Tag Archives: kid-friendly food

Spaghetti alla Carbonara with Peas (Fast, Easy, Delicious)

3 May

Spaghetti alla carbonara is one of those generous, forgiving dishes that doesn’t require too many ingredients, too much thought, or too much accuracy to be perfect and feel like a treat. In honor of Spring (and some very good Niman Ranch bacon I happened to have that happened to need finishing up), I banged some together with peas.

I love the smell of bacon in the morning

I love the smell of bacon in the morning

Although the flavor is completely different, anyone who is fond of split pea soup with ham or tortilla torcal or pasta with ham and peas (pasta e piselli) will appreciate the affinity that peas and pork have for each other and that’s why I like this combination. (Click here for another version of carbonara with butter and no peas). I played around with a Tyler Florence recipe for this.

Look at the amazing color on the Restoration Farm eggs...use fresh for this recipe

Look at the amazing color on the Restoration Farm eggs…use fresh for this recipe

It also reheats pretty well in the office microwave, which is part of my cooking criteria these days!

I use my cast iron skillet for this dish

I use my cast iron skillet for this dish

Spaghetti alla Carbonara with Peas (serves four)

1 Lb. dry spaghetti

½-1 Cup frozen peas

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
4 ounces thick cut bacon, sliced into chunks (a nice smoky bacon adds a lot of personality)
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 large eggs (as fresh as possible)
1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or Grana Padano or other grating cheese, plus more for serving
Freshly ground black pepper

Handful chopped parsley (optional)

Prepare the pasta according to package directions, while you get the other ingredients ready.

About four minutes before the pasta is done, drop the peas in and stir.

Reserve ½ Cup pasta water before draining. You want to time it so that the eggs are ready to pour when the pasta is still really hot because the heat of the pasta is what is going to cook them.
Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a deep skillet at medium heat until Add the bacon saute for about crisp, stirring frequently. Toss the garlic into the fat and saute to soften. Meanwhile, beat the eggs and cheese together in a mixing bowl, stirring well to prevent lumps.
Add the hot, drained spaghetti to the pan and toss quickly to coat the strands in the bacon fat. Remove the pan from the heat and pour the egg/cheese mixture into the pasta and take it off the heat to avoid scrambled eggs. Stir quickly with a big fork until the eggs thicken, but do not scramble. Thin out the sauce with a little at a time of the reserved pasta water, until it reaches desired consistency.

Season the carbonara with several turns of freshly ground black pepper and taste for salt. Serve in warm bowls and garnish with chopped parsley and extra cheese.

 

Garlicky Ginger Chicken in a Skillet

10 Feb

It’s been a relatively lazy weekend, by which I mean relative to the insanity that is modern American family life: two days of catechism, basketball, LEGO class, church, and a movie. Even a visit to the barber! Plus catching up on laundry, cleaning, and of course, making meals and then washing up after them. (is it any wonder that I slept through a significant portion of the LEGO movie today? At the premium 3-D price, no less.)

Steamy in the skillet

Steamy in the skillet

But nevermind all that; I turned in my latest story for edible Long Island during the week and I don’t have any immediate deadlines for journalism or for my academic life – all grants and travel request forms and registrations and contracts have been taken care of. My grading is up-to-date and my lessons are prepped for the week (fellow educators will immediately understand how nice that feels).

So there was time to read with my son, make hot cocoa, watch some of the Winter Olympics together (the biathlon is so far my favorite), to catch up with some dear friends on the phone late into the night, read a bit for myself, simply stare into space. It was somewhat disconcerting.

A lighter view

A lighter view

None of which has much to do with this easy new dish that I put together this evening. It was a half hour in the making: the chicken and veg were done almost exactly when the rice was ready. It has a bit of Asian seasoning, which is a nice change-up from our mostly Latin and Italian flavors. You can spice it up a bit more; just watch the salt if you are using prepared sauces or don’t have low sodium soy sauce! Continue reading

2014: The Year of the Empanada (first in an occasional series)

18 Jan

I love empanadas. The “pan” part of the word comes from the word for bread in Spanish, and empanadas are basically stuffed bread pockets. That’s basically…they have many permutations and depending where you are from they might be made with corn dough, wheat flour, fried or baked. They may be stuffed with meat or chicken or seafood or vegetables. We also call them pastelillos in Puerto Rico, pastel referring to pies, much like meat pies are hand-held dough pockets in other places.

Entry-level empanadas...premade discs. Do not be ashamed! I am not.

Entry-level empanadas…premade discs. Do not be ashamed! I am not.

Regular readers know that my son and I are not big sandwich eaters, but empanadas actually do the same job and we love those. You can pack them up for a picnic, grab them on the run and eat them in the car, have them for an afternoon snack after school, serve them as appetizers with an aperitif when your guests walk in the door.

Improvised rolling pin. Yet another reason to enjoy wine responsibly

Improvised rolling pin. Yet another reason to enjoy wine responsibly (photo: Ashley Fifer)

Every country seems to have a version of empanadas; Jamaican meat patties, Indian samosas, even Chinese dim sum (potstickers) could be called empanadas.

Picadillo

Picadillo

This year I want to explore the world of empanadas. My friend Ashley and my godson Sean have agreed to go on this journey with me (and calling them out here is my way of holding them to it). Ashley was my cooking buddy for this first go and took the picture of me rolling the dough. Continue reading

Lasagne, Lasagna, Lasaña: keeping it simple, making it Puerto Rican

14 Jan

No matter how you spell it, lasagne is great food for entertaining and with the SuperBowl coming up, you may want to consider this version as an option for the buffet table!

This is a wonderfully homey dish

This is a wonderfully homey dish

In its original Italian version (which may actually be adapted from a Greek dish) from Emilia Romagna (if Wikipedia is to be believed and on this one I am not really sure), lasagne is pasta layered with ragu, bechamel (creamy white sauce) and parmigiano reggiano. Lasagne has since been adapted and changed and reworked in so many ways that it has as many permutations as there are cooks who make it.

I have to say, I do not love bechamel. It’s okay when someone else makes it, but I would rather not. So, I do what so many do: layer mozzarella and ricotta and grated parmigiano and I am at peace with this shortcut that results in a creamy gooiness, no doubt horrifying to the Emiliani, but they are far away living their Italian lives and are not doing my dishes for me here in New York. And with apologies to the late, great Marcella Hazan, I am not ready to be making my own lasagne noodles, even though she maintains it is heresy to do otherwise.

Layers of gooey goodness

Layers of gooey goodness

Continue reading

Blueberry Whole Wheat Pancakes

7 Jan

The recent snowy days led many of us to use our housebound, lazy mornings to make big breakfasts. The little guy had been begging for pancakes for a while and I ran out of excuses, so we put together some delicious whole wheat blueberry pancakes. He has been baking with me for a long time, so he was able to do a lot of the mixing and we are moving into measuring and understanding that

1/2 + 1/2 + 1/2 = 1 1/2 teaspoons,

when we can’t locate the 1 tsp measure. The teachable moment is ever-present and just waiting to be exploited.

While recipes often recommend lighter flours, I actually used stone-ground whole wheat with just a bit of white flour and the results were not heavy at all. While I call these blueberry, I did make a few without the fruit (I just made a batch without and then added the blueberries to the batter) and both were excellent. This recipe gives the right amount for the whole batch.

We like a bit of maple syrup on our pancakes. It adds umami...nice rich mouthfeel

We like a bit of maple syrup on our pancakes. It adds umami…nice rich mouthfeel

“These taste like heaven, Mom,” was the verdict. And I’ve got six leftover pancakes frozen in wax paper and a plastic tub to crisp up in the toaster oven one of these cold, but not leisurely mornings soon! Read on for recipe! Continue reading

The Easiest Watermelon Snack Ever!

10 Sep

Thanks to my beloved, handy-dandy, double-sided melon baller from Pampered Chef (the other end hulls strawberries and cores tomatoes) my big first-grader now has a new favorite way to snack. He just pulls a quartered watermelon out of the fridge, sets it down in front of himself on a napkin and starts cutting in. He sometimes makes many at a time and puts them in a bowl and sometimes just pops them directly as he scoops them. Independence never tasted better, nor made a mother happier….

Little hands can easily manage this task.

Little hands can easily manage this task.

Ah! Summer fruits!

Albóndigas Variation (Meatballs: Eat some now, freeze some for later)

28 Jun

You would think that I came from hunger.

I stockpile like a squirrel in autumn. (And like squirrels, I sometimes forget where the hell I stockpiled my treasures, but that is another matter for a day when we are discussing organization. Today, we are not). I don’t feel safe unless there are plenty of foodstuffs laid by, whether for unexpected guests, an emergency supper,  the coming of The Apocalypse, or the nuclear winter. I’m a Cold War baby and that’s how I roll.

Sauté onion and garlic in a saucepan, drop in frozen meatballs and a tin of crushed tomatoes with your preferred herbs and spices and in 20 minutes of lively simmer – gorgeous sauce for spaghetti and meatballs!

There’s nothing I like more than a pantry full of stuff with which to make meals, except a freezer full of stuff that is already made (by me, of course, because the supermarket has freezers full of simulated-food garbage I won’t pay for, cause it’s  simulated food garbage I won’t eat).

To freeze, place cooled meatballs in a freezer bag. Lay the bag flat on a plate and stick in freezer so the meatballs don’t freeze stuck together. When completely frozen through, remove plate, shake the bag to unstick meatballs, squeeze air out, and leave bag in freezer. Use within three months (or before freezer burn sets in!)

Thus, this meatball recipe – a variation on my dad’s excellent meatballs. We call them albóndigas and like to make them neutrally flavored for freezing, so that whatever the occasion you can drop them in an Italian-style tomato sauce, serve them with buttered noodles, make a meatball sandwich, stick them with toothpicks and call them hors d’oeuvres, do whatever, adding your favorite seasonings later.

Cheese, please!

Use some hot off the stove, and freeze the rest. You never know when they will save your life….

Cloudy, with a chance of meatballs!

Albóndigas (Variation on Pedro’s Albóndigas)

5 cloves garlic, peeled

1 generous Cup onion, chopped

2 Tbs olive oil

1 Cup mixed fresh herbs (or 4 Tbs dry), such as basil, oregano, thyme, marjoram, parsley

2 tsp Old Bay Seasoning

1 tsp salt

3 lbs ground beef (you can substitute 1lb of pork for 1lb of beef)

2 whole eggs (optional)

1 cup breadcrumbs (plain, or seasoned with similar herbs to those you chose above)

Whir garlic, onions, olive oil and parsley in a blender or food processor until minced fine. Add herbs, Old Bay, and salt and pulse a few times until it forms a paste.

In a large bowl place meat, seasoning paste, optional eggs, roasted red pepper, and bread crumbs. Mix well so that breadcrumbs are evenly distributed. Using your hands, roll into balls about 1.5 inches across. You can dip your hands in water to keep from sticking.

Heat 2 Tbs oil in heavy skillet at medium heat until the oil flows like water and a meatball dipped in it sizzles softly. Fry several at a time (use tongs to turn quickly) browning on all sides, then lower to medium low and cook for about six minutes, shaking the pan and turning meatballs occasionally. When they are cooked through, cool on paper towels. Can be frozen for three months in an airtight container.

Quickie Tomato Spread for Bread Pizzettes or Bruschetta

15 Apr

Yes, you can freeze delicious summer tomatoes and use them for sauce the following April!

I had cored, blanched and frozen (but not peeled) about 1.5 lbs of San Marzano tomatoes (click for more specific how-tos  of what I call “Lazy Preserves”) from Restoration Farm last summer when I just couldn’t figure out what to do with all that lycopene bounty and was — gasp! — almost sick and tired of summer tomatoes.

Last summer's investment in this spring's good eating

They were in the back of my freezer in a freezer bag (suffering a bit of freezer burn, I must admit) and I decided that now was the time to see how they had fared.

The other day I knocked off some — but not all — the ice crystals that had formed and put them in a soup pot and simmered them down to about a pint that was more paste than liquid, removing the peels as they separated from the flesh. Today I took that pint to a friend’s house and we used it for the base of a bruschetta/pizza toast dish that pleased adults and kids alike. It was dense and sweet with a balance of acidity — in short, everything you want from tomato sauce — and since it was organic and local — there was nothing you don’t want in it (even the freezer burn didn’t matter).

Here is the quickie recipe with tinned tomato substitute:

Tasty Tomato Paste Topping

1 Tbs extra virgin olive oil

4 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed

1 pint homemade tomato paste (or a 28 oz canned of pureed tomatoes)

five large fresh basil leaves

1 Tbs dry red wine (or whatever you have open, really)

Salt to taste

Warm the oil in a saucepan. Add the smashed garlic and cook at medium low turning cloves until they are uniformly golden brown. Remove cloves and discard (or rub the insides on toast for bruschetta), Add tomato paste or puree and basil leaves. Bring to a simmer and add the tablespoon of wine and salt to taste. Simmer until the sauce reaches desired thickness (at least 15 minutes to incorporate flavors). Serve over pasta, or on toasted bread. Top with olives, grated mozzarella or parmigiano reggiano, minced fresh basil, or other pizza-loving ingredients.

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