Tag Archives: Tips

Oven-Baked Butternut Squash Risotto

The weather is turning colder. The leaves are changing color. Earth-tone colored clothes are in the stores. Finally! At last! Autumn! It’s so close. Just a few more days and it’s officially time. Time for stews, and squash, and apple cider donuts. The best flavors of the year start soon. To celebrate my favorite season, I made my Autumn season opener: risotto. Every year I like to make Butternut Squash Risotto at least once. It’s the tastiest. This year, I had fancy new Williams-Sonoma Calphalon pans that I wanted to use in my first ever attempt to make Baked Risotto. I love that whole stove to oven to stove dance that I can do with these.

risotto2

So I wanted to do that dance a lot. I started off roasting the squash and mushrooms with a little bit of thyme. The pans are non-stick, so I just used a tiny bit of olive oil spray. It worked like a charm! I like my butternut squash with a little bite left to it, but if you don’t, then go ahead and let it roast longer. And make sure your pan is oven-safe!

Roasted Butternut Squash and Mushrooms

I’m not going to lie to you right now – I was nervous. I’m so used to stirring my risotto and being able to check it (taste-test!) frequently. So this was a little weird. But you know what? It worked! When it was done in the oven, I just finished it with my secret weapon – coconut milk – and it was all set! The coconut milk adds a lot more creaminess to the risotto than butter, plus a little bit more flavor as well. It’s my sneaky way of making the risotto slightly more decadent.

Just a quick note: Wrapping the handles in aluminum foil is a good visual reminder that the handles are HOT when they come out of the oven.

Baked Butternut Squash Risotto

Baked Butternut Squash Risotto
Author: 
Recipe type: Dinner
Cuisine: Italian
 
Roasted squash and mushrooms, mixed with creamy baked risotto.
Ingredients
  • 2 cups (10oz) butternut squash, ½ inch cubes
  • 2 cups (5.5oz) mushrooms, halved or quartered - depending on size
  • 4-5 sprigs of thyme
  • 1 small shallot, diced
  • 1 cup Arborio rice
  • 2-3 cups broth, chicken or vegetable - divided
  • ¾ cup white wine
  • ¼ cup coconut milk
  • Pecorino Romano cheese - topping
  • Salt and pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. Heat oven to 375.
  2. Lightly use cooking spray on a large, oven-safe pan. Wrap the handle in aluminum foil. Add butternut squash, mushrooms, and thyme, and toss lightly to coat in oil. Bake about 15 mins, or until squash is fork tender. Remove from oven, and transfer contents to a bowl, and set aside.
  3. Return the pan to the stove. Turn up oven temperature to 425. Lightly spray again, and saute the shallot about 1-2 minutes. Add rice, and stir until it's coated in the oil. Add the wine, and stir continuously until it is absorbed. Add 1½ cups of the broth, salt and pepper, and bring to a boil. Cover, and bake in the oven 20 minutes, or until most of the liquid is absorbed.
  4. Transfer from the oven to the stove. Stir in ½-1 cup of broth as needed. Finish with coconut milk, salt and pepper. Add the squash and mushrooms, stir to heat it up. Serve with cheese.

 

 

Honeycomb

How to Make Honeycomb (video)

Hi! Look! A video! I had to make a video for class this week anyway, so why not make it for my website? I chose to do a How to Make Honeycomb video mostly because honeycomb is easy and fun to make, and I like breaking things (you'll see).

Honeycomb pic

It's been a long time since I've made a video, and I tried to get this one done very quickly so I could submit it before I go home for Easter, so it's not the most polished video in the world. If nothing else, doing this reminded me of how much fun it is to make videos! Maybe they'll be more (better planned) ones in the future? We'll see!

A special thanks to Kenny Penguin for supplying me with the music.

chili bowl

Chili Experiments

If you read the title, you’ll realize I felt the need to experiment with chili. Chili isn’t hard to make, and I always ignore the beans-vs-beanless chili battles and just make whatever I want. I wanted to make chili to go with the beer bread (see previous post) for my dad because he was visiting this past Wednesday. I didn’t want to make him wait forever for dinner though, so instead of cooking the chili for hours and hours, I simply made it the night before and put it in the fridge over night. When I got home from work on Wednesday I took it out, added a bottle of beer, and cooked it until it was heated through. Easy!

chili bowl

A scoop of sour cream and some cheese is all you need to finish it off.

I didn’t make this into a thought out, thorough recipe, because that’s just not how I cook. Also, I was trying out products I don’t usually use. You’ll figure it out.

Here are some things I tried out:

bacon

I had such a good experience with Trader Joe’s cut pancetta, I figured I might as well try the bacon too. I DID NOT LIKE IT. It was gross. It was all one big lumpy clump of thick hunks of fat. I ended up cooking it for flavor, then removing most of it because it looked awful. I will not be trying this again.

 

 

mirepoix

 

 

I wanted this to be wicked simple and lazy to make. So for the first time ever I bought prepared Mirepoix at the grocery store. It wasn’t anything exciting, but it sure was easy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

tomatoes

 

 

If you’re going to add diced tomatoes, why not have them be fire roasted and come with chiles? It made sense to me, and so I tried it, and I liked it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I also used ground beef, obviously. And kidney beans too. For flavor I used paprika, cumin, chili powder, cayenne, garlic powder, Worcestershire Sauce, tomato paste, salt, pepper, and a bottle of beer.

chili

Heating it up with beer, right before serving.

 

 

See, thin but still appetizing!

Any Way You Like It Frittata

When I use recipes, unless they are for baked goods, I tend to use them simply as guidelines.  You can always substitute ingredients and play with recipes to make them your own. For example, when recipes call for mushrooms I frequently just use canned mushrooms instead of fresh because I’m cheap and lazy. And it works just fine. When I decided to try my hand at making a frittata recipe I thought it would be more fun to give you a frittata base and then some ideas for the filler.

The salad was made by my mom, she’s a good helper!

What’s a frittata? It’s an egg dish, like a fancy omelet or a crust-less quiche. It begins cooking on the stove on low heat, and finishes in the oven (at least that’s how I do it). You should make it in an oven-safe non-stick pan to make your life less stressful. My frittata is a bit on the thin side, but that’s only because of the size pan I used. I could have used a smaller pan, but this is the non-stick pan of glorious amazing fantastic non-stickiness (I used the 12 inch one because the 10 inch pan is still packed somewhere). It makes me happy.

See, thin but still appetizing!

I have the recipe for the egg base below, so for now I will share with you flavoring fun ideas. I like to work with 3-4cups worth of deliciousness. For the frittata in the pictures I chopped one onion, used one can of drained mushrooms, and added a bit from a bag of frozen  spinach and a bag of frozen mixed vegetables. In total it came out to be about 3.5 cups of uncooked vegetables. This is just what I chose to do because I had these ingredients on hand.

This is all it takes to make awesomeness happen

What can you do? The same thing, or something different. Frittatas are fun because you can play with them. You can add cooked pasta, ham, any vegetable that strikes your fancy, beans, etc. You get the idea. In the summer I’ll probably make it with tomatoes from our garden and fresh herbs. See,  you can do whatever the hell you want! Ok, enough chatter, let’s check this out.

Printer Version

Any Way You Like It Frittata

 
3-4 cups filling (meat, veggies, cooked pasta, etc)
2 tsp. butter, melted
½ cup milk
4 egg whites (1/2 cup liquid egg whites)
3 eggs
Salt and black pepper, to taste
½ cup shredded cheese, optional (mozzarella, cheddar, etc.)
Cooking spray

 

Preheat oven to 450.

Heat a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Lightly coat with cooking spray and cook filling ingredients until everything is cooked through and excess moisture has evaporated. Drain if necessary. Remove from pan, and wipe the pan clean. Let mixture cool slightly.

My filling! Still a little frozen in this shot, but it has potential for greatness.

In a large bowl, whisk together butter, milk, eggs, salt and pepper. Add filling, and stir to combine.

Heat the pan over medium-low heat, and lightly coat with cooking spray. Add egg mixture.

I got bored waiting for the sides to set, so here’s a picture.

When the edges begin to set (about 4-6 minutes), gently lift edges of frittata and tip the pan letting uncooked egg touch sides of the pan. Go around the frittata doing this at least once. Continue cooking until almost set, about 5-7 minutes. Sprinkle with cheese, and wrap the handle with foil.

Bake at 450 for 8 minutes, or until edges are golden brown. Let cool at least 5 minutes, and then with a spatula gently remove from pan. Cut into 8 pieces and serve.

I’m very proud of myself for not breaking it at all

 

Dinner time!

 

raw fish

Sun-dried Tomato Hummus & Fish Wraps

A new post! I know you’re wicked excited (I am too). Once again I left you waiting for a long time, sorry. The past three weeks I’ve been trying to eat better and exercise more, it being a New Year and all, so I’ve been making already developed healthy recipes. Mostly I’ve been using The Best of Cooking Light, which is an amazing book. I also have done a lot a research into healthy eating and dieting, revisted my Nutrition textbook, and started keeping a Diet and Fitness Journal. I’ve lost about 7 lbs so far (apparently there is an initial amount of weight-loss awesomeness at first before your body adjusts and makes you work harder), and I’m learning to balance calories and exercise, so it looks like I’m headed in a good direction. I sure as hell will not do any diet that involves any form of starving, because I’d rather be healthy than look like a skeleton.

Why should you care about my health? Well, it means this website will probably feature healthier (and still delicious!) recipes. Not that my recipes were full of lard before, but I wasn’t focused on the overall nutrition of them. Now I want to try for more fruits, vegetables, lean meats, whole grains and nuts. It’s saladpalooza up in here.

I’ve been eating a lot of wraps lately, which I find to be fantastic and filling. Multi-grain tortillas are amazing (especially with Tabouli wrapped up in it). I also have been using hummus as a spread in wraps, not an original idea but still a delicious one. I felt like combining my new loves, wraps and hummus, with some fish and spinach. Why not, right? Plus, this fish (just a generic white fish, like tilapia, but not) was a Buy 1 get 2 Free sale at Big Y.

This isn’t really a recipe so much as it is a wrap suggestion. Except for the hummus, here’s a link for my Sun-dried Tomato Hummus. But you could also just buy hummus.  Also, my camera is broken so I did the best I could with pics.

First we have the fish. Just a general white fish. I sprayed them with an olive oil cooking spray to get an even coat, and to make sure I didn’t use to much olive oil. Then sprinkled them with salt and pepper, and a generous amount of an Italian Seasoning blend. I figured the Italian Seasoning would go well with the sun-dried tomato hummus.

Then I baked them at 375  for about 15 minutes, just until they’re white all the way through and you can flake them with a fork.

Meanwhile, I made the spinach/mushroom/onion mix. First I finely chopped half an onion, then cooked it with salt, pepper, and garlic powder until soft. Then I added a can of drained mushrooms. Lastly I added about a 1/2 pound of frozen spinach, and sauteed until heated through.

Once everything was ready, I assembled the wrap.

Step one: Lay a multi-grain tortilla in a plate.
Step two: Spread some hummus.
Step three: Add some spinach mixture.
Step four: Break apart half a fish and lay it on top.
Step five: Wrap it and eat it.

And you’re done! I used myfitnesspal.com to try to figure out the calories and fat per wrap, and came up with about 195-200 calories and about 6 grams of fat per serving, and I had two wraps for dinner. So it was a good meal, and I am completely full! Although I have to try to avoid the food coma so I can exercise some more…willpower is obnoxious!

 

chili

Winter Turkey and Leftovers

I love turkey, and I’m sad that it seems like the only acceptable time to roast a turkey is during the holidays. Why? Maybe it’s because turkey usually weighs so much that it take a large group of people to eat it? Maybe it’s too much work to roast so no one feels like making it unless they have to? Who knows? All I know is that I wanted a turkey, and I already knew what I wanted to do with the leftovers. There aren’t actual recipes to follow, since this just consists of what to do with your own leftover turkey meals, and I figure everyone has their own ways of preparing a Thanksgiving type feast.

Here is an example of leftovers

 

I’m home for the week due to school vacation, and conveniently my parents had a frozen 12 lb. turkey. They thawed it in the fridge so that I could make it when I got home (literally, I had to brine it the night I got home). My brother and I made a quick brine, as it was pretty late and we were sleepy, of just water, broth, lots of salt, Italian seasoning, and lemon juice. It sat overnight in the fridge, and then the next day we roasted it.

I made a mirepoix (onion, carrot, celery) for the turkey to sit on so I would get tasty juices for a gravy.

It also kind of props the turkey up so the heat can get to all parts

Then I mixed unsalted butter with more Italian Seasoning and put it under and over the skin of the turkey. Then, for fun, I quartered an orange and put 2 pieces inside the turkey and 2 outside. Then it roasted for some hours (we were drinking wine and not really watching the time, so I can’t be too specific) until it was done. I had also in the meantime made garlic mashed potatoes and a gravy, plus we steamed some veggies.

TURKEY!

Then we had a delightful dinner. We used the turkey bones to make a broth, along with the leftover pan drippings and mirepoix, and added some packets of turkey gravy, and let it simmer for a while. Then I strained the broth into another pot, picked the meat off the bones and added some of the leftover turkey meat along with fresh veggies and potatoes and let it simmer some more. Then we let it cool and stored the soup into containers to freeze. Later on, when we feel like having the soup, we defrost it and add rice to have a nice, hearty turkey soup.

Yeah, so what if it isnt pretty? It’s tasty, and that’s all that matters. And those are oranges floating in it, leftover from roasting.

But we still had a lot of turkey left. So, my brother made a turkey chili. He has a recipe he always uses for chili, but he uses it mostly as a guide. The recipe says, for example, to use 2 slices of bacon. He uses a whole package. Mostly the recipe serves to remind him what to put into the chili, and when to add it. He just changes how much to add.

I love chili.

And lastly, the mashed potatoes. As delicious as they were, there’s only so much of mashed texture a person can eat within a certain amount of time. So I did what my grandma once recommended to me. I fried them. To do this, I simply rolled a spoonful of potatoes, covered it in a light layer of flour, then coated it in an egg wash (2 eggs beaten, plus an equal amount of milk), and coated it in a mix of half panko and half Italian seasoned breadcrumbs. Then I fried them in vegetable oil at a temp of 325-350 degrees until browned. It was a wonderful textural change and made them more fun to eat, since mashed potatoes had become finger food! I only wish I had thought to make a sauce to go with them. Oh well, there’s always next time.

Crunchy outside, garlicky mashed potato goodness inside

You can also make these with leftover turkey meat and veggies, as long as they aren’t too wet and the ball can still hold its’ shape

So what have we learned from this? That it’s ok to make a turkey during the holiday off-season. It’s way more relaxing when it’s just for your immediate family (hence the drinking of wine while cooking) and then there are plenty of ways to make the leftovers fun. Other examples could be using the leftover turkey and veggies and making a turkey pot pie. You could have turkey sandwiches. You could probably make some sort of casserole with a layer of mashed potatoes on top (think of Shepherds Pie). If your store doesn’t have any turkey right now, ask in the meat department if they could order one for you. Chances are that they will.

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Pumpkin Stew

October in my house means it’s time for Pumpkin Stew! I don’t remember ever not having this stew, even if I do remember that I hated it when I was little. I think the prunes freaked me out, but I’m over it and now look forward to having this every year. According to my mom this is actually a recipe that my aunt used to make for my grandparents because they spent some time every October visiting them. When my grandparents started spending October in Connecticut, my grandma pined for the stew so much that my mom asked her sister for the recipe and we started a new tradition.

Stew served out of a pumpkin? Incredibly fun.

Every October we would have one day where my grandparents would come over at an ungodly hour so my grandma could help my mom make the stew while my grandpa watched baseball or let me help him with crossword puzzles. After hours of cooking, we would all sit down, I would complain about all of the weird vegetables, my brothers would tell me that the prunes were bugs, and I would only eat buttered bread dipped in the broth. The adults would drink wine and ignore us as they ate. Then my grandparents would leave with their own container of leftovers, and we would freeze the rest and eat it throughout the winter.

It’s a good thing I have gotten over my dislike of stews, especially as I just finished a course at school that was focused on braising and stewing. I was excited to go home and attempt all of the new techniques I learned. And also to annoy my family by telling them to do something and using the French term. What can I say, I’m a little sister, I’m suppose to be annoying to them. This post is kind of pic-heavy (I got excited when I found my tripod so I could take flash-free pictures), and the recipe seems long and involved, which is why we always triple it. This way we only have to put forth the effort once a year, and then have many meals to last the winter. This stew freezes well, so it’s definitely worth it. I’m going to put the original recipe here, so it’s up to you if you want to double or triple it.

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Tips! Keeping parsley and researching recipes

I decided to be charitable today and share my genius with you all. Or, to be more honest, I was kind of bored and thought this is as good a time as any to share some of my little tips with the world.

#1
One such tip is the importance of researching recipes. I always always always go through cookbooks and websites to see what’s out there and tasty looking. And I try many of the recipes I see. The first time I make a recipe I follow it exactly. From that I can usually play around with it the next time and turn it into something of my own. But it’s important to see what other people are making in order to come up with your own ideas and use them to greatly impress everyone who knows you. When you want to do things and learn how food works, I suggest you research, cook the recipe exactly, and then experiment the next time you make it. When you get used to recipes through this method then you should do what I do whenever I want to try something different: research, pick parts of recipes you like, and make your own dish.

My research today for appetizers and snacks:

I’ll give you an example. One day I decided that I absolutely had to make corn chowder. The only problem was, I had no idea how to do that. So I went online and found several of my trustworthy go-to cooking websites and looked over many different chowder recipes. Some were overly complicated, some had ingredients that I despise, and some were too simple. But the important thing was that they all had certain similar aspects to them. Many had a roux to start off with. A few had creamed corn, and some had just frozen kernels. And so on and so forth. So I took the common aspects and applied them to my own recipe, and then took the bits and pieces that sounded good and used those too, like using creamed corn and corn kernels and adding bacon fat (it isn’t the healthiest of recipes!). I’ve learned by experimenting like this that you can just find a bunch of recipes for the same food and just take from them what you want to. Chances are that it’ll come out spectacular and you will feel like a Culinary God.

Don’t worry, I’ll eventually post that recipe! It’s just a little hard to do because I make it slightly different each time :)

#2
The next bit of advice is more directly linked to herbs. My herbs still aren’t useful yet so I rely on grocery stores. The problem is that buying those little plastic containers of herbs tends to be a huge rip-off. So I buy the bundles that are dripping wet and always 5x more than what you actually need. But won’t all that go to waste?!? Um…no. Chill out. I told you there was some advice here, didn’t I?

The best example I can give you is with parsley, since that’s what I always like to have on hand. That stuff lasts forever! It’s awesome like that. I can buy a huge bundle, use what I want, and then I take the rest and put it in a cup full of cold water and put it in the fridge. Every once in a while I check the water and add more, or dispose of stalks that become unappealing. The parsley can last quite a few weeks like this and having it around will help you figure out how to use it. Here’s a pic of my parsley after I’ve had it for about 3 weeks:

 Yea, it’s a little sad looking, but it’s still good and remember, it has been sitting in my fridge for 3 weeks! I find this system to be much cheaper and way more convenient than buying just a little bunch for an outrageous price whenever I need a tablespoon of parsley in a recipe. And I know there are tube containers you can also buy to keep it more compact in the fridge to save space, but i haven’t gotten around to that yet, so this works just fine.