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  1. Tuesday, April 16, 2013

    Easy Spaghetti Carbonara

    Spaghetti is definitely a go-to meal around here and my kids could eat it every day, much like myself as a kid. Once, when I was in 3rd grade, my dad and I found ourselves home alone for a week. We ate spaghetti every night. I thought I’d died and gone to heaven. My dad was lucky I was a clueless 9-year-old.

    While I am grateful to know that my kids will always eat spaghetti (it really is a good option on a busy night), I must admit that Nate and I are less enthusiastic about the dish. I don’t know, it’s just kinda boring. The razzle dazzle of spaghetti has finally worn off for me. Sorry, Dad! 😉

    Last week, however, I decided to try to make spaghetti more interesting. The result was delicious! I used a recipe for spaghetti carbonara from Christina Ferrare’s Big Bowl of Love cookbook and it came out beautifully. The ingredients are simple, the taste is flavorful, and the sauce is creamy without using actual cream.

    Nate and I both really liked this recipe. I actually loved it. The girls stuck with classic boring spaghetti that night, but I don’t think they even tried the carbonara, little stinkers. Owen, however, ate three servings and couldn’t get enough!

    Easy Spaghetti Carbonara
     
    Adapted from Big Bowl of Love by Christina Ferrare (I changed a few of the ingredient amounts and also some of the technique based on my experience with the recipe)
    Author:
    Recipe type: Main Dish, Pasta
    Ingredients
    • 2 cups peas (original recipe calls for fresh, I used frozen)
    • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
    • 4 ounces diced pancetta
    • 2 tablespoons chopped shallot (or regular onion if you don’t have a shallot on hand)
    • 8 ounces spaghetti or linguine (fresh is yummier, dried is fine)
    • 1 cup low-fat milk
    • 1½ cups freshly grated parmesan cheese, plus additional for garnish
    Instructions
    1. If using fresh peas, remove the peas from their pods and set aside. For frozen, run warm water over the peas to separate them, drain, then set aside.
    2. In a cold, large, heavy pot, pour the olive oil and swirl to cover the bottom of the pan. Add the pancetta, cook over medium heat until pancetta is crisp. Remove pancetta and set aside. Add shallot to the pan and saute until crispy. Remove from heat, add pancetta back to the pot and set aside. I am lazy, so I cooked the pancetta then just added the shallot/onion to the pan without removing the pancetta. I added the shallot before the pancetta got crispy then cooked until the onions were softened. Once cooked, turn off heat and set pan aside.
    3. Cook pasta to package directions. Be sure to salt the water – 1 tablespoon salt per 3 quarts of water. Three minutes before pasta is ready, add peas. Drain pasta and peas, reserving 3 cups of the pasta water and set aside.
    4. The original recipe tells you to add the pasta to the large pot with the shallots and then mix in the sauce ingredients. I did it this way and found that the cheese was very clumpy. It tasted good, but I didn’t get a smooth sauce. So, I am modifying the directions. Return the pancetta/shallot pan back to the stove and turn the heat on to medium-high. Immediately add ½ cup pasta water, ½ cup milk and ½ cup parmesan cheese. Whisk well. Add remainder of the parmesan cheese and milk and keep whisking. If the sauce is too thick or gooey, add pasta water ¼ cup at a time until sauce is creamy. Reduce heat to low then stir in the peas and spaghetti.
    5. Serve topped with additional parmesan cheese and mint leaves if desired.

     


  2. Wednesday, April 13, 2011

    Homemade Playdough Failure and Success…and a Good Coloring Tip!

    Today I’m car-less, it’s raining, and I have a ton of work to do. And Anna doesn’t have any school. In anticipation of a pretty boring day for my little 3-year-old, I decided to whip up some playdough for her.

    I went straight to Make and Takes and found Marie’s favorite playdough recipe. I trust her. She knows what she’s talking about. Sadly, I scoured my cupboards for cream of tartar and came up empty-handed!

    I googled homemade playdough recipes to try to find one that didn’t require cream of tartar. I settled on two recipes – one salt-based and the other baking soda-based.

    Well, the salt-based dough was a total bust. I don’t know if it’s a bum recipe or if I didn’t cook it long enough, but it was super sticky and soft, definitely not a useable dough. Anna decided it just needed to go in the trash, and she was right!

    The baking soda recipe, however, came out great! It was much faster than the other recipe and it makes a nice maleable dough. And, someone pointed out on Twitter, it’s gluten-free. Nice bonus for those of you who need that. I have no idea how long the shelf-life is, but it’s just baking soda and cornstarch, so I think it could probably keep in the fridge wrapped in plastic and in an airtight container for a while.

    Here’s the fun playdough tip I discovered while searching for recipes. Add your food coloring to the water BEFORE mixing with the other ingredients. This worked so great! Of course, if you want to make multiple colors of dough from one recipe, you would need to add the color after it’s cooked, but if you’re just making one color, dissolving the color in the water was a genius idea.

    Here’s the recipe we used today. Although, I’m getting some cream of tartar so I can give Marie’s favorite recipe a go one day!

    Homemade Playdough Failure and Success...and a Good Coloring Tip!
     
    Standard recipe; I found it on this site, but I’ve added my own commentary.
    Author:
    Ingredients
    • 1 cup baking soda
    • ¾ cup water
    • ½ cup cornstarch
    Instructions
    1. If you’re planning to just make one color of playdough, mix your food coloring into the water.
    2. Whisk all ingredients together in a pan. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly with a rubber spatula. Once boiling, you’ll let it cook 2-3 more minutes, until it turns into dough. It’s pretty quick and magical!
    3. Turn dough out onto waxed or parchment paper to cool. Cover the top with plastic wrap so you don’t get a dry film on the top while it cools.
    4. Play!

     


  3. Wednesday, August 25, 2010

    While we’re talking frosty treats…let’s make some frozen yogurt!

    I’m doing something today I never do. I’m recycling a recipe AND a photo. But I just feel like I NEED to. The warm weather calls for it and, since I first wrote about this recipe, there are a lot more of you reading this here blog. I’m saddened to think you may have missed the original homemade frozen yogurt post from back in the day.

    I love my frozen yogurt recipe. Great texture, just sweet enough, and downright addictive. Also, you can freeze the leftovers without it getting icy. (Xanthan gum is the key and worth tracking down!)

    Jane's Homeade Frozen Yogurt
     
    Author:
    Recipe type: Dessert
    Ingredients
    • 2 cups plain yogurt (Trader Joe’s European Style is my favorite yogurt for this, Greek is good too, or just plain old plain yogurt will work as well!)
    • a little less than ½ cup sugar
    • ½ cup milk
    • ⅛ – ¼ teaspoon xanthan gum (see my comment below (comment #2) for more details about xanthan gum)
    Instructions
    1. Mix ingredients together and follow directions for your ice cream maker (Cuisinart – 25 minutes)

    It’s kind of tragic, I haven’t made this frozen yogurt in aeons (which Nate has reminded me of more than once!). I’ve recently discovered Pinkberry and their amazing coconut frozen yogurt. I think today’s post has inspired me to dig out my ice cream maker that’s been hiding and figure out the coconut flavor. Mmmmmmm…..


  4. Tuesday, December 23, 2008

    Vanilla Hot Chocolate Mix

    Need to warm up now that we’re in the dead of winter?

    Then hop to it and make this great vanilla hot chocolate mix!  Our friends the Neilsons brought this mix over the other night (we have been so spoiled this year by homemade yumminess from so many friends!).  Nate and I have had hot chocolate the last two nights. I’m considering NOT sharing with Cate.  Yeah, I’m a great mom, eh?

    Here’s the recipe, if you want to make it for friends…or yourself!

    Vanilla Hot Chocolate Mix
     
    Author:
    Ingredients
    • 4 cups granulated sugar
    • ½ vanilla bean, split crosswise (see tips, below)
    • 1½ pounds high-quality semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
    • 8 ounces milk chocolate, coarsely chopped
    • 2 cups unsweetened cocoa powder, preferably Dutch process (see tips, below)
    Instructions
    1. Place sugar in large bowl. Split half vanilla bean lengthwise, scrape seeds into sugar, and add pod. Work seeds in with your fingers. Cover snugly with plastic wrap and let stand overnight at room temperature.
    2. In food processor fitted with metal blade, process semisweet chocolate and milk chocolate until finely ground, using 4-second pulses. (Process in two batches if necessary.)
    3. Remove pod from sugar. Add ground chocolate and cocoa powder to sugar and whisk to blend.
    4. Store mix airtight at room temperature for up to six months.
    5. To serve:
    6. For each serving, heat 8 ounces milk in small saucepan over medium heat until scalded (or microwave 2½ minutes at full power). Whisk in ¼ to ⅓ cup mix. Serve with unsweetened softly whipped cream or marshmallows.
    Notes
    Tips:
    ӢSave the other half of the vanilla bean for another use, such as a second batch of vanilla sugar, which keeps indefinitely and can be used in baking, coffee, or simply to sprinkle on fruit or waffles.
    ӢDutch process cocoa has been treated with an alkaline solution, which gives it a darker color and less bitter flavor and makes it dissolve more easily. Droste is a good brand.