Wednesday, January 28, 2015

A Little Appetizer For My Football Fans: Carbonara Frittata with NestFresh Eggs



This time of year the blogosphere is absolutely abuzz with ideas and recipes for the Super Bowl. Even though I am not a football fan at all, I also get involved in this fury because I love so many people who are, which of course includes you my treasured reader.

This year I have been brainstorming for a snack that my daughter could enjoy while watching the game. She's not a vegetarian or a carnivore, just a person who prefers eating meatless if she has the choice (unless her dad and I are treating at her favorite steakhouse).

I had already decided on making this little carbonara pasta appetizer for this blog post when as luck would have it I was sent some coupons to give Nestfresh eggs a try as part of their celebration for National Egg Month.



If you aren't familiar with them, Nestfresh eggs are produced at smaller, independent farms that keep their hens in a certified 100% cage free or free range environment. Their eggs range from brown and white cage free to non-GMO free range, organic, pasture raised, and Omega 3 varieties, all produced with a commitment to sustainable agriculture and humane animal treatment. For more information about these delicious eggs with a conscience, please click here.

So, with a dozen of these beautiful brown eggs on my counter top, I couldn't wait to make this light meat pasta dish that I mentioned earlier for my daughter. I used to make it (or versions of it) all the time and for some reason it fell off my recipe rotation, but it is time to resurrect it. It is easy, delicious and good either warmed or at room temperature, which makes it pretty much perfect for any party buffet.

Want to make it completely vegetarian? Substitute the bacon for sun dried tomatoes, your favorite roasted peppers or sauteed mushrooms. If you want to really knock out your guests, double the bacon. You can never have too much bacon.



Carbonara Frittata

I always have a tendency to under season this dish a bit. Between the salty pasta cooking water, the cheese and the bacon, I am always worried that it will be over salted, but it never is. Everyone loves it anyway and the salt shaker is always close by. My recipe here is a good start, but I leave it up to you as to how much more salt you add.

4 - 6 slices thick bacon, cut across in 1/4" slices
1/2 of a small sweet yellow onion, finely diced
1 large garlic clove, crushed
8 large eggs
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
2/3 cup heavy whipping cream
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
Generous grinding of coarse black pepper
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
8 ounces angel hair pasta, cooked in salted water per package directions, and rinsed with cool water then drained
1 tablespoon oil

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Place bacon slices in a medium size ovenproof frying pan set over medium high heat. Fry until medium well. Add onion and continue cooking until they are transparent. Add garlic and cook for 1 minute longer. Transfer to a small bowl with a slotted spoon; set aside.

Place eggs, mustard, Parmesan, whipping cream, salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes in a large bowl. Whisk until mixture is well combined and frothy. Add cooked pasta to the egg mixture and toss well to coat; set aside.

Wipe out the same frying pan that the bacon was cooked in with paper towels. Place back on a medium high heat and add the oil. When the oil is hot and shimmering, pour in the pasta mixture. Cook for approximately 5 minutes or until the bottom is brown when lifted slightly with a spatula.

Transfer to the preheated oven and cook for approximately 20 minutes, give or take 5 minutes or so, or until it is slightly firm in the center.

Carefully remove from the oven and invert onto a large plate, then slide back into the frying pan. Return the pan to your cook top over medium high heat. Brown the "top" for approximately 5 minutes, checking for desired color by lifting slightly with a spatula.

Transfer to a cutting board and let cool for 5 minutes before cutting into wedges or bite size morsels.





Tuesday, January 13, 2015

How to Mend a Broken Heart: Chili Mac



It seems like just yesterday that winter dragged me into its lair, kicking and screaming. It didn't care that I wasn't ready for subzero temperatures or black ice. No, winter didn't care what I wanted. It decided that it was time to get cold and start snowing and I have been "enjoying" it ever since.

I make no secret of the fact that I am a summer girl. Always have been. Always will be. So why do you live in Colorado, home of some of the best packed powder in the world you ask? Well I have no idea, but I will say that Colorado not only has great snow for skiing, but also the most beautiful summers that I have ever seen.

For the past few months I have been a little gloomy knowing that the cold and yuck will still be hanging around for awhile longer, but lately I am starting to see a little light at the end of the tunnel. Recently, a couple of ads have popped up on my sidebar advertising coats and winter apparel at 70% off. Now that's a hopeful sign if I've ever seen one.

Another good sign is the NFL playoffs and the granddaddy of them all, the Super Bowl. I always look at the end of football season as one more hurdle to tick off my list on the way to summer fun. While not as exciting as the Super Bowl, my football lovers really enjoy the excitement of the post season games, even though their beloved Broncos won't be taking part this year. Yep, as you may well know, Sunday was a bad day for the Broncos, but not as bad as Monday was for their coach.

Anyway, there was an upside to Sunday here at my house. Before leaving the house for my day of shopping and lunching, I made my football watchers one of our old time favorites, chili mac. This super simple, economical, one pot wonder is loved by everyone around here. It is meaty and cheesy for my husband and straight forward and simple for my son. Just simple good casserole eating, perfect for comforting broken hearts. You know now that I think of it, maybe I should send some over to the Broncos' camp.


Chili Mac

Feel free to spice this one up to your liking. If I have any on hand, I like to add a little chipotle powder, adobo sauce or some smoked paprika for a smoky spicy flavor. You can also add some jalapeno or poblano peppers with the onions if you like a peppery flavor. 

1 pound ground beef or turkey
1/2 medium sweet yellow onion, finely diced
1 large clove garlic, crushed
1 - 15 ounce can crushed tomatoes
1/2 cup beef bouillon (or beef broth)
2 tablespoons chili powder (mild or hot depending on how spicy you like it)
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
Salt and pepper to taste
2 cups large elbow macaroni (cooked to package directions)
1 cup grated cheddar or Mexican blend cheese

Place ground meat in a large skillet set over medium high heat. Cook, breaking meat up until it is browned.

To the browned meat add the onion, garlic, tomatoes, bouillon, chili powder, cumin and coriander. Stir well, reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for about 10 minutes or until the onions are tender.

Add salt and pepper to taste before gently folding in the cooked macaroni.

Sprinkle with the grated cheese while still hot and serve immediately.

Serves 4 - 6











Thursday, January 8, 2015

Something From Nothing #30: Gastrique



Since I am doing my best to hit my stride and get back to normal after a short blogging break, I thought it was high time to post a Something From Nothing recipe. This month's recipe is actually a little something fancy from nothing in the form of a simple sweet and sour sauce known as a gastrique.

As you can tell by the name, this sauce has its origins in France. As the name implies, this sauce very well might have been originally made as a treatment for an upset stomach, and simply caught on because of its delicious flavor and ability to perk up the flavor of bland meats and salty cheeses.

Gastriques can be made with either sugar or honey and any type of vinegar that you desire. You can also add flavors at the end like alcohol, berries, molasses (like Mediterranean pomegranate), and/or spices. It really is something fun to play around with until you find your very own favorite recipe.


Gastrique

Since this is a simple recipe that doesn't require a recipe, I've seen many versions in my lifetime. Some, like mine here, call for a 1:2 ratio and some a 1:1. I find that equal parts sugar/honey and vinegar makes a sauce that is just a bit too sweet for my liking, so I'm sticking with the 1 part honey to 2 parts vinegar.

1/3 cup honey*
2/3 cup vinegar (I like red wine)

Spray a measuring cup with non-stick cooking spray. Measure honey and pour into a small saucepan set over medium heat. Bring to a simmer, reduce heat to maintain a slow simmer. Cook for approximately 5 minutes or until honey turns a rich walnut brown color.



Add vinegar to the darkened honey, being careful not to breathe in the fumes as they will be strong. At this stage, the honey/sugar will seize as the vinegar is added, but stirring and heating with break it back down to a liquid.

Stir well and return to a simmer.  Cook for 10 - 15 minutes or until it thickens slightly. This stage is tricky because if  you allow it to reduce too much, it will be stiff as it cools, not enough and it will be too thin as it cools. It might take you a couple of times to get it down, but eating the mistakes is the fun part. You can always add a couple of teaspoons water to thin it down if it gets too stiff to serve.

Makes about 2/3 cup.

*If using sugar, place it in a saucepan over medium heat and heat until it liquifies. Watching carefully, simmer until it caramelizes and proceed with the recipe as written.