Thursday, March 31, 2011

The Only Pasta Recipe You'll Ever Need - PW's Penne alla Vodka

This is probably one of the EASIEST dishes you can ever make. After I learned how easy Vodka sauce was to make at home, I haven't bought it ready made since. The real magic comes from the alcohol soluble compounds in the tomatoes; vodka frees them and that gives this sauce a real depth and lusciousness of flavor. This is one of my favorite dishes of my bestie, Michelle, and for this entry, I made this for her at her house.

Oh, and of course, this recipe is from The Pioneer Woman, because I just love her. Let's begin, shall we?


Penne, heavy cream, butter, tomato paste (the recipe calls for tomato puree, but sometimes that's hard to find. go ahead and use the paste, but be aware that you'll have a thicker sauce), onion, garlic, and parm.

OH! And vodka, obviously. Use the crappy stuff for this dish, the cheaper the better...I think it tastes better.

I would have used fresh garlic BUT...

Sprouted garlic = bitter garlic. So garlic powder works just fine.

Before we start on the sauce, first, the pasta water. You want the water nice and boiled by the time we start making the sauce. Once that happens, everything's gonna move really quick!

Now, start chopping up your onion, like this...only minus the chipped manicure.

Get a large skillet on the stove, and throw in the onion, garlic (in my case, garlic powder), and 2 tablespoons of butter. THEN, turn on the burner, medium heat. I like to start the vegetation in a cold pan so they can sweat, i.e., give off their flavor and cook slowly. Give this about 10 minutes, or until the onions look translucent.

Meanwhile, measure out a cup of your booze.

And add it to your sizzling onions. SLOWLY PLEASE. You don't want to send any of this over the side of the pan and into your flames, because ALCOHOL IS FLAMMABLE. Stir for a minute or two.

Oh, you remembered to put in the pasta once the water boiled, right? We did.

Stir in one can of the the tomato puree (or paste), and a cup of heavy cream. After this, turn the heat down as low as you can!

Oh, mama. Doesn't that look creamy and dreamy already?? Add some salt and black pepper to taste (you can also add some dried basil or oregano), cover, and let simma simma down for 10 minutes.

Now, the pasta should be done. Before you go and drain it, reserve about a cup of the starchy hot pasta water. You can use it to thin the sauce if it gets too gloopy.

Which is exactly what we did. I told you, tomato paste = thicker sauce. But I really love that intense tomato flavor the paste gives you. So I prefer it!

Oh, and just because I'm extra....another pat of butter.  I also threw in Parmesan cheese. I used about a 1/2 cup, and reserved the rest to add at the table.

Okay, enough with all this jibberjabber. We're hungry.

Thanks to Michelle for being my favorite sous chef!!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Coconut Samoa Cookie Ice Cream!

Okay, so I made this kind of epic amazing ice cream over the weekend for Brooklyn Brainery's Ice Cream class/Ice Cream Club...


Look at our ice cream carnage! My container is below  the canister of Chunky Monkey. All gone!

Everyone loved the heck out of it, and it was gone before I could snap it. I admit, it is a massive failboat express on my part, but sometimes the memory of the food/dish is better than any picture you could take. Since it's Girl Scout cookie season, I decided to order up a bunch of my favorites, the Samoa. For those who aren't in the know, Samoas have a shortbread base, are drenched in caramel, sprinkled with coconut, and drizzled with chocolate on the top and bottom. Intense, right? These were begging to be put in an ice cream. I remember back in the day, Edy's had a chocolate ice cream with Thin Mints in it...Samoas should be given a chance to shine too!

Please take note that I do know that Edy's made a Samoa Ice Cream with caramel ice cream and ribbons of caramel and fudge...but it sucked. I knew I could make it better.

After hunting for a bit, I found an extremely easy recipe for coconut ice cream on All Recipes. You only need 3 ingredients (not counting the shredded coconut which I decided not to use because I was going to use the cookies as my mix in), one of which is already sweetened.

Using a blender or food processor, combine 1 can (14 or 15 oz  is fine) of cream of coconut*, 1 cup of whole milk, and 1 1/2 cup of heavy cream. Process until silky smooth. I added a little less than 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract to mellow the coconut flavor, and following a comment that was posted, I added grey sea salt to taste. I already had the stuff at home, and I always add a pinch of salt to desserts to turn up their flavor, so it seemed like a win-win. I poured the mixture into my favorite ice cream container at let it age in the fridge from about 1 in the afternoon, to about 3 in the morning.

Why 3 in the morning? Because that's when I got home from my monthly potluck. I was wee bit (a lot) under the influence and I knew if I just went to bed, the ice cream would never freeze solid in time. So, I drank a big glass of water, got on the phone with a friend, and soldiered on. I'm all about accomplishing goals! Churn the ice cream according to your manufacturers instructions, for me, that was 20 minutes. During the last 5 minutes of churning, I threw in the cookies, which I had broken up by hand. Next time I will remember to keep the cookies in the fridge, so they can be nice and cold when I throw them in the mix. I let the mixture churn for about 5 more minutes to be on the safe side, and then I transferred it back to the tupperware. Plastic wrap and a lid, and it was off to the freezer to harden.

Yes, I licked the dasher clean. DON'T JUDGE. It was FANTASTIC. The richness of the cream of coconut gave the ice cream an unworldly body and mouth feel, and the minerals in the sea magnified the toasty flavor of the cookies. It was a huge hit at the class, so I hope you guys will give it a go!

*Cream of coconut is NOT the same as coconut milk.Cream of coconut is sweetened and is used in making Pina Coladas. Coconut milk is just that, and it's unsweetened. Read the can before you buy!

Friday, March 11, 2011

Food Memories - Bacon Daze, Part 1

My mom's special weekend treat for me were either Aunt Jemima panacakes (from the mix) or the frozen waffles. They were nestled happily next to scrambled eggs and bacon, and all drowned in warm maple syrup dappled with lumps of still melting butter. Oh, and only real maple please. I could always taste a fake. I always left the bacon for last, swirling each rasher one by one through the syrup puddles.

The syrup and almost sweet fatty rind became one, melting on my tongue. All this playfulness was corralled, then, by the toothsome, savory streak of meat. I ate each piece slowly, knowing that this was only a limited time only occasion; my mother worked during the week, and it would be silly to expect her to make me breakfast every morning. But, as with any addiction, weekends just weren't enough.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Oneshot: Nutella Cookies!

Nutella is the Lolita of spreads.

Skim milk, cocoa, and can three ingredients combine to make something that most people, including myself, have no problem eating straight out the jar? Eff using a spoon. I use my fingers. And I refuse to share.

So naturally, when I saw a recipe on Tasty Kitchen, an amazing recipe/blog/sharing site, for Nutella COOKIES..well, you know I had to go and make it. Especially, b/c it's so damn easy! Only 4 freaking ingredients necessary.

One egg.

A half cup of sugar.

One cup of Nutella.

One cup of Flour.

That's it! The end. In the recipe post, a stand mixer is used to combine all of the ingredients together...seeing as that most of my money goes to student loans, I used good old fashioned elbow grease, and a wooden spoon. I should have probably taken a picture of it...but the spoon snapped right in half...but, I'm getting ahead of myself! Preheat your oven to 350 degrees, and prep your baking sheet (or, sheets).

Start by mixing the egg and sugar together...I made a double batch of these lovelies so I could bring some to work the next day. I doubled the quantities of everything, so keep that in mind. Whisk them together so they're nice and combined. Then, add in your Nutella. This is probably when you should switch over to a wooden spoon to make your life easier.

The last thing I added in was the flour, which i did in 4 parts, stirring after each addition. This is where it gets a little hard. If you have a stand mixer, you'll be fine. If you don't, you'll end up with a broken wooden spoon like yours truly. As it starts getting tougher to mix, switch over to a metal spoon. It seemed to be getting a little too dry, so I only used about half of my last part of flour. When it was good and mixed, I put some plastic wrap over it and let it rest for 10 minutes in the fridge.

I used a tablespoon to scoop out the dough and rolled it into balls with my palms. I fit about 12 on my non stick cookie sheet comfortably. Now, the recipe said to use the bottom of a drinking glass to flatten them out. The dough balls were pretty sticky, so I dipped the bottoms of the glasses in sugar, then flattened the dough. No sticking! And now the tops of the cookies would have a nice sparkle and crunch. I wanted them to stay chewy in the middle, so I only flattened them slightly. Put these in the oven for about 7-8 minutes until set. Cool on a rack, and repeat until you've baked up all of your cookies.

Sparkles! That sugar was a good move. I loved the texture and flavor of these cookies! The taste of the Nutella wasn't overpowering in the least, and the crumbly edges and super chewy middle of the cookie was addicting. One problem though, these will stick to your teeth like no other, so be prepared to brush your teeth afterward! I stored these in Tupperware with a slice of bread to keep them soft til the next day, and they tasted even better.

A few notes for next time:

I would probably change some or all of the sugar to brown sugar. I'd be interested to see how the Nutella and the slightly caramel flavor of the sugar work together. Plus, the molasses in the sugar (that's what makes real brown sugar brown), would keep the cookies extra moist.

I would also rest these in the fridge longer. Because there really isn't any liquid in the dough, a longer time in the cooler would give the dough a better chance to absorb the water in the eggs. Plus, the cookie would spread slower.

I'm also curious to see how the cookie would taste with some cinnamon added to it. Cinnamon + chocolate = YUM. Yay for for experimenting!

Try these beauties out, and let me know how you like em. Thank you so much Miss Amy and Tasty Kitchen for sharing!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

PW's Grandma Iny's @!%*# Cake

We're friends, right guys? We've been hanging out, sharing some food, drinks, and laughs. And I think we've gotten to the point where you can trust me. I made a cake that turned out to be SUPER delish, but contains an unorthodox ingredient. Just trust me on this, okay? And if you don't trust me...well, trust The Pioneer Woman, because that's who I got the recipe from.

First thing's're gonna need a cup of these:


I know, I know...they're prunes. They're just dried up plums people! We like, plums, right? I used to be a massive prune hater...but they're really good! Earthy, sticky, sweet ,but not overpowering. I'm still not down with prune juice though. It doesn't have any of the usual prune...effects, either. AND WE'RE GONNA DOUSE THIS IN CARAMEL! So really, come back...please?

Okay. We're gonna take a pot of water, throw the DRIED PLUMS in, and bring it to a quick boil.We want to soften them up to make it easier to combine them into the cake.

Strain off the water, throw em on a plate, and smash em with a fork. Set aside, and let cool.

Here are the rest of the ingredients:

Sugar, flour, cinnamon, eggs, nutmeg, allspice, buttermilk, vanilla, canola oil, and baking soda for the cake itself. For the icing: corn syrup, buttermilk, butter, sugar, baking soda, and more vanilla. Look at the spices perched atop the canola oil! They're such daredevils.

Combine the dry ingredients in one bowl....

And the wet in a another. For some reason in baking, sugar is always considered a wet ingredient...I'm not sure why. I'm figuring that it has something to do with the creaming method...but  I could be talking out of my butt.

Combine the wet and dry ingredients gently, then add the vanilla, buttermilk, and *gulp*, the dried plums. 

I can't stress mixing this gently enough. Over-mixing will toughen up the cake and it'll be ruined forever. Seriously!!

I used Baker's Joy (the most amazing baking spray EVER) and lubed up this glass pan. Bake the cake for 40-50 minutes, and test it out at 45.

While the cake has 10 minutes or so left on the clock, start cooking up your icing. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, throw in your frosting ingredients, stirring with a wooden spoon until the butter melts.

Stop stirring, and let this mixture come to a SLOW boil. I can't be bothered to get a candy thermometer (I'M LAZY), so I made sure to watch it vigilantly until it just turned a caramel color, and not a moment more. You don't want this to get hard or else it won't pour.


Here's the cake out of the oven. My knife came out clean at about 50 minutes; the cake was moist, but not wet on the inside. Perfect.

Carefully (!), pour the frosting all over this biatch. You really want it to soak into the warm cake.


Look of that slab of love. How could it be bad! I topped my piece with a tiny sprinkling of gray sea salt...because I'm extra and I like salty/sweet things. Delightful! I know if I make this with dates, it'd be amazing sticky toffee pudding.

And no, you won't have to use the restroom after you use it. So, try it!