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Posts Tagged ‘cooking for two’

Photo courtesy of Bakers Royale

Saturday, I applied a popular exercise mantra — “No pain, no gain” — to cooking.

The gain — delicious Mini Pommes Anna — was totally worth the pain.

I had purchased the entry-level OXO mandoline slicer several months ago, partly so I could make some version of pommes Anna, which is simply very thin slices of potato layered and baked with butter. (And if you’re one of those people who can make paper-thin slices of veggies with a knife, congratulations. You have mad knife skills. I do not.) I was in the middle of my final semester of grad school, however, so the mandoline has been resting in the gadget drawer.

The semester eventually drew to a close, and Pinterest pointed me to this intriguing recipe for smaller, individually sized versions of Pommes Anna, courtesy of Naomi at Bakers Royale. The mandoline finally made its debut.

And boy, was it angry.

Seriously, I underestimated the danger of the mandoline (and found out that just about everybody has a story about somebody taking their fingertip off with one). Having failed to keep the potato attached to the finger-protecting holder mechanism, I ran it across the blade by hand, which worked great right up until the moment I cut my thumb.

I immediately initiated Standard Operating Procedure for kitchen injuries:

  1. Don’t bleed in the food.
  2. Evaluate the injury.
  3. Wash the injury with soap and water.
  4. Wrap the injury with paper towel to try to stop the bleeding, or at least keep the blood out of the food.
  5. Soldier on. You’re not going to make more blood by starving yourself.

It was a minor cut, although it was a heck of a bleeder.

The potatoes were simply divine. The mandoline had cut them into sheer little circles that, when tossed with butter and layered with kosher salt and pepper in a muffin pan, baked up into a luxurious side dish. The husband commented more than once on these buttery and creamy little stacks of goodness.

And yes, there were only four ingredients: Yukon potatoes, butter, salt and pepper. I cut the recipe in half, so it made six. I figured two stacks per person was about right (they compress while baking, so each one ends up being about 1.5 inches high). We each ate a third stack, partly because they were so delectable and partly because they didn’t seem like the kind of food that reheats properly.

And one of us was making replacement blood, after all.

They were definitely a welcome change from mashed potatoes, which is what I usually serve with meat loaf (and more on that fabulous meat loaf later).

As for the mandoline, I think I should probably upgrade to the model with non-slip feet (seems like an upright model might be safer than one that “hooks” over a bowl). Also, a couple of friends pointed me toward Kevlar gloves made for use with mandolines, so those might be showing up in the gadget drawer, too. (Actually, when the first friend, Crafty Kristen, mentioned Kevlar gloves, I kind of thought she was joking — LOL Kevlar gloves for the clumsy cook, very funny. But no. They are real. And possibly a necessity.)

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Photo courtesy of Budget Bytes

That was fast.

Just a week after I took up the pursuit of an easy homemade alternative to store-bought pasta sauce, I think I’ve found my go-to recipe.

Over at Budget Bytes, Beth posted a recipe for a slow cooker marinara sauce in November (gotta give kudos to Pinterest for helping me find it). She noted that the long, slow cooking process (eight hours on low) carmelizes the sugar in the crushed tomatoes. Carmelization gives the sauce a depth of flavor that jarred pasta sauce simply cannot replicate. It’s got the hint of sweetness that a good tomato-based sauce should have without the artificial, overpoweringly syrupy sweetness offered by most manufactured sauces these days.

It was a cinch to make, too. I diced an onion and a couple of cloves of garlic the previous night and dumped everything into the 4-quart slow cooker crock the next morning. The husband texted me at lunch to let me know that it smelled delicious.

I browned a little ground beef to make a simple meat sauce and served it over two small servings of penne. (And while I’m talking about pasta, let me recommend that you cook half the recommended serving size listed on the box. The suggested serving sizes are obviously calculated to make you buy more pasta, not maintain a healthy weight.)

I might add some crushed red pepper next time for a more piquant sauce, but other than that, I’m very satisfied with this recipe. Like other tomato-based sauces, it’s going to freeze well, meaning that I’ll now have ready-to-serve pasta sauce in the freezer instead of the pantry.  It’s going to be versatile, too: Besides meat sauce, it’s going to be a great topping for ravioli and a good dipping sauce for the husband’s homemade calzones.

Next goal: A go-to, not-too-salty soup recipe to keep in the freezer.

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True confession: I have never liked sweet potato casserole, that impostor of a side dish that shows up on the table every year at Thanksgiving. It always seemed more fitting as a dessert, but it in no way could compare to the pecan, egg custard or chocolate pie that sat in the kitchen waiting for the turkey to be cleared.

Sweet potatoes are put to much better use in pies; sweet potato pie, after all, tastes astoundingly like pumpkin pie.

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