Kale Pasta

On a quest to find cheap and healthy food, I ransacked the HEB and came away with a 98 cent bush of kale about 3 times the size of my head. It was a great find, but since leafy greens don’t do so well in my fridge, I knew I’d have to eat them fast. I did some experimenting, and this was one of my favorite recipes that came of it.

kale

I sorted the prep vegetables according to how cooked I wanted them to be.

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First, I sauteed the onion in olive oil, over medium heat until they started getting translucent. After that, I tossed in the rest, sauteing for a few minutes before adding the sauce. Together, I let it simmer on med-low for about 30 minutes (feel free to do it as long as you’re willing, just make sure it doesn’t dry out).

 

While that was going, I made bacon sprinkles. If you want to keep this recipe Vegan, skip that. It’s totally option and I did it on a whim, anyway, so not much will be lost if you skip it. Only bacon, which you don’t really care about anyway.

 

Bacon sprinkles are just tiny strips of bacon fried until they’re crispy. I’ve used them in a handful of dishes so far and I’ve found them to be a nice way to add a little bit of salty/crunchy to your food. Since they keep well, you can even cook up half a pack or so and just keep them in the fridge for whenever you need some on your pasta, fried rice, or grits.

 

As the pasta was nearing completion, I tossed the kale into the sauce. I waited till the end because I wanted it to still be crisp and fresh tasting. The diversity of texture alone is worth it, and if you’re down for an experiment, I recommend just adding some fresh. Also, if you’re a cheesy kind of person, I’d recommend a hard Spanish cheese for this. I tried it with some idiazabal and it worked really well.

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Here’s my attempt at a printer friendly recipe card:

Kale Pasta

Bacon sprinkles and cheese (optional)

1 med white onion

1 jalapeno

1 red bell pepper

4 cloves garlic (I eat it in everything, you might not want as much)

24 oz pasta sauce

whatever spices you like in pasta sauce: salt/pepper/garlic/oregano/etc

3 giant kale leaves

noodles

1. Make bacon sprinkles. Drain and set aside.

1 if you don’t want meat. Chop veggies, keep onion separate.

2. Warm a sauce pot with olive oil to medium. Saute onions for about 5 minutes.

3. Add jalapeno, bell pepper, and garlic and saute for about a minute.

4. Add sauce and stir. Lower the temperature to med-low, but keep an eye on it just in case.

5. Start boiling pasta water (waiting to do it until now is a great way to time the sauce and also gives you time to clean up some if you don’t want to save it all till you’re done) and cook the pasta as per the recommended instructions.

6. With about a minute left on the pasta, add the kale to the sauce.

7. Everything’s all a flurry now! Strain the pasta! Add a little olive oil so it doesn’t stick! Stir the sauce some more!

8. Serve. Top with bacon sprinkles and/or delicious Spanish cheese, as you desire.

Honey Jalapeno Chicken

So recently I’ve learned a few things. One, roasting chickens is awesome. It’s cheap, easy, tasty, and impressive. Two, allspice is delicious.

I’ve been trying to save up money because I’m going to Costa Rica in August, so I’ve been eating a little cheaper (hah) but still pretty well. Chicken’s a good way to go with it, especially when you buy whole ones. They also give you a pretty good chance to experiment with flavor. Every time I’ve prepared chicken this way it’s been completely different, and it’s not hard to be creative.

This time honey jalapeno was the start.

Ingredients:
Whole chicken, thawed and innards removed
5 jalapenos
~2/3 cup honey
~3/4 cup water
~1/8 tsp allspice, ground
black pepper

The first thing I did was cut up the jalapenos and push them under the skin of the breasts and thighs. All five didn’t fit in there. The rest I put inside the cavity, save one which I used for the sauce.

Next I made a sauce to baste the chicken with as it was cooking. I combined the jalapeno, honey, water, allspice, and pepper in a saucepan and cooked on medium to start, then kept it on 2 as the chicken was cooking.

To go with the chicken, I scalloped some potatoes and put them in a pan under the chicken, to catch the drippings. Don’t cut them too thin, because they’ll just cook too fast and stick to the bottom if you do.

As for baking, there should be instructions on the packaging. I think it was 350 degrees for 20 minutes/lb. Mine was a five-pounder so it took a while. I started the chicken off with a little sauce, and every 15-20 minutes I brushed on some more. The whole process is very easy to walk away from, so long as there’s a timer going.

When there was only 20 minutes left, I opened up a can of chestnuts I had in the pantry and threw them in with the potatoes. (Chestnuts are amazing. If you’ve never had them, I highly recommend you do. They go really well with chicken and potatoes and drippin’s.)

With the chicken done and the oven on, I decided to make some asparagus to go with it. The timing worked out perfectly because by the time the asparagus was done, the chicken was cool enough to cut.

And wa-bham–cheap, easy, tasty dinner.

Seafood Lasagna

So apparently lasagna is one of those foods I really like because I tend to make it a lot. Every time it’s a little bit different, based on the whims of the day and the one I made most recently was a seafood lasagna. Seafood lasagna is another one of those dishes that reminds me of France because my host mom used to get some really good lasagna from the fisherie(?) on a fairly regular basis. This one was a bit too bright and not as diversely occupied as Sophie’s guy’s, but it’s still pretty nice.

Structurally, it was very similar to every other lasagna I’ve ever made, the only special thing was how I treated the tilapia. But I’ll go over everything just because I like you so much.

Tilapia Ingredients:
1 tsp lemon zest (about 1 lemon’s worth)
1/2 tsp thyme
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
2 tilapia filets
olive oil
juice of 1 lemon (how convenient!)
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream

Start by combining the zest, thyme, salt, and pepper in a bowl then take roughly half of it and coat both sides of the tilapia filets. In a oiled skilled heated on medium-high, cook the tilapia for about two minutes on each side.

They won’t be cooked, but don’t freak out. You’re going to bake them so it’ll be ok.

Once that’s over with, remove the tilapia and lover the heat to medium. Add the remaining spices and lemon juice, then stir it all around and mingle with the fish juices. Next add the whipping cream and cook for about 2 minutes until slightly thick.

While the sauce was reducing, I chunked/shredded the tilapia. When the sauce was ready, I tossed the tilapia in and took it off the heat. And that’s it for the tilapia.

Lasagna ingredients:
Tilapia and sauce (as prepared above)
About 3/4 lb cooked shrimp
Lasagna pasta sheets
1 jar Pasta sauce (I used 24 oz black olive and capers since lemon and capers are such good friends)
7 oz ricotta
~3 cups mozzarella
2-3 handfuls parmesan

Keep in mind to preheat the oven to 375, then feel free to get on your layering.

I started with a layer of pasta, using 4 sheets.
Then ricotta with parmesan sprinkled on.
More pasta sheets.
The tilapia and sauce, topped with a good amount of mozzarella.
Even more pasta sheets.
All the shrimp, a little less than half the sauce, and more mozzarella.
The penultimate layer: pasta.
And finally, top it off with the last of the sauce and however much cheese you want.

Then cover and bake for 35-40 minutes and enjoy!

The lemon comes through well, but isn’t overpowering and mingled with the sauces nicely. And even though it may seem strange to combine seafood and cheese, it totally works in lasagna. I’ve tried it a fair number of times, with a variety of sauces–even pesto–and it always works.

I ate mine with a side of asparagus, also something that turned out to be one of my favorite things.

Salmon Alfredo

I don’t cook with fish much because I’ve always been afraid of messing it up. But I watched my mom cook some on the grill a little while back so I figured I’d give it a try.

To cook the salmon, I let an oiled non stick skillet heat up for a while (to mimic the heat of a grill), then put the salmon on, skin down.

Then put on whatever seasonings you like, salt and pepper are always good.

As it’s cooking, you’ll notice the bottom change colors, and the color change (from red-pink to salmon-pink) will elevate up the sides of the salmon. It’s pretty neat; you can almost see it happening. A few minutes in, we topped it with some fresh basil…

…and covered the skillet to finish cooking it all the way through to the top.

Once you cover it it doesn’t take long to finish. (This was my first time cooking salmon. It might be faster to cover it the whole time and have it still end up the same…? I don’t know.)

And while that was going, I had the pasta boiling and was making an alfredo sauce. if you’ve read more than one article from here, you’d know that I love cream based sauces. It helps a lot that they’re super easy to make. Just reduce some cream, toss in some cheese (parmesan if you want to make a real alfredo sauce) and stir/add cheese until it’s the right consistency. This time I used rosemary asiago and a small handful of mozzarella.

Once everything was done, I combined the sauce and pasta, then flaked the salmon with my hand and a fork and tossed that in too.

Soo yummy. It’s good cold for nighttime picnics and it reheats well for lunch at work.

Puff Pastry Calzone

I a lot of my cooking is dictated by what I need to use in my fridge. I’ll buy something thinking I’ll go on some fantastical culinary adventure, then that falls through or I get sidetracked, and then I end up having to find something to do with it. It’s not very hard, but it happens all the time. And this was one of those occasions.

I had some leftover andouille and puff pastry. Something had to be done.

What I had at my disposal was:
16 oz heavy whipping cream
2 links andouille
2 packages of preshredded italian blend cheese

Now don’t give me too much crap for that one, I was cooking at a friends house who is renowned for being eternally broke and therefore has very little to work with. The irony is that he graduated from culinary school.

Anywhoo, I started by reducing the cream on a medium heat. (Or medium high, I might have been impatient.) There’s not really a difference, except that the hotter it is, the faster it reduces. But you have to stir a lot more often because it might burn on you.

While that’s going, get to cutting the sausage and prepping the puff pastry.

In this case, “prepping” = unfold, assuming it’s defrosted enough. If not, just wait some more.

And when the cream is reduced to about half it’s original volume, start adding the cheese.

Do it handful by handful until it comes out ridiculously stretchy.

Then spread on the sauce,

the sausage and cheese,

and fold it all over.

Then bake it at around 425 until it’s done (I checked on it after 8 minutes (I’m very impatient) and it still needed some time, a little less than 15 minutes total).

The gash in the top is ugly, yes, but it Did serve a purpose. You need some sort of ventilation so that it doesn’t explode in your oven and look even worse. But there are prettier ways of going about this. A nic little \\\ three slices on the top would look super nice. It’s just too bad I thought of it now instead of then.

Crispy Orange Beef

I had this dish for the first time at a Chinese/biker/piano restaurant on campus and it was super tasty. The first time I attempted anything like this, I accidentally made orange chicken jello (yeah, it was pretty terrible). But now I’ve figured it out!

This is just the basic orange beef, but feel free to add veggies (I’ve done it with broccoli) or peppers or whatever you want once you’ve got it down.

For 2-4 people, here’s what you’ll need:
A little over a pound of beef (we used top round steak)
Corn starch
Orange juice (use a sall container–I’ll elaborate later)
1/3 cup Sugar
1/3 cup Rice Vinegar
1 tbs Soy sauce
1 tsp Salt
Ginger
An orange

First get your orange juice reducing. If you want to skip this, you could use orange juice concentrate, but it’s kind of a waste because they don’t sell 2 tbs size containers. Just put it on the stove on a med-low heat, stirring when it gets bubbly. It’s going to take a while for it to reduce down, so that’s why you start it first.

You really don’t need to worry much about it until you need to use it, so focus on other things, but at the same time, glance over at it every once in a while just to make sure it doesn’t burn or boil over.

Now start slicing the meat. For optimum crispiness, thin slices are recommended. For optimum laziness, regular slices.

When they’re all sliced up, lay them flat on a paper towel on a cooking sheet and put them in the fridge. (They’re more crispy if there is no excess liquid.)

Let them sit in the fridge for about 20 minutes while you move on to other things.

While still keeping an eye on your orange juice, start grating the ginger and orange zest. You can use the smallest holes on a normal grater for this. And by the end you want about 2 tbs grated ginger and 1 tbs orange zest.

By about now the orange juice should be done. I poured it back into it’s original container to store for future use, and there was about 1/3 of the original amount.

And now to make the sauce, combine in a bowl the 1/3 cup sugar, 1/3 cup rice vinegar, 2 tbs Orange juice concentrate, 1 tbs soy sauce, and 1 teaspoon salt. Stir a little and voila.

In the last few minutes of the beef being in the fridge, prep your area.

Fill a bowl with some of your corn starch, set aside, and fill a small sauce pan about halfway with some canola oil. Also, prep a landing plate with a paper towel for the fried beef.

When the beef’s done, start frying. Start by coating the beef in corn starch.

And frying it in the hot oil for a few minutes, depending on how thin you sliced them. Mine only took about a minute. Use a slotted spoon or a similar tool to get them out of the oil.

And at this point you’re almost done! In a frying pan, heat the ginger and orange zest with some of the canola oil you fried in on a med-high heat. Toss in some garlic if you want (I totally did).

Let that sweat for a minute, then add the sauce.

When that warms up, toss in the beef and stir until each strip is coated.

If you wanted to add veggies, toss them in either before or at the same time as the beef, depending on how cooked you want them to be.

Now enjoy!

Andouille Alfredo

This one is modeled after something I had at a restaurant once in Louisiana. It was super tasty, and coincidentally, the same night I had the pasta, I met the chef at a friends house and then learned that this was no usual alfredo sauce with a cream base and parmesan cheese, but instead, it was roux based. This intrigued me, and so I decided to try it out. I accidentally made enough for 15 people, so you’re going to have to scale down what I did.

Here’s what I started with:

A stick butter (this is where I used way too much)
1/2 cup flour (same amount of butter)
2 Andouille sausage (my grocery store just came out with some chicken andouille, and I wanted to give it a try)
A little less than half a pound of parmesan
A pack of linguini
32 oz heavy whipping cream
1 tbs(ish) paprika
Salt, pepper, and minced garlic to taste

If you want to make less, start by using less butter and flour. The rest will be easy after that. I’d recommend using about a tablespoon of butter per person. That might end up in some leftovers, but nothing like what I ended up with. (And just FYI, expect a post with what I did with the leftover sauce.)

Ok, so, to start, cut up the sausage into whatever size pleases you. I opted for bigger, chunkier pieces because that’s similar to how I had it at the restaurant. Then heat them in the same pan you plan on making the sauce in.

You’ll notice that I started off in a skillet, but by the end I had to move to a soup pot. I literally made about 50 oz by the time I was done (that’s about 2 giant pasta sauce jar’s worth). And don’t clean it in between. The drippings from the sausage helps makes the sauce and helps integrate it’s flavor. I noticed that the flavor wasn’t as strong because it was chicken andouille, but it was definitely less fatty. So there are pluses and minuses to the chicken sausage.

When the sausage is warm and a little browned, take them out and start melting your butter.

When the butter’s done, toss in the flour, then stir to combine. At this point you’d be making a blond roux. Don’t worry about browning it, because you want it to keep this light flavor.

Keep in mind that I was winging this recipe. So, at this point, not really knowing what I was doing, I added the cheese.

I thought that melting the cheese into the roux would magically make a sauce. Not quite… It made a semi-solid roux and the as it kept cooking, the butter started separating. Supposedly more flour would help it keep it’s roux-iness, but I didn’t want a roux, I wanted a sauce. So I literally stopped in the middle and ran to the store to pick up some cream. All in all, I needed to add the whole 32 oz container to make it all stay homogenized. And once the cream was in, I added my spices.

Stir, stir, stir and add the sausage.

(See I told you I had to switch to a soup pot.)

Stir some more then serve.

Et puis, laissez les bons temps rouler.

Upgraded Pasta Sauce

Sorry it’s been a while, this is the last week of school and lots of projects and finals are happening, so bear with me, things’ll be picking up very soon.

This is kind of a repeat idea–how to make store bought pasta sauce better–but it’s different ingredients from my last one.

For this one, I used:
A big jar of pasta sauce (or two, you’ll see why later)
A box/bag of spinach
A block of fontina
Tube of sage sausage
Pasta (I used whole wheat penne)

Mine came out really thick and meaty because I used the whole pound of sausage to only one jar of sauce. If you want it to be more like a sauce, I’d recommend using only a half pound of sausage.

And as far as prep goes, all you have to do is cube or shred the cheese and wash the spinach. Super easy!

I started off by wilting some spinach in a ward skillet with some olive oil.

Basically, all you need to do is pour in about a tablespoon of olive oil, heat the skillet at a medium heat, and drop in the spinach. You may have to flip/stir it every once in a while, but it’s very low maintenance.

While that was going, I cooked the sausage and got the pasta boiling on a back burner. The only part about that you have to watch out for is to make sure it’s in a big enough pan to fit the sauce as well. (Unless you want extra dishes, of course.)

When the sausage was done, I added the sauce and spinach–it happened to be done by that time too.

After that, I just stirred to combine. When I felt that the sauce had warmed up enough (a little hotter than eating temperature) I threw in the cheese.

Stir until it melts, and then you’re done. If the pasta hasn’t finished yet, I’d say turn off the heat and put a lid on it–that way it retains heat without losing moisture.

Dressing up Spaghetti

This is something really easy you can do for one of those nights where you don’t know what you want, but you know what you don’t want. It’s a simple twist on spaghetti and pasta sauce that turns out really yummy.

Here’s what you need:

A bag of salad shrimp
A big jar of your favorite pasta sauce (mine is 26 oz)
Grated asiago or just regular parmesan, if that’s how you roll
Spaghetti

Salad shrimp are normal shrimp, just much smaller. They also tend to come cooked, peeled, and deveined, which are all huge plusses. And because they’re so little, a lot of times they’re cheaper than normal shrimp. But in all honesty, any kind would work just fine.

First start by boiling your water and cooking the pasta. Unless you’re like me, that won’t be hard.

And while that’s going, throw the sauce in a different pan, add the shrimp, and warm them up together on a medium-high heat.

This would be a good time to add any spices that you might like. Chili powder would be good if you want a little heat, or some fresh herbs could be good depending on what sauce you chose.

When the sauce is warm (and the shrimp are defrosted), add the cheese. I added .15 lb (because that’s how much was in the container I bought) but you can be as liberal or as conservative as you like with this part.

Then just stir it in until it melts and turn down the heat to low to med-low. By this time the pasta should be done. Don’t worry about abandoning the sauce while you drain the pasta, it will be ok.

Then just serve however you like.

To make it prettier, you could garnish it with a little more cheese or whatever herbs you used while cooking.

Like I said, this is a really simple way to make plain old pasta a little better.

New York Style Cheesecake with a Berry Sauce

So I made this whole thing from scratch and it really wasn’t that hard.

The recipe I used came from 101cheesecakerecipes.com but I did do a few small things differently.

Here’s what you need for the crust:

1 1/4 cups graham cracker crumbs
1/4 cups sugar
6 tablespoons butter or margarine
3/4 teaspoons cinnamon

You can either buy graham cracker crumbs, or a box of graham crackers. I opt for the second since I have virtually no uses for the crumbs. Or, it you still have a packet of graham crackers left over, it’ll be enough.

If you use the whole graham crackers, a food processor gets them chopped up nicely.

I used cinnamon graham crackers, for a little extra umph, but grab what you want. Then melt the butter and mix all the ingredients in a bowl. You hand or a fork (or both) will work just fine.

It might be a good idea to butter or flour the pan. I didn’t and the bottom did burn a little, but I’m not sure of the right course of action. Then press it into your 10 inch springform pan. (I don’t know what you could use in it’s place. The bottom of this pan isn’t completely attached–there’s a locking mechanism that lets you take out the bottom when you want to. It’s really helpful for when your done, but probably not completely necessary.)

Now that the crust is done, set it aside and start working on the filling. Also, now would be a good time to preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

For this you’ll need:

4 eggs
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
1 1/4 tablespoon lemon (or lime) juice
2 lbs cream cheese (4 8oz packages)

First start by blending everything but the cream cheese in one bowl.

And then set it aside. Now cream the cream cheese. You want it to be very smooth and look similar to icing. Drop the cream cheeses in one at a time to make sure you don’t overload you mixer. And don’t worry, as you can see I do have a bad ass stand mixer, but you could definitely use a hand mixer for this. And either way, it helps a lot if the cream cheese is at room temp.

Once all the cream cheese has been creamed, slowly add the egg mixture. It might be helpful to have someone help you with this, especially if you’re using a hand mixer. I used my safety attachment thing so that I could pour it in mess free.

And now pour it into the pan and bake for 50 minutes to an hour. (I did 50 minutes and mine burned a little on the bottom, but then again, my oven does run hotter than it says it does. It still tasted really good though.)

And while that’s in the oven you can work on the sauce. You may notice that 101cheesecakerecipes.com also gives you a recipe for a sour cream based topping, but I prefer fruit. You can really go either way.

Now all you need for this is:

A cup of you favorite jam or jelly
A cup of fruit (I used frozen blackberries and raspberries)
A half cup water

You can add sugar if you want, but I find that the slight tartness works well with the sweet cheesecake. Just heat all this on the stove until the fruit is soft. (If you’re impatient, like me, you can mush the fruit with a spoon.)

There are other things you can add if you have it around. Like a red wine reduction or any sort of liqueur would be good.

And once your cheesecake is done, let it cool off until you’re able to put it in the fridge, then chill it for an hour. Serve with sauce, and voila!

Despite all the ingredients, they’re mostly stuff you might happen to have laying around. The one weird thing, I think, would be if you had 2 lbs of cream cheese laying around. And what I did have to buy cost less than $9. And there was very little work, just lots of waiting.