Archive for the ‘Italian’ Category

Last Night Jenny

Sunday, November 27th, 2011

You know when your past self did something that makes your present self really happy.  Like the way Past Jenny cleaned her room before leaving for vacation.  That made Today Jenny very happy when she got home from her parents’ house.

The worst part of coming back from a trip is unpacking all of the wires that are absolutely critical to my ability to live life.  The phone charger.  The laptop power supply.  The iPad charger.  Can we say “first world problem”?

But also, I’m determined not to take more than one bag when I travel to my parents’ house.  I mean, one bag for my clothes/toiletries.  I have a bag for kitchen tools/ingredients.  And of course, a bag for wii games, computer, etc.  And then usually a cooler.  No biggie.  But sticking to one bag for clothes/toiletries is no small feat.  I’ve left out pajamas and just borrowed from my sister before.  I also never take shampoo of my own.  But my sister has much drier, much curlier hair than I do.  And she has the shampoo to counteract her hair-type.  The kind of shampoo that makes my hair a little crazy.  I’ve missed my shampoo.

While I was home for Thanksgiving, I cooked lunch for my brother and his family.  I made the easiest baked “pasta” in the whole world.

My mom turned me onto this, and it’s delicious.  It’s gluten free on top of that, and you’d barely even notice.  It’s a super simple baked pasta without any pasta.  Use butternut squash for the noodles.  Trust me, you won’t be disappointed.

I wish it were more complicated, and I could post some fancy recipe.  But basically…

Baked “Pasta”

  • peeled discs of butternut squash (or half moon shapes from the bottom)
  • your favorite spaghetti sauce (with or without meat)
  • mozzarella cheese

Layer the squash and sauce.  Top with mozzarella.  Cover and cook at 350 for about an hour and a half or until tender.  Uncover and cook until the cheese is just starting to brown.  Just like that.

GF pizza: WIN!

Thursday, May 26th, 2011

Remember when I was pouting about being gluten intolerant?  I do.  And my friend Bekah told me all about this.  OMG!  Best. Friend. Ever.

This stuff is boss.  Totally boss!

It's not symmetrical.  Don't judge.

It's not symmetrical. Don't judge.

I tasted a bit before I served any to the boyfriend.  I told him that it tasted like it wasn’t gluten free.  He didn’t believe me.  Until he tried it.  Now he does.  He likes it when I make pizza.

The one downside to this pizza is that it’s a bit hard to serve.  Not impossible, but a little tricky.  Here‘s my recommendation.  You can use it to cut the pizza, and also to help pick it up.  It’s a slightly more effective at desticking the pizza crust than a spatula.

Also, you should buy one.  Period.  You’ll use it way more than you think you will.  I promise.

Stealth Meatballs

Tuesday, November 16th, 2010

So the only time I’ve ever made meatballs is when I was in a cooking club in high school.  And I really didn’t do that much.  It was mostly my friend’s mom.  And you know how I don’t like recipes…  You didn’t know that?  Oh, well, I don’t.  Not that much, no.  So I went a bit unconventional here, but it worked out.  And I actually think this is an easier way to make sure the meat is cooked through than other methods.  So here it is…


Oh wait!  Did I mention that these are stealth meatballs?  They are.  I sneaked all kinds of veg into these little babies.

  • 1/2 eggplant, sliced
  • 1 head of cauliflower (minus whatever I set aside for lil’ buddy), chopped up
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 lb. ground beef
  • 1 Tablespoons “Italian” spices
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup bread crumbs

Preheat oven to 425.  Drizzle olive oil into baking dish (or two).  Put the eggplant and the cauliflower into the baking dishes and drizzle with olive oil.  Roast those babies until they start to brown.  Reduce heat to 350.  Then process them.  Process them real good.

Mix all the ingredients together by hand.  Then make your little meatballs.  Cook on medium/high heat until browned.  Transfer to baking dish.  Bake those suckers for 10-15 minutes until cooked through.

Then make them into this…

Photo by Nathan Clendenin

Photo by Nathan Clendenin

<beshamed>I used store-bought sauce for this, no adjustments made.</beshamed>  I topped with a smidgen of parmesan, fresh spinach, and provolone.  And naturally, they were served on homemade rolls.  Do you see me chowing down back there?  That’s how good these were.

Sneaky Vegetables

Thursday, October 28th, 2010

That’s what Nate called this dish.  It’s ’cause he hates peas.  He’s done what he can to make SJ hate them as well.  It worked at first, too, but SJ’s resilient.  :)

The problem with vegetables these days is that they’re rarely integrated into the meal.  I’m trying not to get to education-y on you, but integration means that the veggies (and the rest of the dish) taste better because of them.  We don’t do this, though.  We throw veggies on the side, if at all, as a healthy afterthought.  Not the worst thing in the world, but not really appealing to kids (or grown-ups), either.  The creaminess of this sauce, matched with the spiciness of the pepper and sausage, demands the peas and carrots which offer texture, sweetness, and amazing flavor… not to mention health.  Sneak those veggies in!

Photo by ME!

Photo by ME!

So how’d I do it?

  • 1/2 lb. italian sausage
  • 1 cup shredded carrots (you could probably got lighter, if you wanted)
  • red wine (optional)
  • 1 jar vodka sauce
  • black pepper
  • red pepper
  • 2 teaspoons “italian” seasoning
  • 1/2 cup frozen peas
  • 1/2 lb. penne pasta
  • cheese (LOTS of it!)

Brown the sausage.  Add the carrots, then the wine.  Let the wine evaporate as it simmers.  Add the vodka sauce and herbs and spices (go as spicy as you’re willing).  Simmer for a good little bit.  Right before it’s done, add the peas.

Cook the pasta.  You know what to do.

Combine the pasta and the sauce in a baking dish.  Top with oodles of cheese.  I wanted to use Fontina, but they were out at the store.  I opted for mozzarella and Parmesan instead.  Bake at 425 until the cheese is melted and starting to brown.


Thursday, July 8th, 2010

My darling sister is resolved that a cook cannot take credit for a dish unless the recipe is original.  Although I most heartily disagree with that sentiment, I do find myself ridden with guilt when serving a dish that is “semi-homemade”.  Nonetheless, I think you, the reader, deserves to know how frequently I “cheat”, and how impressed everyone is with the food.

When I was in high school, I found a recipe for stromboli dough, and slaved in the kitchen an entire afternoon in order to serve a fresh stromboli, stuffed with veggies, meat, and cheese.  For a couple years, at least, this recipe was frequently requested for birthday dinners and special occasion meals.  Each time, I’d spend 4 hours waiting for dough to rise, kneading, more waiting, rolling, stuffing, more waiting, baking… and then, frequently risk a doughy center (read: disaster!).

… then one day, I grew up, packed my bags, headed to the big city of Chapel Hill, enrolled in college, and wised up.  In the deli/bakery of your typical grocery, they have pre-made pizza dough for a dollar or two.  Roll, stuff, bake.  Period.  It smells every bit as delicious as homemade, and when it comes out of the oven, people “oo” and “ah” as though you had spent those 4 hours covered in flour.  … and if you want to let them keep on believing it, I certainly won’t tell. ;)


Photo by Nathan Clendenin

… so that’s it.  No recipe.  Stuff it with any kind of cheesy, veggie, meaty goodness you see fit.  Brush with beaten egg for a nice, shiny, golden brown crust.