How to Sauce Pasta (You’re Doing it All Wrong)

There are some cooking tasks that you never really go about trying to learn. Things that seem obvious – like making a grilled cheese, cooking bacon, and combining pasta with sauce.

Yesterday I ended up on Chow.com checking out a video series called “You’re Doing it All Wrong”, where experts demonstrate how to do simple things the best way possible. I didn’t expect too much, but I did learn a few things. Check out this video on combining pasta and sauce:

chow

We tried it tonight and the results really did improve! I used the technique on some rotini with tomato sauce, beef, onion, and parmesan – using a tablespoon of butter at the creaming stage – and it was noticably different. The pasta really seemed to absorb more of the sauce, the sauce was thicker, the cheese more evenly distributed. In my opinion, worth the extra steps.

So you never know when you’ll learn something you didn’t even know you needed. The other videos in the series are pretty good too – some (muddling) more informative than others (grilled cheese), but I picked up a few good tips from all the ones I watched.

Back from Vacation

Hello everyone – I’m back in Texas from a long three week trip in Europe. It was good to get away, and equally good to return home. We had some wonderful culinary treats along the way – from cinnamon beef stew in Brussels, Russian pilaf from our friends in Aalborg, delicious desserts from fresh home-grown berries by Kim’s mother, and all the baguettes and croissants we could handle in Paris. Plus crepes, Morrocan style couscous, and plentiful house wines.

We saw many sights, and spent even more time catching up with family and good friends.

It took 2.5 weeks for me to finally be ready to be home again, and to be ready to be back at work again. Notable, however, is the fact that I am actually ready to be back at work again. I think that’s why vacation is so important – when you’re in your daily grind, it’s easy to only see all the things you wish were different, being away makes you realize the things that you enjoy enough to keep doing.

So we’re back, and I’m neck deep in laundry and making recipe plans for the week. One the menu is all the things we missed while we’re away – pasta, spicy peppers, curry, and pizza. As wonderful as it is to go on culinary adventures, I am happy to return to my own kitchen and get back on the creative side of the plate.

And I’ll leave you with one picture from our adventures – on the Seine, after many hours of sun had left gold in our hair and freckles on my nose.

Brown Sugar Mango Mojitos

I was a slow convert to the mojito. The margarita was an early favorite – and why stray from what you know you love? But the mojito is a nice alternative – a bit lighter, not as tart – and you just can’t have a margarita with ropa vieja.

We don’t like our drinks too sweet around here. We like them well-balanced, smooth, and potent. Here’s our twist on the classic mojito.

mojitoBrown Sugar Mango Mojitos

Take 4-5 leaves of fresh mint and drop in the bottom of a small juice glass or highball. Add a pinch of brown sugar and squeeze in the juice of a quarter of a fresh lime. Take a blunt object (end of a rolling pin, wooden spoon, pestel) and muddle these three ingredients. Pour in 1.5-2 ounces of mango rum (Tropic Isle Palms was a great inexpensive and smooth choice with a natural fruit flavor). Add a splash of club soda, a few ice cubes, and drop in another lime wedge. Drink on the patio, with friends.

DIY: Recycled Cashmere Teddy Bears

Gift cycles tend to come in waves. You have graduation season, the wedding seasons, and then a few years later… babies. As we prepare for our upcoming trip to Denmark, we had several new births to celebrate. I wanted a gift that was sweet and personal, affordable but also a little luxurious. This craft was a great solution. Meet the teddies:

blueteddyclose teddiestogether

Sewing these little buddies requires moderate sewing skills, but the pattern is easy – if you’ve sewn any clothing, slipcovers, or pillows before I bet you’ll be fine. Most of the supplies can be purchased at any fabric or craft store – the cashmere can easily be found on Ebay, or in local thrift and discount stores (especially towards the end of winter). Continue reading

Spicy Mac and Cheese with Ham

I read recently that in hard times people find themselves craving more comfort food. I’m not sure how the rest of the nation is handling the recession, but I’m definitely finding myself drawn to all things warm and homey. Enjoy this southwestern twist on an old classic. It serves 4 hungry adults.

mac and cheese

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Thanksgiving Burger and Sweet Potato Fries

Autumnal foods are my favorite – but there is something so satisfying about a good burger and fries when the weather starts to heat up. This recipe is the best of both worlds. It’s so tasty, in fact, that we rushed right in and forgot to take the picture until halfway through the meal 🙂 So please imagine, if you will, the perfectly browned turkey burger, with melted yellow cheese dripping down the edges, crisp green apple slice on top, resting near a flaky roll, with mounds of bright orange sweet potato fries framing it. Imagine that, when you see this:

turkey burgers
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Sangria… Mmm…..

It is a well known fact that I really love sangria. I believe the most famous declaration went “Sangria is my favorite way to get drunk in the summer!”

sangria.preview

So I don’t ALWAYS get drunk when I drink Sangria, but when you make this recipe it will be tempting to not stop drinking ’till you get to the bottom. This is why Sangria is a drink best made to share, as I plan to do this weekend. It’s a little lighter than a margarita, a lot tastier than beer, it’s… perfect.

Emily’s Famous Sangria:

  • 2 bags frozen fruit
  • Sliced fresh oranges and lemons (optional)
  • 1.5 liters full-bodied red wine (chianti, merlot, or cabernet)
  • 1 large can (~1 liter) pineapple-orange juice
  • 2 oz gin or vodka (or combination of both)
  • 2 oz triple sec
  • 2 oz rum
  • Something bubbly (ginger ale, Fresca, Italian soda, Sprite, or club soda)

So the recipe is pretty flexible, and every single part can be adjusted to your personal taste. Sangria is just a wine punch that was invented to use leftover wine, and as such, there is no one definitive recipe. I put everything but the “something bubbly” in a large pitcher or drink cooler and refrigerate 8-24 hours, then add the carbonation right before serving. How much you should add is dependent on how strong you like the flavor – club soda waters it down a good deal more than italian soda. Ginger Ale and Fresca are good moderate choices.  The liquor is optional, but it adds a nice kick 😉