Mushroom Marsala Pasta

When people ask me if I use a lot of vegetables in my cooking (well… let’s pretend people ask me that) I want to answer yes.  I really do.  I think vegetables are very important and obviously need to be included as part of a balanced diet.

But here’s my dirty secret.  I claim to like vegetables, but if you listed them out for me, I’d probably make an “ewww, gross” face for more than half.  I do not like tomatoes, asparagus, broccoli, cauliflower, squash, kale, artichokes, olives….and the list goes on.  Sad I know.  I had a courageous friend in college who would eat cherry tomatoes at practically every meal in the dining hall because he wanted to make himself like them.  That’s too hardcore for me.

I like my vegetables starchy.  My Nana always tells me my favorite food as a young child was peas.  I still love peas.  And corn, potatoes and sweet potatoes.  And carrots, because they’re sweet.  I also like onions, garlic, shallots, peppers, spinach and of course, mushrooms.

When I saw the adorable, and well manicured lawn behind our prospective house, I couldn’t help but fantasize about the garden I wanted to have there.  But then I thought about my disdain for most vegetables…an herb garden perhaps?

Then I would have fresh thyme for this dish.  Marsala and thyme are totally best buddies; like the peanut butter and jelly of the savory world.  Their flavors are distinct, yet they meld together in the most delicate and delicious way.  Add some mushrooms and cream, and you have yourself one delectable pasta topping.

Mushroom Marsala Pasta

Adapted from The View from Great Island

Makes 2-4 servings (and can easily be doubled to feed more)

1/2 lb fettuccine (or other pasta)
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp butter
1 large shallot, minced
1 large garlic clove, minced
8 oz button mushrooms, sliced
1/3 cup Marsala wine
1/3 cup chicken stock
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1/3 cup heavy cream
several sprigs of fresh thyme, leaves stripped from the stalks, or 1 Tbsp dried thyme
salt and fresh cracked pepper to taste

Cook your pasta of choice according to the instructions on its packaging.  Meanwhile, make your sauce.

In a Dutch oven or similar pot melt and butter and olive oil and saute the shallot and garlic for a few minutes until fragrant.

Add in the mushrooms and saute, stirring often, for about 5 to 8 minutes, until the mushrooms are just tender.  If the pot seems too dry, add a little more olive oil.

Add the Marsala and let it evaporate for a minute, then add the chicken stock, thyme, lemon juice, salt and pepper.

Let the sauce simmer and reduce for 5-10 mins.  If it still seems too liquidy at this point, add 1 Tbsp cornstarch and stir to help the sauce thicken.

Add in the cream, and bring back to a simmer.  Check for seasoning, adding salt and pepper.

When the fettuccine is just al dente, either add it to the sauce and toss well, or put it in a serving bowl and top with the sauce. Garnish with grated cheese and parsley if desired.


Spiced Chocolate Pancakes

Thinking about cake for breakfast has made me crave other kinds of sweets in the morning.  Like chocolate.  I am all for a chocolatey breakfast, though I guess I’ll try to disguise in it some way that is publically accepted.

So comes the chocolate pancake.  That means I can snack on chocolatey goodness even after breakfast is over.

Not that I need an excuse to snack on chocolate.  But if I get my chocolate via pancake form, I also get whatever nutrients pancakes have, which has to be more than plain chocolate.  So it’s healthier, right?

Ah justification, my old friend.  But seriously, it’s Sunday, the weekend is almost over, it’s raining, (well it is where I am) don’t you think you deserve chocolate pancakes?  Well I think you do.  And I threw in some spices for extra flavor.  Because you deserve that too.

Spiced Chocolate Pancakes

Adapted from My Little Celebration

Makes 12-15 pancakes

1 cup milk
1 tsp lemon juice or white vinegar
1 cup all purpose flour
1 ½ tsp baking powder
1 ½ tsp baking soda
¼ cup + 2 Tbsp cocoa powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4-1/2 tsp cardamom or nutmeg
pinch of salt
2 Tbsp sugar
2 Tbsp unsweetened applesauce
2 Tbsp canola oil
1 ½ tsp vanilla extract

Mix the milk and vinegar or lemon juice in a small bowl and set aside to curdle, about 5 minutes. You just made your own buttermilk, yay!  Mix the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cocoa powder, cinnamon, cardamom or nutmeg, sugar and salt together in a large bowl until combined. Add the curdled milk, oil, applesauce and vanilla. Mix with a wooden spoon until just combined. Heat a large, non-stick skillet over medium-low heat.

Drop 1/4 cup measures of the batter onto the pan. When bubbles start to peek through the surface and you see a bit of light browning/crisping up on the underside, flip the pancakes over carefully, about 1-2 minutes. Repeat for the other side, remove from the pan and set aside on a covered plate to keep warm. Serve with your favorite toppings.

Carrot Cake Quick Bread

I’m pretty sure that with this post, I’ll have made carrot cake into almost every breakfast item imaginable.

Let’s see…I’ve made carrot cake muffins, carrot cake waffles, carrot cake pancakes, and I’ve made actual carrot cake and carrot cake cupcakes.  (Check out the recipe index!)  The only thing I’m missing are carrot cake donuts.  With a cream cheese glaze, mmmmm.  Well, you know that’s going to happen.

Obviously, this household really likes carrot cake.  Luke has already openly professed his love for carrot cake, but I’m not ready to commit to just one type of cake as my favorite.

But back to cake for breakfast.  This bread is soft and tender, and while it’s not as dense or moist as actual cake, it certainly is still quite tasty.

You can also make a cream cheese spread to accompany, if you want to kick it up a notch.

Carrot Cake Quick Bread

 Adapted from Better Homes & Gardens, April 2011

 Makes one 9X5” loaf

 For the bread:

2 cups all-purpose flour

2/3 cup packed brown sugar

2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp cinnamon

½ tsp nutmeg (or cardamom)

¼ tsp baking soda

¼ tsp salt

2 cups shredded carrots

2 eggs, beaten

2/3 cup milk

1/3 cup vegetable oil

For the cream cheese icing:

1 oz cream cheese, softened

¾ cup powdered sugar

3-4 tsp milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Grease a 9X5” loaf pan and set aside.  In a large bowl, stir together flour, brown sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, soda and salt.

In a medium bowl, combine carrots, eggs, milk, and oil and stir until blended.  Add to the dry ingredients, stirring until moistened.

Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for 55-60 mins, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.  If it is browning too quickly, cover with foil.  Cool in pan at least 10 mins, then invert onto rack to cool completely.  While the load cools, make the icing.

Stir together all icing ingredients in a small bowl until smooth.  Top bread with icing before serving.

Almond Green Tea White Chocolate Bars

Check out this sweet screen shot.  You see that awesome muffin photo?  Yeah, I took that.  And now it’s on a website that doesn’t belong to me.  Living the dream.  (Oh, and thanks KA!)

Yesterday Luke called me from work to tell me his boss had just brought in some parsley for our little Izzy.  Goodness knows that rabbit would eat her weight in parsley everyday if she could.

I told him to keep it in the work fridge then bring it home with him.  Upon his arrival at the apartment, he promptly dropped a supermarket sized paper bag in my lap.  It was half full of parsley.  Packed parsley.  Oh my, the rabbit will feast well.  Even though I had just fed her, we gave her some anyway.  Seeing her chomp on a big sprig of parsley is just about the most adorable thing ever.

Watching me eat these bars, however, is not so adorable.  Like Izzy, I’d very much like to eat my weight in these bars…if I could figure out how many times I’d have to make the recipe to accomplish that.

Or maybe I’ll just make them over and over and over. This is the second time I’ve made them, and I swear they taste better this time around.  Green tea, almonds and white chocolate is one of those interesting, but amazing combos.

The flavors are distinct, yet complimentary, and meld together in your mouth like nothing else.  I’m definitely going to try playing around with these flavors more in the future.

Green Tea Almond White Chocolate Bars

Adapted from Hungry Rabbit 

Makes one 8X8” pan

For the almond batter:
8 Tbsp (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup all-purpose flour
2/3 cup almond flour (or finely ground almonds)
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup packed light-brown sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp almond extract
1/2 cup white chocolate chips

For the green tea batter:
6 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 Tbsp unsalted butter, softened
2 Tbsp all-purpose flour
2 Tbsp matcha (green tea) powder
1 large egg
1/2 tsp almond extract

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line an 8-inch square baking pan with parchment, allowing a 2-inch overhang and grease.

Whisk together flour, almond flour, baking powder, and salt in a small bowl, set aside.

In a large bowl, beat butter and brown sugar until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add eggs and extracts; mix until combined. Add flour mixture, and mix carefully, scraping down sides of bowl, until well combined. Fold in white chocolate chips until evenly distributed.

In a medium bowl, beat together cream cheese, granulated sugar, butter, flour, green tea powder, egg, and extract until fully incorporated.

Pour half of the almond batter into prepared pan, and spread evenly with an offset spatula. Spoon 3/4 of matcha mixture on top, and spread evenly. Pour remaining batter on top and spread slightly. Top with dollops of remaining matcha batter, about 1 inch apart. Run a knife through layers to create a swirl pattern.

Bake until golden brown and a cake tester inserted into center comes out with a few crumbs but is not wet, 45-55 minutes. Cool bars in pan on wire rack for 15 minutes, lift bars from pan and cool completely on a wire rack before cutting into squares.

Chicken Tikka Masala

For the last two months or so, Luke and I have been house hunting.  It’s been a loooong process, full of ups and downs.  But thankfully, it’s all up from here.  Oh yeah, we got a house.

And it’s a great house.  Of course one of my requirements for our house is a (somewhat) spacious kitchen with a good layout.  As we saw more and more houses, I was starting to think we’d have to settle for one with a so-so kitchen, but not this time.  The kitchen has an island!

Sorry, I get excited about things like that.  The current owners have a hanging pot rack too, and I think it looks just swell.

The closing date isn’t until June 30th, so we’re not going anywhere for a little while, but it’s still so exciting.  Between the move and the wedding, July and August are going to be busy!

Ok, on to the food.  KA and I made this while she was visiting and it was great.  I love Indian food, though I have to be careful eating it due to my extreme heat intolerance, so it’s nice to make it at home where I have control.  The sauce was well-spiced and flavorful, but not overwhelming.  I could have bathed in it….well maybe not.  Probably would have stained me red.  Serve it with rice and naan, and you’ve got yourself a great meal!

Chicken Tikka Masala

Adapted from Tracey’s Culinary Adventures

Makes 4-6 servings

For the chicken:

1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp salt
2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 cup plain yogurt (I forgot to add this, and it still turned out great)
2 Tbsp vegetable oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 Tbsp grated fresh ginger

For the sauce:
3 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 medium onion, diced finely
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tsp grated fresh ginger
1 Tbsp tomato paste
1 Tbsp garam masala
1 28-oz can crushed tomatoes
2 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
2/3 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley (optional)

To prep the chicken: Mix the cumin, coriander, cayenne, and salt together in a small bowl.  Sprinkle the mixture evenly over both sides of the chicken.  Put the chicken on a plate, cover with plastic and refrigerate for 30-60 minutes.  Whisk the yogurt, vegetable oil, garlic and ginger together in a wide bowl.  You’ll use this to coat the chicken later before cooking – set aside for now.

To make the sauce: Pour the oil into a large Dutch oven set over medium heat.  Once the oil is hot, add the onion and cook, stirring often, until golden, about 8 minutes.  Add the garlic, ginger, tomato paste and garam masala.  Cook until fragrant, about 3 minutes, stirring almost constantly.  Stir in the crushed tomatoes, sugar and salt then bring the sauce to a boil.  Reduce the heat so the sauce is simmering and cover the pan.  Let simmer for 15 minutes, stirring a few times.  Add the heavy cream, stir to combine and bring the sauce back to a simmer (uncovered).  Take the pan off of the heat and cover to keep warm.

To cook the chicken:  Position an oven rack about 6 inches from your broiler and preheat the broiler.  Set a wire rack inside of a foil-lined baking sheet.  Remove the chicken from the refrigerator and dip each piece in the yogurt mixture.  You want a relatively thick layer coating the chicken.  Transfer the chicken to the wire rack.  Broil the chicken until it is cooked through (to an internal temperature of 160 F), about 10-18 minutes, flipping the chicken over halfway through the cooking time.  (The cooking time will depend in large part on the thickness of your chicken pieces.)  Let the chicken rest for about 5 minutes, then cut it into 1-inch pieces and add to the warm sauce.  Add the parsley to the sauce as well and season to taste before serving.  Serve with rice and naan.

Nutella Cheesecake Pumpkin Muffins

It’s been kind of hot in MA the last few days.  And I am not a summer person.  Especially not in an apartment without air conditioning.

The only up side is I get to see a lot of this.

Izzy is lying down on her side and belly more often to cool off.  There’s nothing to make me forget that my bare legs are sticking together than a little black bunny flopping over and spreading out on her little paws.

Luckily, or not so luckily, the heat streak is ending today.  I’m happy about it.  As cute as Izzy is, I’d rather not start sweating while kneading bagel dough or checking on roasted potatoes.

Or making muffins.  I loooooove muffins.  I love them even more when they have a secret filling.

And if that secret filling involves nutella, I’ll eat so many I won’t care about that huge blister on my big toe I got from walking too far in flip flops.  Damn hot weather shoes.

But muffins make it all better.  I know it’s not pumpkin season, but these guys are delicious any time of year.

Nutella Cheesecake Filled Pumpkin Muffins

Adapted from Tasty Kitchen

Makes about 20 muffins

For the muffins:

4 large eggs

1-½ cup sugar

1 can (15 oz.) pumpkin puree

1-½ cup vegetable oil

3 cups all-purpose flour

2 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp nutmeg

2 tsp baking soda

1 tsp salt

For the cheesecake filling:

8 oz cream cheese, softened

½ cup Nutella

1 large egg

Preheat oven to 375°F. In a large bowl, beat eggs slightly. Add in sugar, pumpkin and oil and beat thoroughly. Add in remaining dry ingredients and mix until smooth.

In a small bowl, beat together cream cheese, Nutella and egg until smooth.

Grease a 12 cup muffin tin, or place lines in the cups. Place about 2 tablespoons of pumpkin batter into each liner, then 1 tablespoon of Nutella batter, then top with 2 more tablespoons of pumpkin batter. Bake for 18-22 minutes.  Transfer to wire rack to cool completely.  Remove from muffin tin and enjoy!

Chai Spiced Rice Pudding

I’ve talked about my strange milk habits before.  Well, I don’t think they’re very strange, it’s just that I don’t like drinking milk, so whenever I buy it, which is pretty much every week, I have to figure out how to use it up.

Because if there’s one thing I hate, it’s letting food go to waste.  Pancakes and other skillet fodder are usually my go-tos for using up milk, but one time, I made a big mistake when buying milk.

I forgot what month it was, and instead of buying milk I thought would last for two weeks, I bought some that expired in two days.  I’m sooo smart sometimes.

Thankfully I only buy quarts at a time, so I had four cups of milk to work with.  Of course, my first thought was pudding.  Browsing through my recipe cache, I decided this one was definitely worth a try.

I had never made rice pudding before, but I’m always up for trying new things.  I didn’t have Arborio rice, so I substituted short grain sushi rice.  You need to use short grain or Arborio in rice pudding so the rice maintains its shape and doesn’t turn into mush in the cooking process.

I loved the spices in the pudding too.  It tastes like sweet, custardy chai tea.  Deliciousness all over.

Chai Spiced Rice Pudding

Adapted from Cherry Tea Cakes

Makes 8-10 servings, depending on container size

1 cup arborio (or short grain) rice
2 cinnamon sticks
1/2 tsp lemon zest
2 whole cloves
4 cups water
1 egg
3 cups whole milk
one 14-oz can sweetened condensed milk
1/4 tsp salt
1 Tbsp vanilla
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ginger
1/4 tsp cardamom
1/4 tsp allspice

Soak the rice, cinnamon sticks, lemon zest and cloves in the water in a tall, heavy saucepan for 1 hour.

After soaking, remove cloves and cinnamon sticks and bring the rice mixture to a boil on high heat, uncovered. When it starts to boil (about 5 minutes), lower the heat to medium and cook for 10 to 12 more minutes or until water is almost evaporated.

While rice is cooking, beat the egg in a bowl. Add the milk and stir well to mix. Add the egg mixture, condensed milk, salt, vanilla extract and spices to the rice and cook over medium-low heat, stirring carefully, about 25 to 35 minutes. The grains should be coming to the surface of the pudding and you’ll feel some resistance when you stir. Several cups of liquid will have evaporated. Allow to cool at least 10 minutes–it will thicken considerably once taken off the heat.  Pour into ramekins or mason jars and allow to cool to room temperature.  Store in the refrigerator.