Tag Archives: dinners

Buccantini alla finnochiona, a mouthful that tastes great!

17 Jan

A quick recipe… no real back story here. I was just in the mood for pasta and came up with this. Enjoy…

Buccantini alla finnochiona

Serves 2

8 oz buccantini pasta
1/4 pound finnochiona (fennel spiked salami)
1 bulb fennel, trimmed and julienned
1/2 cup orange juice
1 cup water
1/2 pound shrimp, peeled and deviened
1 teaspoon sugar
1 cup cherry tomatoes
2 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Sauté fennel in 1 tablespoon oil until caramelized. Deglaze pan with orange juice and add in sugar. Cook until the juice is reduced. Add in the tomatoes and 1/2 cup of water. Reduce by half and puree. While the pasta is cooking, add the remaining oil into the same pan that the fennel was sautéed in and then add in the finnochiona. Let the fat render for about 2 minutes and then add the shrimp to the pan. Cook the shrimp until all the pieces are pink and almost opaque. Add the puree back in to the pan and then add the remaining water. You can add more water if you need to; you are looking for a consistency of warm maple syrup. When the pasta is cooked, toss with the sauce and meat. Garnish with a fennel frond.

Always thinking of the next meal


8 minute dinner, seriously

20 Dec

Tonight called for a fast easy dinner with minimal clean up. I’ve been baking for the holidays all day and I’m just tired of being in the kitchen (if you can believe that!)

My honey was hungry and always wanting to try something new, I thought, hey how about a quick pasta recipe. One of Ryan’s favorite dinners is pasta carbonara. Although delicious, it’s pretty heavy and I’ve been eating, I mean baking, cookies all day.

So here’s what I came up with. Penne alla Ryan. It’s penne pasta with a quick combo of cubed hame, peas, shallots, and a blue cheese cream sauce. As with a lot of my posting, there is not really a recipe here. It’s more or less a combination of ingredients that suits your liking. Here’s what’s in there:

penne pasta (I used a little less than half a box)
ham, left over from last night’s dinner
1/2 of a medium shallot, sliced
1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil (to start cooking the shallots)
about a 1/2 cup of peas, plus 2 tablespoons for garnishing (I used the steamfresh bag from Birdseye)
chicken stock (about a cup)
heavy cream (2 tablespoons)
danish blue cheese (about 2 oz)
salt and pepper to taste
and the secret ingredient… truffle salt.

Now if you don’t fret, but if you do, it adds a lovely richness to the dish. The final product was not too saucy or too thick, as carbonara can sometimes be. I know you can’t really call this carbonara since there are no eggs in the recipe, but it did have that rich, salty, umami satisfaction that you get from eating carbonara. It was an interesting paradox that was both rich and light, salty but sweet from the peas, and creamy but not fatty.

Oh and literally, it too 8 minutes to make. I’m not kidding or exaggerating. I know I move quickly in the kitchen, but everything for the sauce was just thrown into a sauté pan and warmed through while the pasta cooked. Actually, the sauce was finished before the pasta was! If you don’t have pre-cooked ham, use chicken or steak or whatever you have on hand. This one will definitely go into the rotation.

Always think about the next meal, (and when we’ll have this one again)


Recipe testing

3 Sep

So the best part of my job is recipe testing. I get to take ingredients that I have in the house, an idea I have in my head and create. Literally, I get to play with my food. This week I gave myself a challenge. Only go to the grocery store once. It doesn’t seem like that would be such a challenge, but trust me it is. I went to the store on Monday, it’s now Thursday and here’s what I’ve made so far:

Pasta with homemade red sauce

Pineapple Upside Down Cupcakes

Pineapple Upside Down Cupcakes

Cheesesteak eggrolls with Pespi BBQ sauce

Pineapple Upside down cupcakes

Sweet and Sour jerk chicken with orange couscous

Bleu Cheese risotto with corn, zucchini, and turkey

And about six different breakfast burritos

What does all this testing give me? Well not only does it help me develop new and exciting things to eat, but it also helps me practice the techniques that I learned in school. I like taking recipes that I’ve found online, or in a cookbook and making them my own. The eggrolls we obviously inspired by normal Chinese eggroll, but were also inspired by some of the findings in frozen food aisle. Have you ever looked at what’s in those frozen appetizer bites? Well let me enlighten you. It’s salt. Salt is cheap and makes things taste good. By making them yourself you control the amount of salt and can actually eat more of them. Chicken Cheesesteak Eggrolls

The BBQ sauce that accompany them is my own recipe. Yes, you can make your own BBQ sauce. I mean the stuff in the bottle doesn’t just magically appear there. Again, by making it on your own you can control what’s going into it. Like it spicy? Add chili peppers. Like it sweet? Add brown sugar, honey, or onions. I used ketchup as a base for mine with the surprise ingredient of Pepsi. It wound up being very sweet up front and then finishing spicy in the back of your throat. Perfect for me.

The jerk chicken was something that I have been craving for a few days. I made my own jerk seasoning since I didn’t have any on the spice shelf. In general the jerk spice blends that I’ve gotten at the store have been pretty good. McCormick has a good one and it saves time and money to just buy the jar. But it you have a decent supply of spices already and you you can spare a few minutes you can make it at home. Here’s my recipe for jerk spice:

Jerk Spice:

IMG_07842 tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cracked black pepper1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)

combine and store in airtight container for up to 2 months

I used the jerk seasoning on chicken, onions and pineapple. Sort of a Caribbean stir-fry. I added black beans and basil and then served it over orange couscous. Surprisingly, Ryan really liked it. It had a really nice sweet but spicy flavor and the extra bursts of sweetness from the pineapple really made the dish pop. This one is definitely a keeper. Next time I might add a little diced red pepper to add some color.

The other ventures were just as exciting. The Pineapple cakes were also a big hit. (In case you were wondering, I had a whole pineapple that I needed to use so that’s why there are so many recipes involving the fruit.) It’s making it really fun not being able to go out for more ingredients. Tonight’s menu holds tuna melts, and baked apple dumplings. I hope I have everything for the dumplings. The weather is turning and I think a little fall-ish dessert is in order.

Always thinking of the next meal


Congratulations… you failed!

24 Aug

Ok, I just want to preface this blog entry by saying I love soy milk. That’s why it’s in my refrigerator. Let me also share with you one of my favorite quotes which will give you a head start on the tone and hilarity of the following post:

“Around here, however, we don’t look backwards for very long. We keep moving forward, opening up new doors and doing new things… and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.”

– Walt Disney

So tonight’s dinner was a glorious failure. I attempted to make one of Ryan’s favorites, Bleu Cheese Mac and Cheese. Sounds good right? Well it usually is. I great rich indulgent dinner. Since we hadn’t rewarded ourselves from yesterday, I figured it would be a great meal to toast our success. The key words here are “usually” and “figured.”

Here’s the normal recipe:

1/3 box of pasta. I like cavatalli, but shells, penne, or any hollow pasta will work
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
2 1/2 – 3 cups milk, (please use cow’s milk)
1  cup shredded cheese (Italian blend)
6 oz crumbled bleu cheese
salt and pepper to taste

Cook pasta and set aside to drain. Melt butter in a separate pan. When the butter stops foaming add the flour and wisk until fully incorporated. Slowly add the milk in 1/2 cup portions wisking quickly to avoid lumps. Once all the milk has been added bring to a boil and then reduce the heat to low. Wisk in the cheeses and stir until they are completely melted. Add pasta back into the pot and stir to combine. Serve hot. Feeds 2-3 people.

So why did it turn out so poorly? Please refer to my earlier statement. I didn’t have any regular milk and since my soy milk was “unflavored” I thought it would be OK. Let me be the first to tell you “unflavored” soy milk still tastes like soy. Yes soy marketing team, soy milk does taste good, but it’s not milk. It will never be milk and to all you foodies reading this, it can not always be used as a substitute for milk.

I followed this recipe as I wrote it, but subbed the soy milk in for the regular milk. I knew it was a mistake right away. The roux which usually smells nutty and buttery was quickly masked by the first addition of the soy milk. As I continued to add the usual mild smell of butter and warming milk, smelled more like roasting soy beans. I thought that it might be OK if I added the cheese. You know bleu cheese is a pretty potent cheese so my logic seemed to make sense. WRONG! I tried to salvage it, boy did I try. I seasoned and seasoned. I added more cheese, but the soy flavor was just too overwhelming.

I did serve it… Oh I did. But I couldn’t even eat it. Ryan was very gracious. He took a few bites, but I know the truth. It was just bad. It’s not all a sad story. I did learn something. I learned that sometimes if you don’t have the right ingredients substitutions can lead to a new revolutionary dish, and other times it can lead you to take out.

Always thinking of the next meal (in this case dreaming of the next meal)


Sprechen Sie Deutsches?

31 Jul

Nine. But I can cook a darn good German meal. Last night we have Ryan’s brother and girlfriend over for dinner. The menu?

Schweinefleisch Schnitzel (pork schnitzel)

Apfelmus (applesauce)

Grüne Bohnen mit Knoblauch (green beans with garlic)

Himmel und Erdekartoffeln (Heaven and Earth potatoes)

Sauerkraut (sauerkraut…that’s a hard one)

Brezelbrot (Pretzel bread)

So how was it? Delicious. In fact, I meant to take pictures to post here, but it was eaten so fast I didn’t get a chance.

How do you make schnitzel? It’s super simple…

Schitzel for 4

4 pieces of veal, pork, or chicken approximately 5 oz each pounded to 1/4 inch thickness

Standard breading procedure:

1 1/2 cups seasoned flour
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 1/2 cups seasoned breadcrumbs

Dip the pounded meat into the flour, then the egg, and then the breadcrumbs. Add 3 tablespoons of canola oil into a hot sauté pan. Add the breaded meat and brown on both sides (approx. 1-2 minutes on each side) Put the schnitzel into a 325 degree oven and cook until the meat is cooked through. (8-12 minutes depending on the meat) Serve hot.

German food is very high ranking on my list of favorites to make. Having German relatives and German blood running in my veins, there is nothing in my mind that couldn’t be improved with a good strong mustard. Here’s the thing I find really interesting…

Almost every culture has a very similar menu. If you were making Italian, you’d be making Pork Milianese. (i.e. breaded pork chop) If you were making American, Shake and Bake. (just kidding on the last one.) Anyway, the point is that sometimes you think that you aren’t going to like something, when in reality you are already eating it. It’s all about knowing how dishes are made. Doing a little research and making small substitutions like roasted rosemary potatoes and sautéed escarole, leaving out the applesauce and pretzel bread and you’d have a classic Italian meal. Give it a try.

Always thinking of the next meal