Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Easy Homemade Pasta Recipe

I confess, for the first 34 years of my life (damn, I'm old) I ate store purchased pasta.  I pretended to enjoy it...but secretly I wondered how restaurants were able to get so much flavor into noodles.  Good fortune was looking down upon me when my mother-in-law gave me a pasta machine (thank you again Barbara!).  It was with this little contraption that caused me to make homemade noodles. 

What You Need:


2 1/2 cup flour (I use bread flour, but you are welcome to use all purpose flour)
1 Tbsp Olive oil
1 Egg
1/3 cup water (more or less)

Pasta ball after 1 hour
I use a Kitchenaid mixer, but you could easily make this by hand. 
To start, put the flour into the mixing bowl and add the egg and olive oil.  Turn the mixer on 2 and let the dough hook start mixing things up.  If you are doing this by hand, then gently start incorporating all the ingredients in the bowl.  At this point start adding the water gradually.  You want to get the dough to start forming a ball.  It may take less water or maybe more.  As long as the dough forms a rough ball, you are good to go.  Even if the dough doesn't look completely moist all the way though, don't fret.  Wrap the bundle of dough in greased saran wrap and leave for on your counter about 20 minutes to an hour. 

Pasta ball cut into equal parts

If you dough is a little sticky then just add a little flour on top and keep some hand on the side so you can mix more in if needed. Once you have the dough non sticky, cut your dough into equal parts.


At this point you want to get out your pasta machine. If you don't have a machine, lightly dust your counter and rolling pin and roll the dough out as thin as you'd like the noodles to be.  When using the pasta machine, put the setting on the widest to start.  You'll want to run the pasta thru a few times on each setting.  Simply fold the dough over on itself in the first setting to blend the dough more and more until you get that nice elastic feeling.
Fold over pasta on 1st setting


Change to a smaller setting on the pasta machine after two to three times thru the machine.  Some people say not to pull or stretch the pasta as it goes thru the machine, but I do it.  It makes a longer thinner sheet. Just don't pull too much or you'll break the dough.

When you are done passing the pasta thru the machine, hang the pasta to dry. If you don't have a pasta hanger (I don't) just put a tea towel over a cabinet door and hang the pasta over that.  If you have puppies, kids, or cats make sure they don't go sniffing nibbling or messing up your beautiful pasta sheets. 
Running your pasta thru machine


When you pasta is the desired thickness attach your noodle cutter attachment to the machine.  Cut your sheet of pasta in about 8 to 9 inch pieces.  Why you ask? If you put a sheet of pasta thru your machine that was 24 inches long you will get 24 inch noodles!  Kind of hard to eat!


Lay the noodles out to dry a little more on a tea towel and get your pot of water on the stove.  Add 1 Tbsp on olive oil or salt and get that water steamy and boiling.  Use a large pot of water, no any of your tiny pots.


If you don't have a pasta noodle attachment, there is an easy way to make noodles.  Roll one side like a jelly roll until you reach the middle of the sheet. Roll the other side up to meet the in the middle as well.  Cut the pasta as thin or as thick at you like. Unroll the pasta and voila! You have noodles!


When the pasta rises to the top it is done.  The longer your pasta sits in that water to mushier it will get, so don't let it sit!


Pair the pasta with an easy pasta sauce like this recipe:


Sugo Rosso

Ingredients

  • 2 large tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 4 large basil leaves, chopped

Directions

Rolled pasta if you have no machine
Bring a pot of water to a boil. Cook the tomatoes in boiling water until the skin begins to split, about 1 minute. Immediately remove the tomatoes and plunge into ice water for several minutes to stop the cooking process. Remove the tomatoes from the ice water; remove and discard the tomato skins. Cut the tomatoes into chunks. Blend the tomatoes in a food processor until smooth.
  1. Heat the oil in a saucepan over medium heat; warm the crushed garlic in the oil until fragrant, being careful not to brown, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the blended tomatoes and salt; bring the mixture to a simmer and cook until the sauce thickens, 10 to 15 minutes. Remove the sauce from the heat and stir the basil through the sauce. Allow the sauce to sit for a few minutes to allow the flavor from the basil to blend into the sauce.
  2. Heat the oil in a saucepan over medium heat; warm the crushed garlic in the oil until fragrant, being careful not to brown, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the blended tomatoes and salt; bring the mixture to a simmer and cook until the sauce thickens, 10 to 15 minutes. Remove the sauce from the heat and stir the basil through the sauce. Allow the sauce to sit for a few minutes to allow the flavor from the basil to blend into the sauce. 


Of course, if you want to keep it really simple, just put some butter and Parmesan cheese on your noodles and have yourself a big plate of yummy pasta!




Sunday, July 25, 2010

Maryann's BBQ Sauce

I'm a firm believer than you can only get good BBQ flavor by making your own sauce at home.  I've been making my own sauce since high school.  In fact, most of my life has been a silent quest to find a sauce that I could commit to.  To find a sauce that would make me forget that other sauces even existed. 
While visiting Steve's aunt Maryann I was fortunate enough to have her ribs.  These ribs immediately called to me like no other had before (well, besides the ribs at Rock Bottom Cafe anyhow).  The subtle pink flesh of the pork was glazed with this BBQ goodness that made my taste buds sing.  Once I had partaken in the sweet spicy nectar on her ribs I knew I was ready to commit.  I fell in love with this sauce...and I know you will too.

What You Need:

1/2 Cup Cider Vinegar
1/2 Cup Brown Sugar (more if like it sweeter)
1/2 Cup Ketchup
1/4 Cup Chili Sauce
1/4 Cup Worcestershire Sauce
2 Tbsp Chopped Onion
1 Tbsp Lemon Juice
1/2 Tsp Dry Mustard
1 Clove Garlic, crushed
Dash of Cayenne Pepper

Blend all of these items into a sauce pan and cook on medium low for at least 30 minutes.  The flavors become more complex the longer you wait.  This recipe will accommodate a rack of baby back ribs easily.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Sweet Mulled Wine

If you're anything like me, you like a glass of wine on holidays.  Nothing eases the tension of half dozen family members vying for the last piece of turkey like a good glass of vino.  My biggest complaint with wine is that it isn't sweet enough. My sweet tooth is so bad it has cavities.  I love sugar. So it isn't surprising that I'm bringing you a sweet mulled wine recipe.  The flavors are rich, sweet, and comforting...almost as comforting as the slight buzz you'll get after finishing the bottle.

What You Need:

  • 1 bottle of red wine. I prefer to use a Cabernet Sauvignon (Yellow Tail is a good choice)
  • 1 small orange or tangerine
  • 1-2 sticks of cinnamon
  • 4-5 whole cloves
  • 1/2 to 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup white sugar

Pour the entire bottle of red wine into a pot. Set the heat to medium.  cut the orange/tangerine in half and squeeze the juice into the wine (don't worry about the seeds going into the wine, you'll strain it later).  After the juice is squeezed put the halves into the pot as well.  Add the cinnamon sticks and whole cloves (this part is subjective. If you like a spicier...more harvest inspired wine, then add more cinnamon and cloves. If you like it less spicy, then add less).  When the wine is warm add the brown and white sugar, Again, add as much or as little sugar as you like.  Heat the wine until it's steaming slightly (do not boil).  Reduce heat to low and keep on the stove for at least 2 to 3 hours.  When done, pour thru a strainer into a carafe or back into the original bottle if you have a funnel.  The last bit that pours out the pot may be thick (due to the sugar).
You can drink it right away or store it in the fridge until you are ready to break out the sweet goodness.  Serve it warm or over ice.  Make sure to shake well before serving to mix the thicker sugar back into the wine.

Oh, and yeah...I know this is similar to Sangria.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Fried Cheese Goodness

There is only one thing I love more than potatoes and that is cheese. I love all cheese...even the smelly feet sorta cheese that you wonder silently "who the hell invented this crap and why did they think it would be a good idea to taste it?". Through my love of Mexican food I discovered Queso Fresco. Now, I'd eaten it ON things...beans, tortillas...pasta (yes pasta)...but never stopped to truly appreciate something about the cheese until last night.

The stuff doesn't melt. Seriously...it will not turn into a gooey mess of oil and milk product when exposed to heat. What DOES happen is that it gets soft and pliable. Queso Fresco in it's cold state is a mildly firm cheese that crumble easily. Well, last night I thought to myself...how about some fried cheese. I'm told this is actually a common snack in Mexico.

So the idea is to cut a slice of the cheese and put it in a hot pan to brown. Flip the cheese and brown on the other side. When done...chomped that puppy down. It may seem weird...eating fried cheese, but think about it for a moment. Don't we all grab that extra wad of cheese that fell off your pizza slice? Isn't it divine just to chew on that cheesy goodness? Well..this is the same idea...only better...but Queso Fresco will make you orgasm it's so good.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Marshmallow Fondant - SOOO Easy

Like I've said in all my previous posts...I'm not the greatest cook/baker (I try). My worst trait is being impatient. I like these complex items...but hate putting the time into them to make them great. So I look for easy ways to make what I like. I found this fondant recipe while looking up ideas to make my mom' s Mother's Day cake. I'd never used ANY sort of fondant and I'd heard horror stories...but I thought, what the hell...let's try it!

What You Need:

  • 8 ounces miniature marshmallows (4 cups not packed, or half of a 16-ounce bag) I used the color (fruity flavored marshmallows because when blended they turn into THE best light skin tone AND it tastes good)
  • 1 pound powdered sugar (4 cups), plus extra for dusting
  • 2 tbsp water
  • Food coloring or flavors (Mint, Vanilla, whatever you like-none if you like too!)
In a large bowl put the marshmallows and the water. Put in your microwave for about 30 seconds. Stir. If not melted, put back in for 30 seconds more. Repeat this until completely smooth.

At this point add your coloring or flavoring to the melted marshmallows. If you are coloring smaller portions of the fondant different colors then hold off on the colors until all done and just color each separate bundle of finished fondant by kneading the color in.

This is where I cheat. I have a Kitchen Aid mixer. My mother-in-law purchased one for me as a gift (Thank you Barbara!!!!). I used the hell outta that machine too. I put the powdered sugar in the mixing bowl first, then I pour in the melted marshmallows. Now, if you are lucky like me, just turn on the Kitchen Aid to the number 2 setting and sit back and watch magic happen.

If you don't have a mixer, get ready to get messy. Mix in the bowl until you've got a lumpy mess. turn out onto your counter and dust your hands with powdered sugar and start kneading it like bread until all the sugar is Incorporated. It's messy and tiring, but worth it.

Keep this stuff wrapped up tight in cling wrap or it'll dry out on you. When you are ready to use it just roll it out with your rolling pin and go to town!

I wanted to make a butt on a diaper for my mother. Yes, I know...I'm a special child. I decided to use the flesh toned fondant for the butt and use the traditional fondant you buy in stores for the diaper. MAN was the marshmallow fondant easier!!! It is so much more pliable and taste a hundred times better than traditional fondant!

Wonder what the cake turned out like? Be kind, it was my first time doing this...

Easy Butter Sauce for Pasta

I'm one of those rare people who hates tomato sauce. I like Ketchup...pizza...things of that nature...but come near me with a tomato sauce for pasta and I'll close my mouth faster than a 2 year old being spoon fed spinach.

So one day I was watching the Food Channel and came across this nifty little quick pasta sauce for the feeble cooks out there who don't have much skill (AKA me)

What You Need:


  • 1/2 cup of butter (I always of salted, even though they tell you not to - salt fiend am I)
  • 1/3 cup chicken broth (you can use vegetable if you want to keep the animal out of it)
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp onion powder
  • cornstarch
In a small saucepan melt you stick of butter. When it's completely melted and sizzling just a tiny bit you add the chicken broth. Let that simmer for a minute on low. Add in your garlic and onion powder (you are welcome to use fresh items, but no one eats that stuff in my house). Add a tiny bit* of cornstarch to the mixture and mix with a fork until the thickness you like is achieved.

This should make enough sauce for two people. It's incredibly easy to make and you can add to or take away from it what you like!


*When I say "tiny bit" the amount is really subjective. What I usually do it dip my finger in my cornstarch jar and just sprinkle a drop or two in and do more as needed. It's easy to thicken up if you put too little...harder if you put too much in at first and have to loosen it back up. Just be frugal with how much you put in.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Yes, Another Food Blog!

Yeah, I know...the net doesn't need another food blog...but um...I want to make one...soooooo. Yeah, shut up.

Okay. This blog will chronicle my journey through learning how to bake/cook/create all manner of culinary confections. The best AND worst of my experiences will be included...sooo...be prepared to laugh at me...a lot.

Since today is the first of many posts, I thought I'd start with something simple.

First off, I love anything Mexican. I grew up in Southern Cali and Mexican cuisine was something we had the luxury of taking for granted. So when I moved to North Carolina (bad move on my part) I was horrified to find that the Latin food out here was vastly different. I know, completely ethnocentric of me to think that all Latin food would be the same. I was strolling through the aisle at my local ghetto Food Lion (yes, I live in the ghetto) and I nearly crapped my pants when I found the guerrero brown and serve tortillas. Some of you may not know what this is...you probably picked them up one day while shopping and thought they looked raw and gummy. They are...UNTIL YOU COOK THEM!

so I took them home and thought...how can I make a marinade for my chicken that would taste at least REMOTELY like a fajita flavor??

This is what I came up with:

  • 1/3 cup of lemon or lime juice
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 tsp liquid smoke
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 4 cloves of minced garlic (more if you are into tasting if forever)
  • 1/2 tsp paprika (mostly just for color)
  • 2 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 Tbsp worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper
You combine all that in a zip lock baggie with your cubed chicken and put it in the fridge for at least one hour.
The first thing you'll notice is that the acidity in the marinade will actually start to cook your chicken in the bag. I don't know about you, but I think that's cool. The science geek in me I guess.

Brown your meat in a large skillet, set in a bowl and cover. Next brown however many tortillas you want to make quesadillas with. Set those aside on a plate.

This is the best part. You had better have got some Queso Fresco in your fridge, cuz you're gonna need it now. crumble at least 1/2 cup of that onto one browned tortilla then top with however much of the chicken you desire. Then top that with finely shredded colby jack cheese. Cover all of that with another browned tortilla. Put all of this back into the the skillet on the stove and cover to help melt the cheese. You may want to flip midway during cooking if you feel one side of your quesadillas is getting too brown.

TO DIE FOR!!! I creamed over these last night while playing my XBOX.

Oh, and if you want the cheese recipe breakdown, here goes:

1/2 cup Queso Fresco (or as I like to call it "Orgasm Cheese")
1/2 cup Colby Jack Cheese