Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Pasta Carbonara (my version)

When I finished college, I got a job at a little Italian restaurant. I worked back in the kitchen and usually prepped all the fresh ingredients for sauces and what not. It was not a great job but I walked away with some knowledge of the restaurant business and Italian food.
One task I had was prepping the onions, green peppers and bacon to be fried for Pasta Carbonara. Being that I didn't assemble the actual dish, I had no idea they topped the entire thing with Alfredo sauce. When I can't remember what the name of this dish is - I head to the internet and am amazed by all the eggs and cream and what not that goes in this dish.
I am not so naive as to say this is a low fat version but it has to be lower than the normal versions.
This particular dish is our quick and easy go to. Great for unexpected company or any other occasion.

1 pound spaghetti or capellini noodles
butter or olive oil
1/2 pound bacon, chopped (I use kitchen shears to cut up the bacon)
1 onion, chopped
2 green peppers, chopped

Boil water and add the noodles (cook according to package). Fry bacon until starting to crisp. Add onions and let cook until translucent. Add green peppers and cook until tender and onions/bacon are crisp. Drain noodles and add butter or oil (I usually use about 1/2 stick of butter but you can cut back because the sauce is oily).
Top noodles with bacon mix. In this case, a little goes a long way and don't let anyone top the noodles with too much "sauce". The sauce should equal about 1/3 of the noodles.
Feel free to top with parmesan cheese.
I, sometimes, omit the peppers or use frozen ones and it comes out great. The more veggies you use will help stretch the dish.
Serves about 6 (or my family of 3).

Thursday, January 20, 2011


I took this recipe from The Pleasure of Whole-Grain Breads by Beth Hensperger and changed it to suit my pantry. It's a nice gingerbread/spice cake recipe but not all that sweet and full of whole grains.
I will list the original ingredients at the end of the recipe.
1 stick butter/margarine
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1 cup molasses
1 cup boiling water
1 TB instant coffee
2 teas baking soda
4 TB apricot brandy
1 1/2 TB cinnamon baking spice (similar to apple pie spice)
1/2 teas dry mustard
1/4 teas black pepper
1 cup millet flour
1/2 cup coconut flour
3/4 cup AP flour
1 1/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour
Cream butter with sugar until well combined. Add eggs one at a time. Add molasses in a steady stream and beat until all combined. Pour boiling water into glass bowl and add instant coffee (I did this in a glass measuring cup). Add baking soda to butter and egg mixture. Add spices and mix well. Pour in brandy and mix. Alternate coffee with flours and mix well until your batter is lump free and all wet.
Pour into a 9x9 pan (greased) and bake at 350 for 35-40 minutes.

Original ingredients:
1/4 cup chopped crystalized ginger
3 TB finely chopped candied orange peel
3 TB cognac (pour these three in a bowl and let sit for 30 minutes before starting batter)
1 1/2 cups teff or millet flour
2 cups AP flour
2 teas baking soda
1 TB gd ginger
1 teas cinnamon
1/2 teas cloves
1/2 teas gd coriander
1/2 teas gd nutmeg
1/2 teas dry mustard
1/4 teas gd mace
1/4 teas black pepper
1 stick butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 cup molasses
1 cup boiling water
1 TB instant espresso powder.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Banana and Coconut Stew

Sounds like a weird stew but it's really tasty and super easy to make.
Banana and Coconut Stew
2 lb beef, cubed
1 lg onion,chopped
1 can tomatoes
1 can coconut milk
5 firm green bananas or plantains
Start with 2 pounds of beef. I ended up using a nice cut of steak because it was the least expensive at the store. Cut it into bite sized cubes and fry in oil in your stew pot(just enough to cover the bottom of the pan). You want the meat to be seared on at least 2 sides. You will have to fry in batches because you do not want the meat touching. Frying meat without enough space causes too much moisture to build up and you won't get a good brown on the meat. When done return the meat to the pot with one onion you have chopped. Let that fry for a little bit - just enough to cook the onion. Add canned tomatoes. I can my own in quart sized jars after dicing the tomatoes and cooking them. You can add a can of whatever size and style you like but they should be unflavored. Add 1 can coconut milk (the sizes are pretty standard). You should have a pretty saucy stew at this moment - if not add more tomatoes or a little water. About 15 minutes before serving, add your bananas that have been cut into bite sized pieces. You want really green bananas (the greener the more starchy and firmer).
This stew is great with hot bread and salad. It's fairly allergen free so you could serve it at all sorts of meals. It sounds weird but the result is a really tasty stew. The onions and tomatoes are complimented by the sweetness of the coconut and bananas and the meat balances it all out. I like to eat it with a fork, spearing a chunk of meat with a banana and then supping up all the juice with bread.

Make your own coconut milk

I needed coconut milk for the Banana Coconut Stew (coming in next post). I went to Walmart because my son needed minutes for his tracfone and I really prefer one stop shopping (never happens with getting my groceries at Walmart but that's another story). They had coconut milk for under a dollar - well they had signs for coconut milk for under a dollar and not a can in sight. I ended up going to the grocery store I get most of my groceries to get meat and see what the coconut milk was like (I buy my coconut milk from an Asian store not the grocery store but I was not making another stop). The price was stupidly high. I thought - I have dried coconut (organic unsweetened) in the cupboard that needs using so I'll make my own coconut milk (how hard can it be).
I left it until the next morning to look up how to make coconut milk. Guess what - they all use fresh coconut. If I was going to use fresh coconut I should have just bought the coconut milk and save me the headache. I decided to try it with the dried coconut.
I boiled a teapot of water and filled a medium sized bowl with coconut. I used a little bit of large grated coconut and a small bag of a more finely grated coconut. I poured the boiling water over the coconut and made sure it was covering the whole mess. I let it sit until cool and strained with a jelly bag. The result was not bad. It was a little weaker than my usual coconut milk but I am sure it rivalled the Walmart brand.
I think in the future I will pour all the stuff in a pot and boil it on the stove to pull more flavor out of the dried coconut.