Monday, April 28, 2014

Creamy Roasted Red Pepper and Spinach Pasta

Creamy Roasted Red Pepper Pasta

     It was another weekend and I was again craving a homemade pasta dish.  I didn't want to just do another marinara or something traditional or handed down through my family.  I had this great idea to do something bold.  Something with roasted peppers or something on the spicy side came to mind.  I didn't use a recipe or any suggestions from family or friends.  The flavors I used just seemed to sound good together.  The roasted peppers were just enough to give the hint that they were in there.  The herbs were not overpowering and you could tell they were mingling around.  The spinach added just that right amount of texture that you need.  I added chicken to give the dish that extra special quality. Overall the dish was superb and I think it has become a new family classic.  Please enjoy my Creamy Roasted Red Pepper and Spinach Pasta. 

  • 2 large chicken breasts
  • 1/2 white onion diced
  • 1 large clove garlic
  • 1 bundle of baby spinach
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock
  • 2 red peppers
  • 1 can crushed tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 tbs oregano
  • 1/2 tbs thyme
  • Fresh pasta
  • Salt/pepper

Start by roasting the whole red peppers under a broiler or on a grill until black on all sides.  Remove and place in a brown paper bag to steam. Remove the peppers after 5-10 minutes and peel the skins off.  Remove the inside and seeds of the peppers.  Dice up and place in a blender or food processor and pulse until creamy. 

     In a large skillet drizzle some olive oil. Cook the chicken breasts until brown on both sides.  Remove and set aside.  In same skillet sauté the onion until translucent.  Add in the garlic and cook until fragrant.  Toss in the spinach and sauté until wilted. Pour in the chicken stock, creamy roasted peppers, and crushed tomatoes.  Bring to a simmer.  Mix in the oregano and thyme.  Meanwhile dice up your chicken into bite size pieces and place back into skillet.  Stir in the cream, cover, and simmer on low for about 20 minutes.  Salt and pepper to taste.  Serve over your favorite homemade pasta.  Serves 4-5.


Monday, April 21, 2014

The "Estate" of Things: Diggy's Fruit Salad


      This post is not only about a simple fruit salad but more importantly where the recipe for this salad came from.  My amazing, loving, quirky, eccentric, imaginative, talented, overall artistic aunt created this for many family reunions.  She recently passed away this year and it has been very hard and confusing at the same time.  I had been appointed as executor of her estate.  To make a long story short, she had been sick for quite some time and finally decided to go to the hospital after many days of convincing.  She had not been seen by a doctor in over 40 years.  She was a dreamer, a loner, an island in and of herself. As in typical Aunt Candy style we spoke at least once a week over the phone or she would stop by my apartment for a chat.  A chat about the state of the world, religion, life, travel, food, sex, relationships, you name it we discussed it. Prior to her going into the hospital it had been a while that we had spoken.  The last time we did we discussed me becoming her MPOA, POA, and Executor of her estate if and when something would happen to her.  I was glad and proud to take on such responsibility for her.  See, I am the youngest of her nieces and nephews.  The youngest of 22 and she did not have any children of her own.  I had always been special to her.  She helped raise me while my parents were at work while I was young. 

      Her life was a story all in its own. From growing up in a small town in WV to traveling the world and working in the theater scene in NYC. She taught me to play, to act, to have fun. This woman was amazing. She continued to write, direct plays, act in, and perform even in her local town.  She did things right.  Her mind was full of ideas. In fact she came up with this simple but amazingly delicious fruit salad.  I share below not only the recipe but some photos of my wonderful and beloved Aunt Candy, or as I like to call her, Diggy.  (I was unable to say Aunt Candy when wee little).  I have been spending most of my weekends cleaning out her place and getting the "Estate" settled.  Lots of work and learning new things that goes into finalizing one’s life.  It's a lot harder than just passing into the afterlife.  I still have my days where I feel lost without her.  Confused to what happened and trying to determine what to do next. 

     So on to the recipe.  This fruit salad is not like any other fruit salad you have had before.  Most people just cut up their fruit, add a little yogurt or sugar water and that is it.  Not Diggy, she made hers much different.  It is amazing.  The burst of crispness from the wine, the odd combination of fruits with floral accents from the herbs is very surprising. Actually having this salad was my first experience in tasting lavender with any type of food.  Quite interesting flavor additives that you find in the American version of Herb de Provence. So here goes: Diggy's Fruit Salad

  • 2 bananas sliced
  • A small bunch of grapes sliced
  • 1 packet blueberries
  • 4 kiwis sliced
  • 2 pears sliced
  • 2 peaches sliced
  • 6-8 Clementines peeled
  • 1 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp Herb de Provence
  • Lemon juice

     Cut up your fruit as desired into equal sized bites and place in a large serving bowl.  In a small sauce pan add your wine and sugar and bring to a slow boil until the sugar has dissolved and your alcohol has burned off.  Stir in your Herb de Provence and continue to simmer for about a couple minutes.  Pour over the fruit and add in some lemon juice.  Toss to incorporate, cover, and refrigerate to chill.  Viola! That is it.  As I said this salad is unlike any other you have tried before.  It's crisp and fresh just like spring.  Enjoy.

Aunt Candy and I (she's actually eating this salad in this picture)

Aunt Candy in one of her plays


Sunday, April 13, 2014

Spiced Up Mini Corn Dogs

Spiced Up Mini Corndogs

     For the month of April 2014 my Google+ community, Foodies+, decided it was Street Food Month.  As for being from the States, we have a multitude of different street food vendors.  You can find any type of cultural food on the streets.  Many vendors from all around the world have food venders in the States. Whether it is a cart, buggy, truck, or stand, you name it you can probably find it.  But I thought to myself what would constitute an American Street food.  I sat back and thought about all the different types of American festivals we have, from state fairs to local celebrations.  What specific food can you find at most any festival here in the states?  And then it came to me, the great American Corndog.  A cross between a hotdog and a southern corn fritter.  Deep fried on a stick and dipped in a multitude of different condiments.  What better street food can you think of than something deep fried and place on a stick for your convenience?  Here is my version of the American Corndog.  I changed it up a bit by making some spicy kicked up mini ones with two different dipping sauces.  Please enjoy my; Spiced Up Mini Corndogs.

  • Standard hotdogs
  • 1 1/4 cup flour
  • 3/4 cup cornmeal
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 4 tbs sugar
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/4 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup fresh corn
  • 1/2 jalapeno pepper

     Cut your hotdog into threes.  I just used a standard bun length hotdog.  Use  whatever  you prefer.  In a bowl mix together the flour, cornmeal, salt, sugar, and baking powder.  Stir in both eggs and milk until you have a mixture similar to pancake mix.  In a blender or food processor pulse together your fresh corn and jalapeno pepper.  I removed the seeds but if you like it very spicy keep them in. Stir this mixture into the batter.  Take regular wooden skewers that have been soaking in water to avoid being burned.  I used only three because you will reuse them as you go on.  Stick the skewer into one segment of the hot and dip into the corn mixture. 

     I used a wok to deep fry these because I knew I could regulate the temperature of the oil and knew it would cook quickly.  Use a deep skillet or fryer if you like.  Just make sure you have enough oil that the dogs can be flipped and are floating in the oil.

     Quickly fry the mini corndogs until nice and golden brown on all sides.  I did three at a time, which is why I only needed three skewers.  Carefully slip the dog off the skewer directly into the oil to fry.  Drain on a paper towel lined plate and serve.  I used a nice combination of spicy honey mustard as well as molasses ketchup for dipping.  Enjoy my version of an American classic corndog. Serves quite a bit of people as the corn mixture makes enough for at least 16 dogs or more.  Cheers!

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Eggplant Parmesan

Eggplant Parmesan
     Nothing is easier or more delicious than a good plate of Eggplant Parmesan.  This dish is so simple that it really doesn't require much of a recipe.  But for simple descriptive reasons I will explain.  There is just something about a layered dish smothered in cheese and sauce that is just so warming and special.  Whether it is a pasta dish or made up of fresh vegetables doesn't really matter just as long as you layer the wonderful filling with good marinara and good cheese you are sure to be in for a delightful meal.  Please enjoy my Eggplant Parmesan.

  • 1 lg eggplant
  • Italian breadcrumbs
  • 2 eggs
  • Mozzarella cheese
  • Parmesan cheese
  • Marinara

     Take your eggplant and peel off most of the skin, as it is hard to cook.  I slice my eggplant longwise so as to have better layering abilities.  Whisk your eggs together and dip each piece of eggplant into the egg mixture.  
     Next toss your eggplant slice into some breadcrumbs and sat aside.  In a skillet with a little olive oil brown your eggplant on both sides. 

     Dip the browned slice into a little marinara and lay in a baking dish.  Once you have your first layer of eggplant sprinkle on top a little fresh shredded mozzarella and Parmesan cheese.  Repeat these steps unit you have a three to four layered dish complete.  Bake in a 350-degree oven covered with tinfoil for roughly 30-45 minutes. The last 5 minutes of baking you can remove the foil so as to get a nice browned cheesy top.  Let rest and slice to enjoy!  Serves 4-5 people.   

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Wild Rice And Mushroom Soup

Wild Rice and Mushroom Soup

     So I was craving another good bowl of soup.  This time I decided to make a hearty wild rice and mushroom soup.  I have had a many creamy mushroom soup before and have never attempted to make it.  This version incorporates not only the earthiness of the mushrooms but the wonderful addition of some bacon flavors.  As the saying goes, “bacon makes everything much better”.  This soup was so simple that it only took about 15 minutes to put together. I added a few mushrooms that I had coated in panko bread crumbs and quick fried to the top of each bowl to add a bit of crispiness, allure, and presentation to each bowl of soup I served.  Please enjoy this Wild Rice and Mushroom Soup.

  • 8 slices bacon
  • 1/2 white onion
  • 3 cups mushrooms
  • 1 large clove garlic
  • 1/4 cup Brandy
  • 32 oz chicken stock
  • 4 tbs flour
  • 3/4 cup half and half
  • 1 tsp thyme
  • Wild rice/quinoa
  • Salt/pepper

     In a large pot or Dutch oven brown your bacon until crisp.  Remove and set aside to drain on paper towel lined plate.  Toss in diced onion, diced up mushrooms, and garlic and sauté until tender.  Pour in the brandy and simmer until it reduces.  Stir in the flour until you have a thick mixture.  Keep stirring until you have cooked the flour taste out.  Pour in the chicken stock and bring to a simmer.  Mix in the thyme and half and half and continue to simmer until your mushrooms are cooked and your soup is at the right thickness, about 20-30 minutes.  I then mixed in already cooked wild rice/quinoa and salt and peppered to taste.  I topped each bowl with individually breaded and fried mushroom halves.

     You will love this soup.  It is creamy just enough and hearty in all the right places.  If you like mushrooms you will love this soup.  Just think about your favorite hearty stew and how it makes you feel.  You will be surprised at how this simple soup of only a few ingredients can be so hearty like any other soup or stew that you will change your mind on what fills you up. This soup has such a wonderful silky richness that you will think you are eating something too expensive for your own tastes. Enjoy! Serves about 4-8 people.