Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Chicken Curry Noodle Soup

You know what curry dishes are good for? Stopping the almost-cold from getting any further. (That, of course, is only one of the many good thing about curry. The bad thing about curry is that I am unable to spell and have spelled it 'currey' every time I typed it while writing this. Which is awesome. (Except not.))

And when curry meets soup on a cold, rainy, blustery, not-quite-spring day like we had yesterday? Then curry is even better. This soup warmed us from the inside out, thanks in part to the magic of soup and in part to the warmth of the curry. Spinach and purple cabbage made it colorful and fun to look at and the somen gave it heft and body that helped to make it a perfect gloomy day dinner.

Once you have the vegetables in the pan, scootch them all to once side and add the curry (currey!) paste, letting it cook for a minute or three. When you pour in the coconut milk, stir just that half until the curry is totally mixed in. This particular paste has a kick to it, so clumps can be particularly ... surprising.

Just before you pull the soup off the heat, it should look something like this - supremely colorful and aromatic from the curry, coconut, basil, and cilantro.
The last, and best, step is the eating.

This soup was also good in that it came together relatively quickly - about half an hour.

Chicken Curry Noodle Soup
Serves 4
1/2 yellow onion, diced
1/2 c crimini mushrooms, chopped
1 c chopped purple cabbage
2 c chicken thighs, chopped
2 T green curry paste (or to taste)
1 can coconut milk
4 c chicken stock
1/2 c basil, chopped
2 c spinach, washed and chopped
1/4 c cilantro, chopped
1 bunch somen noodles

  1. Heat a large dutch oven over medium high heat with 2 T olive oil.
  2. Once the onion is translucent, add the cabbage to the pan and stir.
  3. Cook the vegetables for 3-5 minutes and stir in the chicken.
  4. Push all the chicken and vegetables to one side and add the curry paste, allowing it to cook for 1-2 minutes, stirring the curry paste only
    periodically. Once the curry paste starts to stick to the bottom of the pan, pour in 3 T coconut milk and stir the curry paste and coconut milk together until all the clumps are incorporated. Once the curry is incorporated, stir the curry mixture into the vegetables and chicken.
  5. Pour in the chicken stock and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes, or until the chicken is thoroughly cooked.
  6. Add the somen, spinach, basil, and cilantro, and cook 4 additional minutes.
  7. Serve.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

I went shopping this weekend. I'm contemplating putting these into one quilt with the dark green floral as sashing or binding, but I'm not convinced it will really work. I'm going to spend some time over the next few days combining them in different ways and seeing what else I can pull out of my stash.

New projects are exciting!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Asparagus Farfalle

I was so, so very close to just having cookies for dinner tonight. The weather is on the verge of turning into full-blown spring, and we've been eating on the porch lately. It's not quite warm enough, though, and at least one sweater is still required. I'm looking at it as points toward my BadAss badge.

Tonight, even though it's a bit chilly, I wanted to sit outside in the almost-sun and eat cookies. Fortunately (or unfortunately, I'm never sure how to read these things), the promise of roasted walnuts and asparagus pulled me away from the porch. The mushrooms, as they were cooking? Smelled amazing. This sauce made my house smell so good.

Adding the pasta and asparagus to the saucepan means that's one less dish to wash, and gets that much more sauce on the noodles. With this sauce, that's a very good thing.

This was delicious. The walnuts were perfect in this. They added a lot of depth to the flavor of the sauce and the crunch helped vary the texture.

Asparagus Farfalle
Serves 4
8 oz farfalle
1/2 c white onion, diced
1/2 c crimini mushrooms, chopped
1/2 c shitaki mushrooms, chopped
1 t fresh thyme, chopped
1 t salt
1 t pepper
1 T flour
1 T sherry
1/2 c half and half
1/2 c skim milk
1 bunch asparagus, ends trimmed, and chopped
1/2 c walnuts
1 oz goat cheese
2 T Parmesan, grated
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 and put the walnuts on a rimmed baking sheet. When the oven is hot, bake the walnuts for 15 minutes, shaking the pan halfway through to keep them from burning.
  2. Cook the pasta according to package instructions. When the pasta is one minute from being cooked, add the asparagus and cook for two minutes. Drain and set aside.
  3. Heat a sauce pan over medium heat with 1 T olive oil. When the pan is hot, add the onions, mushrooms, salt, pepper, and thyme to the pan, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes until the mushrooms are tender.
  4. Add the flour to the pan and cook for two minutes, stirring constantly. Stir in the sherry and scrape the bottom of the pan. Pour in the milk and half and half and reduce the heat; cook for 2-3 minutes until the mixture thickens.
  5. Toss in the pasta, goat cheese, and asparagus and stir thoroughly.
  6. Serve with Parmesan and additional pepper.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Cookies by Request

I went to visit some friends yesterday, and when I got home, I made the mistake of mentioning that I had been offered (and accepted) two oatmeal cookies while I was there. I had forgotten that when it comes to the power of suggestion and sweets, someone I know is a goner.
Today, after a few hours, I caved to the "I wish I had some oatmeal cookies..." sighs that were coming my way. I measured and cracked and mixed and added and combined...

And for a comparatively small amount of work, I got cookies. Crisp on the edges and soft and chewy in the middle, and just a hint of chocolate. Also, please don't look too closely at the Tupperware mat I've got there on the cookie sheet. I promise you it's clean. It's just a little sad.
Look at the cookies instead. For my money, a lazy, somewhat sunny Sunday, can't get any better than fresh cookies, a glass of milk, and time on the porch.
Oatmeal Cookies
Makes about 4 dozen

1 c (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 c brown sugar, packed
1/2 c granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 t vanilla
1 1/2 c. flour
1/2 t salt
1 c. chocolate chips
1 1/2 t. baking soda
3 C. rolled oats
1 c. dried cranberries
3/4 c. pecans, roughly chopped

  1. Mix the butter and both sugars until creamy.
  2. Add the eggs and vanilla and mix well.
  3. Add the flour, salt, and baking soda and combine.
  4. Stir in the oats, scraping down the sides to make sure everything is incorporated.
  5. Stir in the chocolate chips, cranberries, pecans and mix thoroughly.
  6. Bake at 350 for 10-12 minutes, until golden. Let them cook for a minute on the cookie sheet, then transfer these yummy cookies to a baking rack to cool.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Baked Rigatoni

I love pasta. Pasta makes me happy. Pasta in red sauce, pasta in soups, pasta in salads with greens and good cheese. I could go on (but I won't, out of consideration for you and your attention span).

It's not just the pasta, though. I love making tomato sauces and playing with the flavors. I love how different the sauces can taste just by adding different elements or changing the cooking times on a core group of ingredients.
It wasn't that long ago that I made Spaghetti with Bacon and Fennel. This dish, which is also a tomato sauce with fennel, tasted completely different. Brighter, warmer. The vegetables add body and depth of flavor to the sauce. I wanted the sauce to be the highlight, so it's lighter on cheese than most baked pastas, which usually seem to be half cheese.

I used about 2 ounces of goat cheese in this, which made the sauce incredibly rich and creamy without being heavy. It may sound a bit odd, but give it a try, and let me know what you think.

Baked Rigatoni
4 serving
1 lb ground pork
1 yellow onion, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 medium carrot, chopped
1 bulb fennel, diced
3/4 c shitaki mushrooms, chopped
1 t salt
1/4 t pepper
1/4 c red wine
1 (28 oz) can crushed tomatoes
1 T dried oregano
1 T Italian seasonings
1 T pesto
8 oz rigatoni
6 oz assorted grated cheese*
2 T grated Parmesan
*I used 2 oz Colby, 2 oz Monterrey jack, and 2 oz goat cheese.

  1. Preheat the oven to 375.
  2. Heat 1 T of the olive oil in a high-sided skillet over medium high heat. When the oil shimmers, add the ground pork and cook until browned, 5-7 minutes. Remove the pork from the pan and set it aside for now.
  3. To the same pan, add an additional 1 T olive oil and allow it to warm. Add the onion, celery, carrot, fennel, salt, and pepper to the pan. Saute until tender and just slightly browned, 10 minutes.
  4. Stir in the mushrooms and cook until slightly tender, 5 minutes. Once the mushrooms are slightly tender, pour in the red wine and scrape the bottom of the pan. Allow the mixture to simmer gently until most of the liquid has evaporated.
  5. In a separate bowl, mix the crushed tomato, oregano, pesto, and Italian seasoning. Pour the tomato mixture into the pan and simmer for 20 minutes.
  6. While the tomato mixture simmers, cook the pasta according to package directions and grate the cheeses. Drain the pasta and add the pasta and all the cheese EXCEPT the Parmesan to the pan and stir to combine.
  7. Move the pasta to an oven-proof dish and sprinkle the Parmesan on top. Bake 20-25 minutes until browned.
  8. Enjoy.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Dandelion Greens with Roasted Hazelnuts

I love the sharp bitterness of dandelion greens. A friend told me once that dandelion greens remove the winter impurities from our systems. Whether that's true or not, I'll leave up to others. For me, it's enough to know that some things pair very, very well together. The sharpness of the greens blends with the creamy smoothness of the goat cheese and the rich nuttiness of the roasted hazelnuts. The pear and blueberries add more texture and flavor to round out the salad.

Dandelion Greens with Roasted Hazelnuts
4 serving
1/4 c hazelnuts
2 oz goat cheese
1 bunch dandelion greens
1 d'anjou pear, sliced
1/4 c blueberries
  1. Roast hazelnuts at 375 for 10 minutes, shaking the pan periodically. Remove from the oven and let them cool. As they cool, the skins will crack. Rub the hazelnuts in a clean dishtowel to remove the skins. Roughly chop the hazelnuts.
  2. Wash the dandelion greens and remove the bottom third or so of the stem. Place the greens in a serving bowl.
  3. Chop the pear into bite-sized pieces.
  4. Add the remaining ingredients to the salad; toss to combine.
  5. Serve with a plain or raspberry vinaigrette.

Saturday, March 13, 2010


Smoothies are wonderful weekend breakfasts. I suppose, technically, they'd be great weekday breakfasts, but I never think to make them unless I'm having a Lounge Around on the Couch Day. Since that makes me sound lazy, I'll also tell you that I really like these smoothies right after a run.

Usually, I use yogurt, but this time I happened to have some kefir in the fridge. Kefir is a yogurt-like beverage, and it made the smoothie a touch more tart, and that much more delicious.

The other reason I love this recipe is because I can use my immersion blender. I got it for Christmas and I love it so much that I look for recipes that require blending, just so I can use it.

1 serving
1/2 c plain kefir (or plain, unsweetened yogurt)
2 T peanut butter
3/4 c roughly chopped strawberries
1/4 c blueberries
milk, as needed

  1. Pull out your trusty blender and combine the kefir, peanut butter, strawberries, and blueberries. Add milk, if necessary, to thin the consistency a bit.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

English Muffin Pizzas

I mentioned recently that when left to my own devices, I sometimes have cheese and crackers for dinner. This week will be one of those weeks. When Clive travels, I always have english muffin pizzas at least once.

My mom made these when my brother and I were little. I love the crispy edges of the english muffin and the happiness of melted cheese. For me, these are the definition of comfort food. They've become my go-to dinner of choice when I'm on my own for dinner and don't want to spend a lot of time cooking (or doing the dishes afterward).

These are endlessly adaptable, which makes them easy to love. Spinach, onions, kale, sausage, blue cheese - they're all candidates, though perhaps not at the same time. And the best part? They cook on a foil-lined baking sheet, so dishes? Not so much.

English Muffin Pizzas
1 serving
1 english muffin
1 T tomato sauce (or spaghetti sauce)
2 slices mozzarella
2 mushrooms, sliced
4 slices pepperoni
1/2 t oregano
  1. Cut the english muffin in half and put it on a foil-lined baking sheet.
  2. Spoon the tomato sauce onto the english muffins and add the oregano.
  3. Turn on the broiler and heat the english muffins for 2-3 minutes, just to warm the sauce and add a touch of crispiness.
  4. Remove the pan from the oven and add the mushrooms, pepperoni, and mozzarella. Return the pan to the oven, leaving the door ajar, and cook for 5 minutes, until the cheese is browned and the pepperoni is getting crispy on the edges. Be sure to watch them carefully; the broiler typically goes from 'warm' to 'blackened' very quickly.
  5. Serve with a green salad.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Macaroni and Cheese

For a long time, I didn't like macaroni and cheese.

I know.

I can't believe it either. I don't like things that are texturally the same. I have a similar issue with risotto. I get bored, then I start to actively dislike it, and before you know it, I've maligned two perfectly good dishes because I'm an oddball.


Once I started cooking more regularly, though, I realized that I could tweak recipes and make thing however I wanted. Substitute this for that. Take out things I dislike and add things I do like. And that? That is why macaroni and cheese will forever be on my list of perfect foods.

This recipe originally came from my grandma, who introduced me to the idea that macaroni and cheese didn't have to come from a box. For that, I will be forever grateful. I took the recipe and tweaked it, because I'm contrary and like mushrooms.
Did I lose you? Sorry. I got sidetracked.

This macaroni and cheese has sauteed mushrooms and onions that add a depth of flavor and deliciousness. It also has bacon, because I seem to be a on a bit of a bacon kick lately. Make of that what you will.

Before the oven:

After the oven:

Macaroni and Cheese
1 t olive oil
1/2 c onion, chopped
1/2 c crimini mushrooms, chopped
1/2 c shitaki mushrooms, chopped
1 glove garlic, minced
1 t paprika
2 T flour
3/4 c whole milk
1/2 c monterrey jack cheese, grated
1/2 c mozzarella cheese, grated
1/4 c parmesan cheese, grated
spiral pasta

  1. Preheat the oven to 375.
  2. Cook the pasta according to package instructions, drain, and set aside.
  3. Heat a Dutch oven over medium high heat, adding the oil when the pan is slightly warm. Add the onion and cook 2-3 minutes. Slide the mushrooms and paprika into the pot and cook until softened, 10 minutes. Add the garlic and heat until fragrant, 30 seconds.
  4. Sprinkle the flour over the onion and mushroom mixture and cook, stirring constantly, until the flour is slightly browned, 2-3 minutes.
  5. Pour the milk into the pan, scraping the bottom well, and add the cheese. Stir to combine and allow the milk to heat through. The mixture will thicken.
  6. Scrape down the sides (if you're baking the macaroni and cheese in a different pan, transfer it now) and sprinkle the top with Parmesan. Move the pan to the oven and bake for 30-45 minutes until the top is browned and slightly bubbly around the edges.
  7. Allow to cool for 10 minutes, then serve and enjoy.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Spaghetti with Fennel and Bacon

Spring-like weather is here and all sorts of flowers are blooming (none of which I can name. Wait. That's not true. I can name daffodils. And dandelions. Those are flowers). Flowers aside, once the sun goes down, the temperatures do, too, so it's still safe to eat super hearty pasta. This one has fennel (that's the fennel on the left there). Crispy!

Sauteed until softened and just barely caramelized, the vegetables make the pasta decidedly hearty and awesome.

A giant handful of parsley brightens the pasta with happy little flecks of green.

This is a really delicious dish that does a nice job of being both hearty and just this side of spring-like. Plus, it has bacon in it. Did I mention the bacon? Looooove the bacon.

Spaghetti with Fennel and Bacon
Serves 4
1 strip bacon
1/4 c red onion
1/4 c carrot, chopped
1/4 c celery, chopped
1/2 c fennel, chopped
1/2 t salt
1/4 t pepper
1 (15 oz) can chopped tomatoes
1/4 c red wine
2 T parsley, chopped
1 T fennel fronds, chopped
  1. Heat a dry pan over medium high heat for about a minute. Add the bacon and cook until crisp and most of the fat has rendered. Remove the bacon from the pan and set aside.
  2. Add the chopped vegetables, salt and pepper to the bacon fat in the pan and saute until the vegetables are tender and slightly browned, 10 minutes.
  3. Use the wine to deglaze the pan and scrape all the yumminess off the bottom. Cook until most of the liquid has evaporated, then add the tomatoes.
  4. Reduce heat to medium low and simmer about 30 minute to allow the flavor to meld.
  5. Meahwhile, cook the pasta according to package directions.
  6. Serve with grated Parmesan and a glass of wine.
  7. Because wine is good with pasta.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Evidence of Spring: Flowers

Ok, that last one isn't technically a flower. It's something I bought to replace other plants that didn't fare so well under my care.