good alternative to your regular run-of-the-mill pancakes. We're not going to want them all the time, but they're a good, different breakfast. There's something fall-y about them, so they'd probably be perfect for that time of the year.

The pecan honey butter was a great compliment to the pancakes, but they were good just with good old fashioned syrup too. There's probably too much of the butter to the amount of pancakes, but that just means we're going to have to make another batch of these pancakes with one of the other sweet potatoes we got yesterday.

Here's how you can make them:

  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 1 1/4 cups brown sugar
  • 1 sweet potato
  • 3 large eggs
  • 3 Tbs vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 stick butter, room temperature
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup chopped pecans, toasted
  1. Peel the sweet potato and boil until tender.
  2. Remove the sweet potato and mash with a fork.
  3. Sift the flour into a large bowl. Add the baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt, and whisk until combined.
  4. Combine the milk, brown sugar, sweet potato, eggs, vegetable oil and vanilla extract in another large bowl, and whisk until well blended.
  5. Add the milk mixture to the flour mixture, and stir until just blended.
  6. Preheat the oven to 225 degrees.
  7. Heat a nonstick griddle over medium-low heat.
  8. Spoon about 1/4 cup of batter per pancake onto the griddle.
  9. Cook on the first side until the tops bubble and the sides look dry; flip and cook until golden brown, about 2 minutes more.
  10. Place the cooked pancakes on a baking sheet and place in the preheated oven to keep warm. Repeat process with remaining batter.
  11. Stir together butter, honey and pecans in a medium bowl.
  12. Top the pancakes with the pecan honey butter and serve immediately.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

#21 - Enchiladas Especiales del Café de Tacuba

Since we already know how to make rice and beans, and we wanted practice, we were looking for a new Mexican recipe to go with our sides.

We really like Rick Bayless after watching him win the first season of Top Chef Masters, and we know he makes good Mexican food, so we looked him up online to see if we could find any good ideas for dinner. has to be the best Mexican cooking resource online because he has posted like a million recipes on the site.

We found this one, and we decided to try it out.

Enchiladas Especiales del Café de Tacuba

Adapted from Rick Bayless
There are a lot of ingredients for this recipe. Most you should be able to find at your local grocery store, but since a big portion of this recipe are the chili peppers, we really wanted to make sure that we got those right, and we had to go to Whole Foods to find some nice poblano peppers. While at Whole Foods, we saw something that wasn't in the recipe, but that we thought would go well with the meal, so we bought some Cotija cheese to garnish with when we were finished.
An interesting part of this meal is that the sauce is kind of a Mexican Béchamel. If you choose to try this recipe, don't be surprised when, like any good Béchamel, the sauce gets really thick.
We don't have a gas range, so we couldn't roast the peppers on a flame and had to use the broiler. It ended up working out just as well, as the roasted poblanos had a lot of flavor.
As you know, we watch a lot of cooking shows, and we were super excited when this Rick Bayless recipe said to take out the top bit of the blender and cover it with a towel. It just made us feel like we should be in Kitchen Stadium or something.
Even though the recipe works just as well with store-bought tortillas, we have a tortilla press, we have Maseca, and so it's pretty simple making homemade tortillas. And they're tasty.
Wow. These enchiladas were really good. Now we know why he was named Top Chef Master. This was the first Rick Bayless recipe we've tried, but it will definitely not be the last.

The sauce was super creamy and you could really taste the roasted poblanos with the rotisserie chicken. The Cotija cheese we put on top gave a nice little salty kick to the end too.

And the best part? We have lots of leftovers for the workweek!
If you're not going to Mexico City anytime soon, follow these steps.

  • 2 fresh poblano chiles
  • 1 cup (lightly packed) roughly chopped spinach leaves
  • 2 cups milk
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 6 Tbs butter
  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp Salt
  • 3 cups rotisserie chicken, coarsely shredded
  • 12 corn tortillas
  • Vegetable oil (if not using fresh tortillas)
  • 1 cup Mexican melting cheese (cheddar, jack, or mix)
  • Cilantro, chopped
  • Cotija cheese or queso fresco
  1. Roast the poblanos by placing directly over a gas flame or by placing on a baking sheet 4 inches below a very hot broiler. Turn regularly until the skins have blistered and blackened on all sides, about 5 minutes for an open flame or about 10 minutes under the broiler.
  2. Place poblanos in a bowl and cover with a kitchen towel. When cooled, rub off the blackened skin, open, and remove seeds. Quickly rinse to remove any remaining seeds.
  3. Roughly chop the poblanos, and put in a blender jar with the spinach.
  4. In a medium saucepan, heat the milk and chicken broth over medium-low heat to warm.
  5. In a large saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat.
  6. Add the garlic and cook for one minute, and then add the flour and stir the mixture for one minute.
  7. Raise the heat to medium-high, pour in the warm broth mixture, and whisk constantly until the sauce boils.
  8. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from heat.
  9. Pour half of the sauce into the blender with the poblanos and spinach.
  10. Cover loosely by removing the center part of the lid and covering with a cloth, and blend until smooth.
  11. Pour the mixture back into the saucepan with the remaining sauce. Taste and season with salt.
  12. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  13. Smear about 1 cup of the sauce over the bottom of a 13x9-inch baking dish.
  14. Stir 1 cup of the sauce into the chicken and toss.
  15. If using fresh tortillas, make and cook now.
  16. If using cold tortillas, lay half of them out on a baking sheet and lightly brush both sides of the tortillas with oil; top each tortilla with another one and brush those with oil. Bake just to warm through and soften, about 3 minutes.
  17. Stack the tortillas and cover with a towel to keep warm.
  18. Working quickly so that the tortillas stay hot and pliable, roll a some sauced chicken up in each tortilla, and line them up in the baking dish, seam-side down.
  19. Spread the remaining sauce on top of the rolled tortillas and sprinkle with the melting cheese.
  20. Bake until the enchiladas are hot through and the cheese has begun to brown, about 20 minutes.
  21. Garnish with the cilantro and Cotija cheese.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

#20 - Potato Chips

Emily takes these surveys online when she has free time on the computer (i.e., when she's watching Real Housewives of Papua New Guinea), and after answering some questions about random products, she gets points to spend on fun stuff. We'd heard good things about Omaha Steaks, and since they showed up on her list of redeemable prizes, we thought we'd try it out.

Now that we have burgers in the freezer, we figured we needed to make a new sidedish.

Potato Chips

From Epicurious
In honor of Claire Robinson competing on Chopped, this is our 4 Ingredient Fix - potatoes, oil, salt, and pepper.
So by now you know we love our KitchenAid. We've used it for mixing cookie dough, beating egg whites, and even making pasta and churning ice cream.

Well, we have another KitchenAid attachment that we've never used before - a slicer. We figured this was a perfect time to use it because, uh, who wants to slice potatoes into 1/8 inch slices?
It was pretty awesome.
It wasn't in the original recipe, but some of the comments on Epicurious said that it's a good idea to pat the potato slices dry before oiling them up to put in the oven.
These were pretty tasty potato chips and really easy to make, but we don't think our first attempt came out just right. They were a little soggy, and it was kind of hard to get some of the chips off of the baking sheet.

Part of the sogginess problem was because we forgot to put the finished chips on a cooling rack because the burgers finished just as the timer went off for the oven.

And one of the commenters on Epicurious suggested putting parchment paper down so the chips wouldn't stick.

Next time we make these, we'll definitely try those two tips. And there will be a next time because we love potato chips, we love our slicer attachment, and we have four more burgers in the freezer.
Homemade chips are just minutes away:
  • 2 medium Yukon Gold potatoes
  • 3 Tbs olive oil
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Peel and slice the potatoes into thin even slices.
  3. Pat the slices dry using paper towels, and place in a bowl.
  4. Toss the potato slices with the olive oil and season lightly with salt.
  5. Arrange the slices in a single layer on a baking sheet, and bake in the oven until golden brown, about 12-15 minutes.
  6. Season again lightly with salt and pepper when they come out of the oven.
  7. Transfer to a rack to cool for maximum crispness.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

#19 - Pasta all'Amatriciana with Meatballs

We were looking to make a new pasta this week, and stumbled across this Amatriciana recipe from Giada online. Since we loved her macaroni and cheese and her salmon in foil was really tasty and simple, we thought we'd try another one of her recipes.

Pasta all'Amatriciana with Meatballs

Adapted From Giada at Home
Since this recipe included a complicated sauce and some crazy meatballs, there were approximately three thousand ingredients we had to line up for this picture.
Emily always cries when she has to cut an onion, and we thought that following this recipe's instructions to grate the onion as opposed to chopping might help.

Wow. We were wrong. Grating an onion may be the worst experience one can have with produce.
So one thing that was pretty scary about this recipe for meatballs was an ingredient that just doesn't belong in Italian food - ketchup. You can't see it in this picture, but we were grimacing as we were measuring out the Heinz.
Once mixed, though, the meatballs looked fine. We didn't feel tempted to dip french fries in them or anything.
After getting the meatballs all prepared, we made the Amatriciana sauce, which had a lot more traditional Italian ingredients - olive oil, pancetta, garlic, salt, etc.
In the end, the final dish was alright. It was a nice meal, but probably not one we'd make again soon.

The meatballs tasted fine, but the little voice in the backs of our heads saying "There's ketchup in there - gross" was a little distracting. And since we know how to make other meatballs that are definitely tastier, we'll probably stick with those.

The Amatriciana was good, and we might make that again, but first, we'll have to finish the leftovers.
If you wanna try your hand at it, here's the recipe:

  • 1 small onion, grated
  • 1/2 cup parsley, chopped
  • 2/3 cup Parmigiano cheese, grated
  • 1/3 cup Italian-style bread crumbs
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 Tbs ketchup
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 lb pork, veal, and beef meatball mix
  • 2 oz Bocconcini mozzarella balls, halved
  1. Position an oven rack in the lower 1/3 of the oven, and preheat to 400 degrees.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the onion, parsley, Parmigiano, bread crumbs, egg, ketchup, garlic, red pepper flakes, salt, and pepper.
  3. Add the meat, and using your hands, mix well.
  4. Shape the meat mixture into 16 meatballs and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
  5. Make a hole in the center of each meatball, place half-ball of mozzarella inside, and reform the meatball so the cheese is completely covered.
  6. Bake the meatballs for 15 minutes until cooked through.
Pasta all'Amatriciana
  • 2 Tbs olive oil
  • 6 oz pancetta, diced
  • 1 yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 pinch crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 (14-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese
  • 1 lb spaghetti or other long pasta
  1. In a large heavy skillet, heat the oil over medium heat.
  2. Add the pancetta and cook, stirring constantly, for about 5 to 7 minutes, until golden-brown.
  3. Remove the pancetta to paper towels.
  4. Add the onion, and cook for 5 minutes.
  5. Stir in the garlic and red pepper flakes and cook for about 30 seconds.
  6. Add the tomatoes, salt, pepper, and the cooked pancetta.
  7. Simmer, uncovered, over medium-low heat until the sauce thickens, about 15 minutes.
  8. Stir in the cheese.
  9. Cook pasta in salted boiling water, strain, and toss with sauce and meatballs.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

#18 - Bacon, Onion, Potato, and Jack Strata

There's nothing better than waking up on Saturday morning and already having your breakfast made for you. That's why we decided to try to make a strata, or as the Becks call it, egg casserole.

Bacon, Onion, Potato, and Jack Strata

From Diana and Dan
A great thing about stratas is that you can make them with lots of different ingredients. For our first attempt, we decided to go with a bacon, onion, potato, and Monterey Jack that we first had at a party at Diana and Dan's house. Afterwards, someone asked them for the recipe, and it found its way to us.
This strata makes tons of sense because who doesn't love bacon, eggs, and potatoes for breakfast? And that's what this recipe is - bacon, eggs, and potatoes, and toss in some cheese and onions to top it off.
So all you do after cooking up the fix-ins is layer them in a dish, pour in the egg mixture, and sprinkle in as much cheese as you want on top. Then you put it in the fridge, and it's ready to pop in the oven when you wake up.
We're glad we picked this recipe for our first attempt at a strata because like we said bacon, eggs, and potatoes are the perfect breakfast combo. The final dish came out really tasty, and the best part about it was that since we don't have a big enough casserole dish, we had to make it in two smaller ones, which means we can have some more tomorrow morning!
Here's the recipe for breakfast deliciousness:
  • 1 lb Bacon
  • 2-3 medium potatoes (red or Yukon Gold, not Russet), cubed
  • 1 small-medium Onion, diced
  • 2 cups bread, cubed
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 cups milk
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • 4 oz Monterey Jack cheese, grated
  1. Cut the bacon in half.
  2. Fry in a skillet until crispy, and then remove to paper towels.
  3. Remove all but 1-2 Tbs of bacon fat from the skillet.
  4. Brown the potatoes in the bacon grease, leaving them to get crispy by not stirring too often.
  5. Remove the potatoes to paper towels.
  6. Saute the onions.
  7. Butter a casserole dish, and layer the bread, covering the bottom of the dish in a single loose layer.
  8. Layer the bacon, potatoes, and onions on top of the bread.
  9. Lightly beat the eggs and milk, and add salt and pepper.
  10. Pour the egg mixture over top of the bread and toppings, and cover with cheese.
  11. Cover, and refrigerate overnight
  12. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
  13. Bake 1 hour.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

#17 - Mamu's Rice

Beans are done, rice is up next.

Mamu's Rice

From The Great Mu
Like the beans, there aren't too many ingredients and except for the green pepper, it shouldn't be too hard to keep the rest of these things handy.
The green pepper actually was a little bit of a problem, though, as we couldn't find the Cubanelle that Mamu suggested at our Giant and we had to settle for a bell pepper.
We didn't take too many pictures while we cooked the rice as we were kinda busy making the tacos, beans, and tortillas simultaneously. And as you can see, in the chaos, we forget an important step - to cover the rice! So that was a mistake.
But all in all, this too came out pretty good. The rice was a little hard (because all the liquid cooked off really quickly), and it came out a little insípido (because we used low-sodium chicken broth instead of regular, oh, and it all cooked off really quickly), but it was a solid first effort.

And if we remember to cover it next time, it'll hopefully be a lot closer to Mamu's.
Here's our attempt at typing up the recipe:
  • Vegetable oil
  • 3/4 cup Canilla extra long grain rice
  • 1/4 cup sweet onion, diced
  • 1/8 cup green Cubanelle pepper, sliced
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled
  • 10 pepper corns
  • 2 tomatoes from 14.5 oz can of Hunt's whole tomatoes
  • 1/2 of a 14.5 oz can of chicken broth
  1. Coat the bottom of a medium pot with vegetable oil, and put on medium-high heat.
  2. When the oil is hot, add the rice and stir frequently for around five minutes until they begin to change color.
  3. Add the onions and green peppers until they turn translucent.
  4. At the same time, put the garlic, pepper corns, tomatoes with juice, and some water in blender, and blend until thoroughly mixed.
  5. Add the blended mixture to the rice, and add the chicken broth.
  6. Stir well, and cover the pot.
  7. Once it begins to boil lightly, turn the temperature down to medium-low and don't touch it for 25 minutes.
  8. The rice will be done when there is no liquid remaining on the bottom of the pot.