Apologies!

I’ve been having some camera issues. Boo.

Matt has fixed this same camera issue before, so I’m going to trust him with taking it apart again. However, that has had to wait for this weekend. Hopefully, he will still have the magic touch.

In the meantime, I may start creating recipe posts using old photos. (These will probably be repeat meals for anyone following me on facebook or twitter, but at least it will keep me actively blogging!)

Thanks for your patience. I hope to be back soon. ♥

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Light & Easy Weeknight Pasta

pasta & greens

Today I’m going to introduce you to one of my all-time favorite recipe sites*:

EatingWell

Why do I love it so much?

  • They do a really great job taking common recipe favorites & making them healthier. You might think that’s a simple feat: “Just take out the cheese.” or “Bake, instead of fry.” Yes, sometimes it is as simple as that, but most of the times, it’s not. That’s why a lot of people don’t like what they think of as “diet food.” Often times, attempts at a healthier version of recipes sacrifice on texture, or leave the revised dish bland & sub par. However, the chefs at EatingWell take the time to experiment with substituting healthier ingredients, while trying to preserve the soul of the original dish. If it’s supposed to be creamy or crispy, two food adjectives that usually imply high calorie counts, they make sure that it still is.
  • They’re also really talented at coming up with new & innovative recipes.
  • Each recipe lists the nutritional values of the dish, so you know even more about what you’re eating.
  • They give really great tips & notes with every dish, so you never have to worry about not understanding a technique or being able to find an unusual ingredient.
  • Most recipes have great suggestions for ideas on what to pair the dish with.
  • Their AMAZING Advanced Recipe Search. You can search by type of cuisine, main ingredient, meal, occasion, technique, ease of preparation, etc. Also, if you have any diet restrictions, or are cooking for anyone that does, I highly recommend this site for you, as you can always have your search bring up only recipes that fit any of your other search criteria AND are also vegetarian, gluten-free, diabetes appropriate, heart healthy, low sodium, etc.

For instance, it was a weeknight, so I wanted something easy. I was craving something Italian, maybe pasta, but I also wanted it to be light. So I searched using the following parameters:

  • Type of Dish: Main dish, vegetarian
  • Meal/Course: Dinner
  • Type of Cuisine: Italian
  • Ease of Preparation: Easy

From the results, I picked “Gnocchi with Zucchini Ribbons & Parsley Brown Butter.” It satisfied my craving for pasta, but it also had a light sauce & lots of vegetables. You will also learn that I have a hard time ignoring anything with the words “brown butter” in it.

While the pasta had zucchini & tomatoes in it, I realized I was also craving some greens. A lot of times with pasta, my easy go-to side is a salad, but I really wasn’t feeling it that night. EatingWell to the rescue! Under “Type of Dish,” I searched for “Side dish, vegetable,” and one of the first results was “Chard with Shallots, Pancetta & Walnuts.” (I was initially going for vegetarian that night, but figured 1.5 oz of pancetta to flavor 6 servings wasn’t exactly going heavy on the meat…)

I made a few minor adjustments to the recipes. The grocery store didn’t have any gnocchi (?!?), so I substituted some 4 cheese ravioli from the refrigerated pasta section, & left out the parmesan cheese originally in the recipe. I also added some yellow “summer” squash to the pasta, as I thought it would add a little more color & flavor to the dish. The store was also out of chard, but the mustard greens looked nice, so I used that, instead.

Overall, I think it came out really light & flavorful. I loved how refreshing all the vegetables were, & the brown butter sauce complimented them so well. The tiny bit of walnuts & pancetta added a lot of texture, & their flavor, along with the lemon juice & the thyme, added balance to the bitterness of the chard.

The whole meal had approximately 3 whole servings of vegetables, & had an approximate nutritional value, per serving, of:

486 Calories; 14 g Fat; 7 g Sat; 30 mg Cholesterol; 71 g Carbohydrates; 20 g Protein; 7 g Fiber; 1005  mg Sodium; 991 mg Potassium

Not too shabby. The carbs are expected in a  pasta dish, & I could have done with a little less sodium, but it was low in cholesterol & high in fiber.

Most importantly, though: when you saw the picture of this meal & read the names of the dishes, did you expect that the entire plate contained less than 500 calories & 20 grams of fat? I wouldn’t have. And that’s why I ♥ EatingWell.

dinner is servedRecipes:

Gnocchi with Zucchini Ribbons & Parsley Brown Butter

Chard with Shallots, Pancetta & Walnuts

Enjoy! ♥

* I just wanted to mention that I in no way receive any endorsement or compensation from EatingWell. I’m just a huge fan & wanted to share it with you!
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♥ Happy Valentine’s Day! ♥

Valentine's Day

♥ Valentine's Day Funfetti Cookies ♥

I’m not the biggest fan of Valentine’s Day in the romantic sense, but I do jump at any excuse to bake ridiculously cute things. I love the sudden abundance of heart-shaped cookie cutters, pink frosting, & all sorts of little, glittery heart sprinkles.

I made these cookies & brought them into work for my coworkers for Valentine’s Day, today. I can’t take too much credit, as the mix & frosting are all Pillsbury, but I thought they were too cute not to share. Besides, who doesn’t LOVE Funfetti?

On the way to work, I offered one of my cookies to the bus driver, & she was SO excited. She told me that I had made her day. Things like that are why I truly love cooking. So much.

It makes me so happy to share my culinary adventures with all of you, & I hope each & every one of you have a Happy Valentine’s Day. ♥

Funfetti Cookies (courtesy of Pillsbury)

Servings: 3 dozen cookies
Prep Time: 5 minutes mixing, 5-10 minutes frosting
Total Time: 20-25 minutes

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 (18.9-oz.) pkg. Pillsbury® Moist Supreme® Funfetti® Cake Mix
  • 1/3 cup oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 (15.6-oz.) can Pillsbury® Creamy Supreme® Frosting (I used Strawberry)
  • sprinkles (I used Wilton Chocolate Hearts Sprinkles)

DIRECTIONS

  1. Heat oven to 375°F. In large bowl, combine cake mix, oil and eggs; stir with spoon until thoroughly moistened. Shape dough into 1-inch balls; place 2 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheets. With bottom of glass dipped in flour, flatten to 1/4-inch thickness.
  2. Bake at 375°F. for 6 to 8 minutes or until edges are light golden brown. Cool 1 minute; remove from cookie sheets.
  3. Spread frosting over warm cookies. Immediately sprinkle each with candy bits from frosting. Let frosting set before storing. Store in tightly covered container.

Enjoy!

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Time to make the donuts!

coffee & donuts

Happy Friday, friends! I’ll start this recipe post, gauranteed to help get your weekend off to a great start, with a simple question: What’s better than a donut?

Well, only one thing, really: a hot, fresh donut.

I mean, Krispy Kreme doesn’t advertise in big, red neon lights when the donuts are “HOT NOW” for nothing. But now imagine if you could have the same thing,  involving minimal effort, & without even having to leave the house?!?

Zac Young

photo courtesy of Bravo

Last weekend was Matt’s birthday weekend. And all week we’d been hearing a lot about donuts. This is because, Zac Young (right), of Top Chef: Just Desserts fame, is the dear friend of MY dear friend, Nikka. Zac is the Executive Pastry Chef at Flex Mussels, & last week, they set up a donut pop-up shop in Grand Central Station. Everyone was excited seeing all the positive attention he was receiving in the press! And, of course, many of the articles included craving-inducing pictures of his infamous donuts.

Basically, this whole story leads to Matt getting a major craving  for donuts. Matt rarely has a real craving for anything, so I came up with the idea of making him homemade donuts over the weekend for his birthday. I was all prepared to mix dough ahead of time, & let it rise, & roll it out, & cut it, & so on & so forth. But then, Nikka’s boyfriend, Dan, sent me this article.

Kids, it doesn’t get any cheaper or easier than this. Now, I know you may have your doubts. I admit that I did. I mean, I’ve had biscuits from a can before, & they don’t exactly make me think of donuts. However, the Serious Eats article sang their praises, & so I decided to give it a try.

frying stationI woke up early Sunday morning & set up my frying station, with a deep fry/candy thermometer to measure the temperature pf the oil, chopsticks to turn the donuts (these really are the perfect tool for the job), a spider strainer (not pictured), & a paper-towl lined plate for the fried donuts.

glazing station

While the oil was heating up, I made my glazes. I figured I would make several glazes to try out, as they essentially contained the same ingredients, & therefore were easy to make all at the same time. I also threw together a little cinnamon-sugar mixture for the donut holes. However, the brown butter glaze was the clear winner, by far. It was similar to the plain, but it was a little richer & nuttier, & had a little bit of that wonderful salty-sweet combination that I LOVE. Seriously, major donut chains, you need to get on this. Stat.

ready for the fryerOnce the oil was hot, I popped open 2 cans of 10 regular sized biscuits (which were $0.45 each!), separated them, & cut out the middle using the wide end of a pastry tip. I also rolled together the cut-outs of every 2 donuts to make donut holes. Then I dropped them in the oil, 5 at a time. Each batch took maybe 2 minutes to fry.

freshly glazed

Once they were cooled just enough to touch, maybe another minute or two. Then, I plopped each one into the glaze, turned it over in the bowl a few times, & then put the glazed donuts on a cooling rack over some parchment paper to set.

Another minute later, we had donuts. REAL DONUTS. HOT NOW. (Oh, & coffee. of course.) These really were the real thing. Soft, glazed, yeast donuts that I think beat out many store-bought ones. So here’s my advice: MAKE THEM. DO IT. THIS WEEKEND. GO!

I delivered the finished donuts to the birthday boy, who was still in bed. Asleep. I think this emphasizes how quick & easy these were, as he hadn’t even realized I had been in the kitchen making them, & was completely surprised. I think he ate maybe 8 that morning. I guess such things are allowed when it’s your birthday, & the donuts are this good.

close-up
The World’s Easiest Homemade Donuts (courtesy of Serious Eats (& Dan))

Servings: Regular can yields 10 small donuts, Large biscuit can yields 8 large donuts
Prep Time: 20 minutes (most of the prep can be done while the eggs cook.)
Total Time: 30 minutes

INGREDIENTS

Donuts

  • Canned Biscuit Dough
  • 8 cups vegetable oil

Plain Glaze:

  • 2 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Brown Butter Glaze:

  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces
  • 2 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Strawberry Glaze:

  • 2 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/4 cup strawberry-flavored milk

Special equipment:

  • 1/2-inch round cutter and/or 1-inch round cutter
  • 1 pair chopsticks
  • deep-fry thermometer

PREPARATION

  1. Heat oil in a large pot, Dutch oven, or large skillet with high sides, over medium-high heat until temperature registers 350°F. (Oil should be at least 1- to 1 1/2 inches deep).
  2. While the oil is heating up, prepare the glazes. (Each batch of glaze makes enough to coat a whole can of donuts. Depending on how many donuts & how many glazes you make, you can double or halve the recipes as best suits you.)
  3. For the plain glaze: Place confectioners’ sugar and salt in medium bowl. Add melted butter, milk, and vanilla extract and whisk until smooth.
  4. For the brown-butter glaze: Melt the butter over medium-high heat in a small stainless steel saucepan. Cook the butter until browned, 5 to 8 minutes, swirling the pan occasionally. The butter will begin to foam; the subsiding foam is an indicator that the butter is almost done. Once the solids are caramel brown remove pan from heat and immediately pour butter into a medium bowl, scraping in all the solids. Add the confectioners’ sugar, salt, milk, and vanilla extract and whisk until smooth.
  5. For the pink glaze: Place confectioners’ sugar and salt in medium bowl. Add melted butter and milk and whisk until smooth.
  6. Pop open biscuit container. If any of the biscuits look irregular, gently pat them down to even rounds and even thickness. Cut out doughnut holes.
  7. Add half of the doughnuts and half of the doughnut holes and fry until the bottoms turn golden brown, 1 to 1 1/2 minutes for small doughnuts and 2 to 2 1/2 minutes for large doughnuts. Using chopsticks, turn the doughnuts and holes and fry for until golden brown, 1 to 2 minutes longer.
  8. Transfer doughnuts to a paper towel-lined plate and allow to cool slightly, 1 to 2 minutes before dipping in glaze. Serve warm.

Enjoy!

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Let us brunch!

slow-poached egg & pancetta, on avocado toast

This dish is heaven on a plate. I mean, really, how could you possibly go wrong with anything involving pancetta, eggs, &/or avocados? The slow-poaching of the eggs caused the yolks & whites to become almost creamy & sauce-like. Mixed with the rich avocados, the tangy dijon mustard, & the crisp, salty bits of pancetta…. it was out of this world. This dish takes a little longer than most egg dishes, but it is well worth it.

This dish wasn’t actually made for a brunch. It was actually the product of one of those nights where you only have the energy to make dinner or go to the store, but not both. So, near the end of the work day, I thought about what I already had lying around the house, & came up with this dish. However, even though I am a big fan of breakfast-for-dinner, I think this would make a much better brunch dish.

My regular avocado toast recipe is adapted from here. I usually prefer spreading the avocado & dijonnaise mixtures on slices of a roasted garlic loaf, but white bread is what I had in the house, & the size was probably more beneficial for holding the egg, as well.

I initially thought I would just poach an egg, but then started doubting the texture, especially if the eggs over-poached at all. I remembered reading about a Japanese technique where the egg is poached slowly, over a long period, at a consistent, low heat. A little internet research led me to find out about onsen tamago. It seemed a lot of people had their own techniques, so I settled on David Chang’s recipe because, well, he’s David Chang. (If you don’t know who he is, start here, & then here.)

Near the end of the eggs’ cooking time, I started crisping the pancetta & prepared all the ingredients to assemble the final dish. Right after the eggs were done, I toasted the bread, quickly assembled the ingredients, & I couldn’t even wait to take pictures! I had to try it. Luckily I still had more eggs, as well as a little more patience, after that.

mmmmbrunch!

Slow-Poached Eggs & Pancetta, on Avocado Toast
Serves 2-4 (depending on how hungry you are!)
Prep Time: 10 minutes (most of the prep can be done while the eggs cook.)
Cook Time: 55 minutes

INGREDIENTS

  • 4 large eggs (you only NEED 4, but I recommend making a few extra, just in case***)
  • 4 slices of bread (i used white, but whatever kind you prefer)
  • 1/4 cup diced pancetta (or bacon) (or leave this out to make it vegetarian!)
  • 2 avocados
  • 1/2 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil mayonnaise (or regular, if you prefer)
  • 1 tablespoon dijon mustard
  • kosher salt & freshly ground pepper
  • EXTRA SUPPLIES: kitchen thermometer, 4 ramekins or other small cups/dishes

PREPERATION

  1. In a large pot, place something at the bottom of the pot that will keep the eggs from sitting directly on the bottom. I used a small metal cooling rack, but really, anything that fits in the pot, will stay at the bottom of the pot, & is heat proof will do (chopsticks, the lid of a smaller pot, a Pyrex dish, etc.).
  2. Fill the pot with about 3″ of water. Position the thermometer so that it is touching the water & can be easily read. Turn the stove on low, & heat the water to 140*F. You may have to play around with the heat settings, according to your stove.
  3. Once the water reaches 140*, place the eggs gently in the pot, making sure they don’t rest directly on the bottom. Let the eggs cook for about 45-55 minutes (a lot of recipes say 45, but mine took closer to 55), paying attention to the thermometer to make sure the water stays approx. 140* the entire time. If it gets to cool, turn the heat up a tiny bit. If it gets too warm, add ice.
  4. When the eggs have about 10 minutes left, start assembling the rest of the ingredients.
  5. Heat a small frying pan on med heat. Once it’s heated, add the diced pancetta, stirring occasionally. Cook until the pancetta crisps & browns, & then remove the pancetta with a slotted spoon onto a plate lined with paper towels.
  6. Cut the avocados in half & remove the pit (the easiest way is to whack the knife firmly into the center of the pit & pull it out with the knife). Add the olive oil, lemon juice, a pinch of kosher salt & some freshly ground pepper. Mash everything, leaving the mixture a little bit chunky.
  7. Whisk the mayonnaise & dijon mustard together.
  8. Once the eggs are done, remove one egg from the pan, first to test. The best way to crack the eggs is to crack & pour each egg into a ramekin first, instead of directly onto the toast. This is because there will likely be some extra runny whites. I found they were easy to discard by gently tipping the ramekin over the sink. The main egg will stay, & the extra whites will easily run off.
  9. If the egg is done, turn off the pot, & start toasting the bread. If not, let them cook another 5 minutes & test again. (This is one reason to make extra eggs!***) While the bread is toasting, remove the rest of the eggs from the pot & crack them open.
  10. Once the toast is done, quickly assemble so the toast & eggs are still warm. Spread about a tablespoon of the dijonnaise onto each slice of toast. Then, using a fork, spread 1/4 of the avocado mixture onto each piece of toast, mashing it down gently. so the egg has a flat place to sit. GENTLY place an egg on top of the avocado mixture. (Don’t get discouraged: they break easily, another reason why to make extra!***) Sprinkle with the pancetta & a little bit of freshly ground pepper.

*** If you made have extra eggs at the end, according to many recipes, you can keep them in the fridge for a day or so, & reheat them by placing them in a bath of hot water for a minute or two.

Enjoy!

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