Category Archives: Recipes

Pasta with Bacon & Brussels Sprouts

After a particularly stressful week at work, plus a long battle with a cold, I was very ready for Friday to arrive. All I wanted to do was spend a restful, relaxing night at home. And I did just that. As soon as I walked into my apartment, I changed into pj’s, turned on some music, and just lay in my bed, decompressing from the strenuous week.

Two hours of lounging later, I mustered up the energy to whip up some dinner. One good thing that came of this busy week was that my fridge was overflowing with food. I had gone grocery shopping the previous weekend, as usual, but between my cold and getting home late, I hadn’t found a chance to cook. Envisioning myself in an episode of “Top Chef,” I set out to use the ingredients on hand for a delicious Friday night dinner.

Going through the fridge, I found some brussels sprouts, a package of bacon, a lemon, parmesan cheese, and whole wheat pasta. I remembered eating the best brussels sprouts a few months back at Father’s Office in LA, which were pan fried with bacon and pine nuts. I thought I could try to recreate that dish (sans pine nuts) with the addition of lemon juice (for acidity and freshness) and whole wheat pasta.

The results were fantastic. Think smoky bacon intermingled with slightly crisp, nutty brussels sprouts and hearty whole wheat pasta, with the occasional burst of lemon juice and parmesan. It was such a simple dish to make, yet it presented such sophisticated flavors and textures. And plus, the ingredients cost under $10 ($5.49 for bacon, $1 pasta, $3 brussels sprouts, $0.79 lemon) and many are pantry staples that most already have on hand.

If you’re a fan of bacon, brussels, or both (like me), then this is the dish for you. Try it on your next Friday night in!

Whole Wheat Pasta with Bacon and Brussels Sprouts

1/2 lb brussels sprouts, chopped in half with ends cut off

4-5 slices of bacon, chopped (can do more depending on your preference)

1 lemon

1/2 of a 14.5 oz  box of whole wheat pasta

Parmesan cheese (optional)

Extra Virgin Olive Oil (optional)

1. Cook the pasta in salted boiling water, according to the directions on the box.

2. Boil another pot of salted water. Cook the brussels sprouts in the boiling water until crisp-tender, about 5 minutes. Drain.

3. Heat a saute pan over medium-low heat. Add the bacon and let it crisp, 7-10 minutes (depending on how crisp you like it). Take the bacon out with a slotted spoon and place on a paper towel to drain. Reserve some of the bacon grease i the pan.

4. Fry the brussel sprouts in the leftover bacon grease over medium heat, until the outside becomes brown and crisp. Add the bacon back in for about 1 minute.

5. Turn off the heat. Toss the past with the bacon and brussels sprouts. Squeeze lemon juice onto pasta and grate parmesan cheese. Add salt, pepper, and olive oil to taste if desired.

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Simple Squash, Simple Post

Even though winter has brought unusually cold temps, tons of snow, and general grumpiness to DC this year, at least one good thing has come out of it. The dreary weather is perfect for roasting vegetables, which is one winter treat I look forward to every year.

Roasted vegetables are so versatile. You can roast almost any combination of veggies: red bell peppers and red onions, for instance, or carrots and parsnips. You can also puree roasted vegetables into a dip or a soup, which will have the smoky, earthy taste of the vegetables. The Barefoot Contessa, for example, makes a wonderful roasted eggplant spread.

My favorite recipe for roasted vegetable, however, is butternut squash. Roasting the squash brings out its natural sweetness, and it is the perfect accompaniment to any dinner (particularly a roast chicken!). The recipe is also SO simple–I wouldn’t even call it a recipe! If you’re in a hurry or don’t feel like cutting an entire squash, the pre-cut squash sold in supermarkets will work fine too. Add this simple yet stunning dish to your next dinner party and it will be sure to bring your guests out of their winter blues!

Simple Roasted Butternut Squash

1 medium-sized butternut squash, cut into 3/4 inch cubes OR 1 package pre-cut butternut squash

2 T olive oil (can do more or less depending on size of squash)

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

2. Put foil over a baking sheet. Pour the cut butternut squash onto the baking sheet.

3. Pour 2 T olive oil over the squash and toss until the squash is well coated with the oil. (Add more or less depending on the amount of squash.) Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

4. Place the squash in the oven for 15-20 min, until the squash can be easily pierced with a fork and is golden brown on the bottom.

5. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and enjoy!

Cranberry orange custard trifle

Holiday trifle

When I was a little girl, my mom would make a holiday trifle every year for Christmas. I loved the layers of rich vanilla custard, tart raspberry jam, berries, and brandy-soaked pound cake in every bite. In recent years, however, my mom has foregone the traditional holiday trifle, saying it’s too heavy for dessert.

First layer of Grand Marnier-soaked pound cake & oranges

This year, I decided to resurrect my favorite holiday dessert. My mom and I found a recipe for cranberry orange custard trifle, which sounded a bit lighter than the traditional trifle. Instead of berries  and raspberry jam, this recipe includes oranges and a sweet and slightly sour cranberry sauce, both of which add a sophisticated acidity to this otherwise saccharinely sweet dessert. The colors in the trifle were gorgeous as well, perfect for a festive holiday dinner.

Pouring custard over the cranberries

My family and friends absolutely loved the trifle and could not stop eating it. I will definitely be adding this recipe to my holiday repertoire–and you should too! The trifle would also make a spectacular New Years Eve dessert, for those of you who are still looking for something to make. Make sure to let it sit in the fridge at least 4 hours before serving–and that’s the hardest step, because you’ll be so tempted to eat it right away.

Cranberry Orange Custard Trifle

Adapted slightly from Red Book Magazine

Prep time: 30 min; Cooking time: 35 min; Chilling time: at least 4 hours

CUSTARD

1 ½ cups each heavy cream and milk

Peel from 1 orange

¾ cup sugar

3 T all-purpose flour

3 large eggs

½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces

1 T Grand Marnier

1 T vanilla extract

CRANBERRY FILLING

4 cups fresh cranberries (approx. 1 12 oz. bag)

1 cup orange juice

½ cup sugar

1 T grated orange zest

TRIFLE

1 (1 lb) pound cake, thawed, sliced 3/8 inch thick, and halved

1/3 cup Grand Marnier

6 oranges, peeled and pith removed, cut into segments**

**(I used two 15oz cans of mandarin oranges instead)

TOPPING

1 cup heavy cream

3 T confectioners sugar

2 T Grand Marnier

1 T vanilla extract

Sugared cranberries, optional

  1. Custard: In a medium saucepan, heat cream, milk, and orange peel to just boiling. In a bowl, whisk sugar and flour, then whisk in eggs until smooth. Gradually whisk in ¼ cup of cream mixture. Pour egg mixture into saucepan. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, whisking constantly until thickened, about 3 min. Remove from heat; stir in butter, Grand Marnier, and vanilla until blended. Pour into bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until cold.
  2. Cranberry filling: In a saucepan, combine cranberries, orange juice, sugar, and zest. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer, stirring occasionally until mixture thickens, about 30 min. Cool to room temperature.
  3. Trifle: Line bottom of a 3 ½ quart trifle dish with a single layer of cake slices. Brush with Grand Marnier, top with about 1 cup orange pieces, then about ½ cup cranberry filling, then about 1 cup custard. Repeat layers 3 more times. Cover with plastic wrap; refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight.
  4. Topping: In a cold bowl with cold beaters, beat cream, confectioners’ sugar, Grand Marnier, and vanilla until soft peaks form. Spoon on top of trifle; top with sugared cranberries, if desired.

Makes 16 servings.

Cloudy with a Chance of (Chicken) Meatballs

Spaghetti with chicken meatballs and simple marinara sauce

Many followers of this blog may be under 2 false impressions after reading my previous posts: 1. that I don’t cook, 2. that I only eat out in Dupont Circle (the tag cloud on the right, unfortunately, does not help my case). The next couple posts will hopefully dispel both notions.

I had a serious case of the Mondays this past (yup…you guessed it) Monday, so I decided to whip up some comfort food to cheer myself up. After browsing some of my favorite food blogs, I came across a recipe on Smitten Kitchen for baked chicken meatballs, which sounded absolutely delicious and (semi) healthy! I headed to Safeway with my grocery list in hand, already hungry for a steaming bowl of spaghetti and meatballs.

Chicken meatballs (before baking)

The recipe calls for pancetta, Italian bread (I used ciabatta), and ground chicken–ingredients which only seem more expensive than they really are. I certainly thought about replacing the pancetta and ciabatta with normal bacon and whole wheat bread, but reviewers of the recipe warned again and again that substitutions would sacrifice flavor. So I paid the extra $3 for pancetta and ciabatta. Was it worth it? YOU BET.

The meatballs were moist, tender, and very flavorful–more flavorful than most other meatballs I’ve had. As Deb from Smitten Kitchen writes, they do taste faintly of cheese. Which, I’m not going to lie, freaked me out at first (b/c there is no cheese!). I think the meatballs actually taste better the longer they sit, as the flavors really blend together and absorb into the chicken.

Deglazing the onions and tomatoes for the marinara sauce

I served the meatballs with one of my favorite tomato sauces–the Barefoot Contessa’s marinara sauce. The sauce is elegant and simple, with only a few ingredients that really showcase the sweetness of the tomatoes. Red wine (I used a California Pinot Noir which I had left over) adds warmth and depth of flavor while the parsley (the only herb in the entire recipe!) adds just the right amount of zest. In short, I LOVE THIS SAUCE (and Barefoot Contessa, but I’ll save that for another time). The simple flavors of the sauce complemented the richness of the meatballs perfectly.

In addition to how delicious it tasted, this gourmet meal only cost $16 total to make. Plus, I have enough leftovers to last me the entire week (I even froze some meatballs for later). That means, it cost about a mere $4/serving! Now, that’s what I call cheap eating.

YUM

For recipes, click on the bold links in the above post.