With another new year ahead of us, I decided it’s finally time for this blog to get a makeover. I changed the theme so that the layout of the blog is more minimalistic and highlights the photos cause it’s all about the droolworthy photos after all, right? One of the changes I am most excited about is the Recipe Card at the end of the post that includes a Nutrition Facts panel! So check out the fancy, informative panel and in the meantime bear with me as I tweak some final changes to the layout of the blog.
Other than playing around with the blog, I’ve been at home happily relaxing and lounging, cooking and eating. I’ve also been reading a book I got for Christmas called The Food Lab by J. Kenji Lopez-Alt (from Serious Eats). It’s a huge book (seriously like a textbook) full of Kenji’s wise knowledge about basic cooking skills/techniques and the food science behind it. He has searched for the best methods to cook things such as the fluffiest pancake or the juiciest burgers through scientific experiments. For example, in the pasta section, he found that adding some of the starchy pasta water back into the pasta and sauce mixture will help the sauce stick better to the pasta rather than using regular water.
This week, our friend Ernie (who you may remember from our Summer Peach Pie adventure), shared with us how to make a rich, meaty Italian bolognese sauce. I’ve made bolognese sauce by myself at school once but it was a way more simplified version that required less manpower and patience. This version is one of the more advanced recipes on this blog that you should courageously tackle with a friend or two or set aside a nice chunk of time for. Either way, it will be worth it!
- 1/4 cup water
- 1/4 cup dried porcini mushrooms
- 3/4 cup white wine
- 1/2 small carrot
- 1/2 small onion
- 1/4 cup pancetta (Italian bacon)
- 1 can whole tomatoes
- 1 tbsp butter
- 1 clove garlic
- 3/4 lb meat loaf mix (group beef + veal)
- 1 link Italian sausage (casing removed)
- 1 cup whole milk
- 1 tbsp tomato paste
- Rigatoni pasta
- Microwave 1/4 cup of water and dried porcini for about 1 minute. Let the mushrooms soak for 5 minutes until soft. Drain and save mushroom water for later.
- In a saute pan, reduce 3/4 cups of dry white wine to about 1/3 cup. Save for later.
- Using a food processor, pulse carrot and onion together.
- Cut pancetta into 1 inch pieces and pulse in a food processor.
- Pulse the can of tomatoes in food processor until finely chopped.
- In a saute pan, melt 2 tbsp of butter. Add pancetta and cook for 2 minutes, until browned.
- Stir in vegetable mixture and mushrooms for 5 minutes, adding a clove of garlic.
- Add meat loaf mix and sausage with casing removed. Cook until meat mixture is well broken down.
- Add milk and cook until the liquid is gone and meat is sizzling (20 minutes).
- Add tomato paste, tomatoes, mushroom liquid, salt and pepper and bring to a simmer.
- After 15 minutes, add reduced wine and cook for a few more minutes.
- Serve with pasta.
In case you haven’t noticed by now, I’m constantly looking for clever ways to make foods healthier by using substitutions, for example, using Greek yogurt or avocado in desserts. So when I found out you could make mashed potatoes using a healthy vegetable, I was very intrigued. Mashed potatoes are the ultimate Thanksgiving comfort food. However, even though potatoes are a vegetable, they are very starchy and even less healthy when butter and cream are added.
Cauliflower, on the other hand, is full of vitamins and minerals and has numerous health benefits. Because it doesn’t have much flavor, when it is steamed and blended it’s not that much different from real mashed potatoes. For flavor, add some Parmesan cheese, garlic, and herbs. This magical veggie can also be used to disguise carbs in other dishes such as cauliflower crust and cauliflower fried rice.
The cauliflower version is actually easier than mashing real potatoes since all you need is a blender, saving your arm from a serious work-out. It tastes best when combined with meat, fish, or other protein. If you’re skeptical about cauliflower mashed “potatoes” or think it’s too extreme, you can mix the blended cauliflower with your regular mashed potatoes. For more healthier alternatives to Thanksgiving recipes, check out this article on Spoon University. Happy Thanksgiving everyone!
- 1 head of cauliflower
- 1 garlic clove
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
- pinch salt and pepper
- Gather ingredients and boil a pot of water.
- Cut cauliflower into florets and place in a steamer. Steam for 10 minutes until tender. (If you don’t have a steamer, place cauliflower in a bowl with just enough water to cover the bottom of the bowl. Cover bowl with a paper towel and microwave for 4-5 minutes.)
- Heat olive oil in a small skillet. Smash garlic and cook for 1 minute on each side on medium heat until browned.
- Put steamed cauliflower in a food processor, along with garlic, Parmesan cheese, salt and pepper. Blend well.
Potlucks are one of the best forms of a social gathering. Friends, coworkers, or colleagues all get together and each share a homemade dish, a perfect opportunity to try a variety of food. It makes it even more special since everyone has put effort and love into making their dish, whether it be an old family recipe or their own. Growing up at home, my family and I would go to tons of family friends’ houses for potluck gatherings so it’s nice having them 0nce in a while at school.
This past weekend, our Spoon University members had our first potluck. Once all the dishes were arranged on a table, we all stood around ooh-ing and ahh-ing, taking photos and strategically planning which foods we wanted to try first. There was a nice balance of savory and sweet – pulled pork sliders, honey glazed meatballs, alongside apple crumble, pumpkin donuts, mini oreo pies and much, much more. We were all feasting with our eyes and by the time we were done eating, we were all slipping into food comas.
My contribution to the potluck was a butternut squash and caramelized onion flatbread, a dish that I think is a potluck staple. It can be cut up into small bite-sized pieces to eat with your hands and it is mess-free. I had bought almost all of the ingredients earlier that day at the farmer’s market, including homemade dough. I was originally going to buy pre-made pizza crust from the store but the pizza vendor at the market gave me 2 homemade rolls of dough for $2! Another reason to love farmers’ markets
- 1/2 butternut squash, cubed
- 1/2 large white onion
- 1 pre-made pizza crust or 2 small rolls of homemade dough
- 2 tbsp fresh sage, cut into strips
- 1/2 cup shredded Italian cheese
- olive oil
- salt and pepper
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
- Peel squash and cut into 1/2-inch cubes. Toss with 1 tbsp olive oil, salt and pepper and roast for 45 minutes.
- Thinly slice half an onion. Heat 1 tbsp olive oil on low heat and add onions. Stir periodically for 30-40 minutes, until caramelized.
- When squash and onions are finished cooking, put onto the crust. Sprinkle cheese on top. Bake for about 20 minutes, until crust is brown.
- While flatbread is baking, heat 1 tbsp of olive oil in a small pan and lightly saute sage leaves.
- When the flatbread is finished baking, top with the sage leaves.