Creamy Spinach and Bacon Pasta BakeWhen my husband works from home once every week or every other week I try to cook a good lunch for the both us. But I also try cooking with whatever we have in the cupboards and fridge. I don’t like the idea of being stressed out by not having the ingredients for whatever I want to cook, so I try to make dishes from whatever we have available on hand, and usually I end up with a new recipe, like this pasta bake. My husband liked this very much and even had a second helping of this for lunch today, so every time a dish gets rave reviews from family and friends or if I am not too lazy to write a recipe to post, I always do want to share it. And this recipe is super easy and very comforting and tasty. Spinach, bacon, cream and cheese, need I say more? Like really?!
500 grams penne or Ziti or macaroni (whatever fun shape of pasta you like, cooked al dente) *1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter* 3 rashers low-salt bacon, coarsely chopped* 1/2 cup white onion, chopped* 1 Tablespoon fresh tarragon, chopped* 10 Oz (283 grams box) frozen creamed spinach* 2 Tablespoons dry sherry* 2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour* 1 1/2 cups full-fat milk* 1 1/2 cups cream* 1/4 teaspoon grated or ground nutmeg* 2 teaspoon spicy brown mustard (or dijon if you prefer)* Salt and pepper according to taste* 2 cups grated Gruyere cheese, divided into 2 (1 cup to mix in the sauce, 1 cup to top the whole dish before baking in the oven)*
In a saucepan over medium heat, melt butter, add chopped bacon and brown lightly then add chopped onion, saute until onions are soft. Add chopped fresh tarragon, add dry sherry and simmer until alcohol evaporates (you’ll know it when the aroma of alcohol is gone). Add flour and stir the mixture, add frozen creamed spinach. Add the milk first and stir mixture until sauce is smooth then add cream. Season with salt and pepper, nutmeg and mustard. Gently stir sauce until it thickens then remove from the stove. Stir in 1 cup of grated gruyere cheese. Put cooked pasta in a large mixing bowl, pour over sauce and gently mix. Pour into buttered baking dish. Sprinkle remaining 1 cup of cheese on top. Bake in a 375’F preheated oven for 30-40 mins or until top is lightly browned and cheese is melted and crusty. Serves 6
Maple and Almond Nut Tarts
Sweet Dough (tart shell)
2 1/3 cups unsifted all-purpose flour (*spooned gently into measuring cup, do not tap or shake cup when measuring)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, cold and cut into cubes
1 whole egg
- In a food processor, pulse all sweet dough ingredients together until the dough comes together.
- Wrap dough in cling film, and chill for 30 minutes inside the fridge.
Maple and Almond Filling
2 large eggs
3/4 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 cup maple syrup
1 teaspoon cinnamon powder
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 tablespoons melted butter
4 cups coarsely chopped almonds (or you can also use slivered almonds)
- Mix all filling ingredients together and set the mixture aside.
- Preheat oven at 350’F
- You will need 4 mini (12-mould) muffin pans.
- Take the dough out of the fridge and scoop 1 tablespoon of dough into each mini muffin mould. Press dough and create a cylindrical indentation to hold the filling.
- Spoon filling in each prepared unbaked shells.
- Bake tarts for 20-25 minutes or until light golden brown.
- Lift tarts from moulds 5 minutes after taking the pans out of the oven. Cool tarts on wire racks.
Makes 48 mini tarts
Easy Crustless Cheese Pizza (recipe adapted from Nigella Lawson’s crustless pizza recipe from Nigella Kitchen)
These days I like simple flavors, and quite surprisingly, I am having a bit of aversion to really salty bold flavors such as cured meats.
Last Sunday, my husband ordered a Meat Lovers pizza which we normally enjoy but because of my pregnancy my tastebud is super sensitive that I become so overwhelmed by strong food flavors. So I ended up more enjoying the pizza crust edges dipped in tomato ketchup.
Southwestern Spicy Mesquite Barbecued Chicken Flatbread Pizza
This is another one of my Flatbread pizza creations. Barbecued chicken thigh fillets marinated and rubbed with mesquite seasoning, smoked paprika, cayenne, black pepper and bacon fat, grilled and cubed. Other toppings are sliced red onions, sliced orange bell peppers, Chipotle salsa mixed with nacho cheese - salsa and dried oregano, and mozzarella cheese all on top of mini flatbreads.Serve with wedges of lemon or lime and sour cream on the side.
Recipe: CHICKEN ADOBO IN COCONUT SAUCE WITH PINEAPPLE
Because the recipe for this was requested. Typing this on my phone while eating this for lunch.
1 pound chicken thigh fillet cut into chunks
1/2 cup (Filipino soy sauce, not the Japanese Kikkoman, try to buy Datu Puti brand)
2 Tablespoons worcestershire sauce
1/3 cup white cane vinegar (white regular vinegar will do or also try to buy Datu Puti white vinegar at a Filipino store)
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
3 bay leaves
1 whole head of garlic, cloves separated, peeled and sliced
Cracked black pepper to taste
- Marinate the chicken pieces with all these ingredients overnight in a ziploc bag. The next day, pour entire contents of ziploc bag in a tall enough saute pan, add 1/2 cup canned pineapple chunks and 3 cups of water. Turn on heat to high until it boils then turn heat to low and simmer slowly, braise for 30mins-45mins or until you are left with a third of liquid, reduced sauce.
Add, 1/2 cup unsweetened coconut cream (for cooking, preferably made in Thailand)and simmer until sauce thickens.
Serve with plain boiled white rice.
Simple Home Cooked Meal:
Citrus and Spice Marinated Grilled Lamb Loin Chops and Butter Sauteed Asparagus with Bacon
Sunday dinner and my husband was solely responsible for these perfectly grilled chops, tender and buttery asparagus spears with (literally) bacon confetti… any excuse to incorporate bacon in a dish and we always go for it.
2.5 lbs Lamb loin chops (1 1/2 inch-thick chops)
juice of 1 lemon
juice of 2 oranges
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon powdered dried oregano leaves
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon cumin powder
1 Tablespoon (Mexican) Adobo Seasoning
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon red chili flakes (optional)
2 teaspoons sea salt (or according to taste and DO NOT USE TABLE SALT)
1 lb Asparagus spears
1 Tablespoon Butter
Crisp bacon bits (3 rashers)
- Put lamb loin chops in a large ziploc bag.
- In a bowl, combine all marinade ingredients and pour into the ziploc bag with the lamb chops. Securely seal bag and massage the marinade into the meat. Let meat marinate for at least 30 minutes before grilling (much better to marinate overnight for the marinade to completely sip-through the meat).
- Grill (cook) loin chops according to your preferred doneness. It is very crucial to rest meat (at least 8 minutes) before serving and eating it so that meat evenly cooks and stay tender and moist.
- Put bacon bits in a cold non-stick skillet, fry until fat renders out and bacon bits are crisp. Drain on paper towels. Set aside.
- Saute asparagus spears in butter until tender.
- Assemble everything. Serve. Eat. Belly Happy.
Cook’s note: Juice of citrus fruits like lemon and orange in marinades help to tenderize meat. The acid in citrus breaks down the protein fibers of meat, therefore, making it tender. And these Lamb loin chops were very tender.
Putting oil (fat) like olive oil, garlic oil, etc. in marinades help the meat (specially when it will be grilled) stay moist and succulent as it cooks.
You can also serve these grilled chops with Chimichurri (a herbaceous Argentinean condiment made with chopped fresh parsley, oregano (or fresh cilantro), garlic, white wine vinegar, olive oil and chili) as if you are in a Churrascaria.
My Mint Chimichurri
handful of fresh parsley, chopped
handful of fresh mint, chopped
handful of fresh cilantro/coriander, chopped
5 cloves of garlic (from a large head), minced fine
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
juice of 1 lemon
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
red chili flakes (according to taste)
salt (to taste)
- Combine all ingredients together. Serve with grilled lamb chops.
(My recipe / Hub’s cooking and photos)
I know that nori from Korea are exactly like these nori chips I have here, fried and salted with a hint of toasted sesame oil and you can always buy nori like this from any Asian food isle in most stores these days. But these nori chips are made from Japanese nori sheets (10”x10” sheets usually for making sushi rolls or cut into smaller sheets for garnishing ramen) which are dry (not fried) and unseasoned.
I do love store-bought Korean nori a lot (because then I wouldn’t have to fry my own), but most of the time the ones I find in stores are either rancid or soft and very greasy, sometimes a tad salty, but these nori chips are crunchy and stands and stacks in bowls beautifully enough to serve at parties. And since I do have Japanese nori sheets in the cupboard and freshly made is always better, I stood in front of the stove with kitchen sheers in my hand and got crafty with the sheets (this kinda sounds foul… but you know what I mean).
What you need:
1 pack (10 pieces, 10”x10”) Japanese nori sheets
1/3 cup canola oil
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
table salt for seasoning, better if it is in a salt shaker
(this is the only time I am recommending
the use of this kind of salt because this salt easily sticks on the
hot nori and you need just a small pinch of this stuff to season a batch)
8 inch fry pan/skillet
pair of kitchen tongs
plate lined with paper towels
cookie sheet lined with paper towels
1. Cut nori sheets in 2”x3” inch pieces, or better yet, cut each sheet in half
then cut each half sheet into 1/3’s.
2. Put canola oil in a skillet over medium heat, wait for the oil to get hot
then turn down heat to low, add a teaspoon of sesame oil into the pan.
3. Fry 2-3 pieces of nori at a time, the minute the nori sheets scrunch-up,
2 seconds after they hit the hot oil, immediately turn the sheets over
and fry the other side for 2-3 seconds.
4. Fish-out the nori chips from the oil, and put on a plate lined with paper
towels. Immediately season with salt.
5. Transfer the fried and seasoned nori on a cookie sheet lined with paper towels.
- Repeat Steps 3-5.
- Pile fried nori in a bowl and serve as is or with Wasabi Mayo dip.
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon wasabi paste
- mix all ingredients until mixture is smooth.
Buttermilk and Honey Biscuits
I have to admit, I am a bit shy about posting the recipe for these sweet biscuits, but because these biscuits came out so darn flaky, tender, buttery and scrumptious… I guess I have to be shameless.
Ingredients: Pre-heat oven at 375’F
4 cups Bisquick mix (yes, the pre-mixed pancake/waffle boxed mix)
2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
1/3 cup buttermilk
1 medium-size whole egg
1 Tablespoon honey
extra Bisquick mix or plain all-purpose flour (for dusting)
2 Tablespoons milk + 1 Tablespoon honey
(mix to brush the top of the biscuits before baking)
- Combine bisquick mix and baking powder in a mixing bowl, add cold cubed butter.
Work the butter into the flour mixture using a pastry cutter or
by rubbing your fingers against the flour and butter until mixture
resembles coarse medium crumbs.
- Mix buttermilk, egg and honey and beat with a fork until well combined.
Gradually add the buttermilk mixture into the flour mixture in
the center of the mixing bowl, use a fork to gently incorporate the wet
and dry ingredients until mixture gathers into a soft (but not sticky and wet) dough.
If mixture is sticky, add 1-2 Tablespoons more of Bisquick or plain flour… just feel the dough :D
- Turn out the dough onto a floured surface, flatten the dough with the palm
of your hands (do not knead, overworking/kneading the dough will make the biscuits tough)
into a 1-inch disk.
- Using a 2-inch diameter round biscuit cutter, cut the dough into rounds.
- Place cut dough (2 inches apart) onto a parchment lined cookie sheet.
- Combine the milk and honey. Using a pastry brush, paint the biscuit tops with the mixture.
- Bake biscuits for 15-18 minutes, or until tops are light golden brown.
- Serve fresh and hot out of the oven as is or spread with jam,
whipped or clotted cream or a drizzle of honey.
Makes 1 dozen
Spaghetti and Spicy Meatballs (Recipe)
This week, my Spaghetti and Spicy Meatballs photo post became VERY popular, not only it got featured on the #Food page (not my doing since we Tumblr editors cannot tag our own posts) but it was on Tumblr Radar twice (Sunday and Tuesday), ridiculous and delirious really, but I did came to the conclusion that people of the world are big BIG pasta lovers (as also with the case of my other pasta post Spaghetti in Garlic Gravy with Lemon and Herb Marinated Chicken and Cherry Tomatoes… now a Pinterest (jeanniegos) and Google Search utter success).
So I think I owe it to my old and new followers the recipe for this pasta dish.
Caution: This dish is quite addictive as with all food with bacon and cheese… and this recipe has both! Also harmful to peoples thighs and waists. Induces carb coma to individuals who will consume 3-4 servings of the dish in one sitting.
Disclaimer: Author of this recipe will not be held accountable for folks who might or will sleepwalk to their fridges and "sleep eat" their left-overs of this dish. (Author of this recipe already has her own “sleep eating” problems.)
For the Spicy Meatballs
Creamy Chorizo and Gruyère Scrambled Eggs
(The Perfect Continental Brunch)
These days I love having brunch more than breakfast because the mindset I have right now is doing brunch is like killing two birds with one stone. When I eat breakfast, I usually find myself still full to eat lunch, and when I skip lunch then I always end up feeling terribly hungry and sooo grumpy by mid-afternoon. So eating brunch between 10:30 am - 11:00 am works so well for me and keeps me full and NOT grumpy until dinner time.
I say this is the perfect continental brunch because this scrambled eggs dish is very satisfying and savoury and really verging on as a proper entree with ingredients from East and West continents- Chinese Chorizo Pork Sausage and Chives from the East, and Creme Fraiche, English Mustard, Gruyere Cheese and beurre noisette (brown butter) from the West, eaten with fresh and crisp torn piece/s of (now universal, I believe) baguette.
I like my scrambled eggs creamy, this means it’s neither runny nor gnarly solid, but you can cook YOUR scrambled eggs according to your preference… but this recipe still makes the eggs taste creamy and, dare I say it, rich. Well, I don’t recommend you make this dish everyday, but just make this for a special day, for a special someone (wink, wink).
2 large organic eggs
2 Tablespoons grated Gruyere cheese
1 Tablespoon Creme Fraiche
1/2 teaspoon English mustard
1 link Chinese Chorizo pork sausage, diced
(or Spanish Chorizo or any sausage that is your favourite)
1 Tablespoon beurre noisette/ brown butter
(just melt a tablespoon of unsalted butter in a small pan and cook until brown, which takes 10-15 seconds)
1 teaspoon chopped chives (optional)
- Heat a small non-stick skillet, cook the diced sausage until brown (fry sausage in its own fat rendered into the skillet). Drain on paper towel. Set aside.
- In a bowl, add eggs, cheese, creme fraiche and mustard then season with fresh cracked black pepper (I don’t recommend seasoning this dish with salt since the sausage and cheese are already very flavourful). Beat all ingredients until well mixed.
- In a non-stick skillet, over medium heat, scramble eggs by stirring gently, 10 seconds into cooking the eggs add the cooked sausage bits and continue stirring until eggs cook to your desired consistency, 25-30 seconds for runny scrambled eggs, 35-45 seconds for an “in between” creamy eggs and 45- 60 seconds for well done knobbly scrambled eggs.
- Remove from heat, transfer to a plate. Drizzle over with brown butter (beurre noisette) and sprinkle chopped chives (optional).
Note: The nuttiness of the brown butter compliments the richness of the eggs. The slight tinge of acidity from the mustard and creme fraiche cuts in the richness of the whole egg dish.
All About The Unctuous EGG
A perfectly poached or soft-boiled egg, for me, is my idea of easy and comforting spoonful of luxurious heaven.
Oozy, runny and warm golden yolk, so creamy and velvety, easily coating anything that is dipped or dressed in it. The only word I could think of to best describe a perfect cooked egg is Unctuous - rich, lush, intense, delicate, soft, velvety.
They say that the hardest ingredient to cook is egg, and I believe this is true. In a matter of a second one can easily overcook an egg (unless you are indeed aiming for a very solid yolk that of an over hard or hard hard-boiled egg). Even world renowned, Michelin-starred chefs (e.g Heston Blumenthal, David Chang, Wylie Dufresne) become obsessed mastering the art, technique and methodology of egg cookery, they are even on a race with each other to invent the most clever, even scientific way of cooking eggs. Case in point, Heston Blumenthal's precise, scientific and molecular gastronomic approach here (video link).
I myself have a few secrets cooking scrambled, boiled and over-easy (which is never really turned over, but I will explain in a moment) eggs.
For my scrambled eggs:
I used to whisk-in a splash of milk (full fat) with eggs I scrambled, but I always found my scrambled eggs, after I turned off the heat and transferred it on the plate, to suddenly leech out water, which made my scrambled eggs a bit soupy in a way. I believe, it’s because the milk proteins in milk separates and the milk proteins and the protein in the eggs whites (albumin) coagulates together after heat is applied, and so the water from both the egg whites and milk (whey) gets separated from the coagulated proteins and leak out.
So here is my fool-proof and very tasty recipe for
Creamy Scrambled Eggs (Serves 1)
2 whole eggs
1 Tablespoon Crème fraîche (or substitute Sour Cream)
pinch of sea salt and a crack of fresh black pepper
1 teaspoon butter
- In a bowl, put eggs, Crème fraîche and salt and pepper. Whisk until well beaten.
- In a small skillet over low heat, melt butter. When butter is bubbly, add the egg mixture and gently stir until egg mixture starts to curdle, for soft scrambled eggs cook for 1 min. to 1 1/2 mins. maximum, for firmer almost knobly scrambled eggs, cook for 2 mins.
Crème fraîche has 30%- 45% butterfat, it is produced by adding bacterial culture to heavy cream (36% - 45% or more butterfat), an egg yolk contains approximately 4.5 grams of fat and makes up 1/3 of the weight of a whole egg, while egg white even though it makes up 2/3 of the weight of a whole egg, egg white contains nearly 92% of water. Milk contains more water than butterfat even in full fat milk.
Fat from creme fraiche and egg yolks overwhelm the amount of water present in egg whites, therefore it produces a creamier and denser scrambled eggs than scrambled eggs with 1 or 2 tablespoons of milk.
This just means, food and cooking are both complete science if you think about it.
Asian Soft Scrambled Eggs (Serves 1)
2 whole eggs
1 Tablespoon heavy cream
1 teaspoon oyster sauce
a crack of fresh black pepper
1 teaspoon flavourless oil (grape seed or canola oil)
4-6 drops of white truffle oil (this is intensely flavoured and very expensive oil, a few drops is really all it takes)
or if one is on a budget, just substitute the same amount of sesame seed oil.
- Mix first 4 ingredients and whisk until well beaten.
- In a small skillet over low heat, heat oil. When oil is decently hot but not (never smoking) gently stir-in the egg mixture.
- Cook for 1 minute no more. Transfer to a plate and dot drops of white truffle oil on top.
For my Over-Easy (but never turned over) Egg:
I am heavy handed and can never do a gentle soft toss or flip, so flipping over an egg in the skillet briefly and gently and cautiously flipping it back up after 3 seconds for over-easy egg is a horrible daunting task (I was never in the egg station) for me.
So what I do is heat a small skillet over low fire, add 1 Tablespoon of oil or butter (but I usually just use canola oil) while the egg gently cooks, I gently spoon hot fat over the yolk until it forms a thin white veil or blanket. The yolk is still oozy and runny inside but the top is cooked. Not very cheffy-like, but it is practical!!!
For my Boiled Egg:
I put 1 or 2 eggs in a small saucepan 2/3 full of water, I add approximately 2 teaspoons of white vinegar, I do this because if ever my eggs will crack in the boiling water while it is still in its liquid state, the vinegar which is straight forward an acid will help stop the raw egg white to ooze out by instantly coagulating the proteins in the egg white. So putting vinegar is in fact a preventive measure.
When the water boils, turn off heat and let egg/s stand inside the covered saucepan of hot water for 6 mins. if using a large- extra large egg add additional 2 minutes.
Semi Hard-Boiled Egg:
When the water boils, turn down heat to low and let the egg/s simmer for 2 mins. then remove from heat and let egg/s stand inside the covered saucepan of hot water for 4 mins.
When the water boils, turn down heat to low and let the egg/s simmer for 6 mins. then remove from heat and let egg/s stand inside the covered saucepan of hot water for 4 mins.
This method will not make the yolks develop green rings (iron sulfide coating) instead the yolk is firm and still a bit creamy and not overcooked.
For the Perfect Poached Egg:
Just follow Heston Blumenthal’s technique from the video link I provided earlier in this post… it’s brilliant!
To easily remove the shell of a semi-hard and hard-boiled egg, the second you remove the egg/s from the hot water, immediately shock the egg/s in an ice bath (a bowl of water with lots of ice).
When cracking a fresh egg, do not crack the egg with the rim of the bowl, the small broken shells tend to go inside where the bowl put an inward dent and pierced through the broken membrane, this is how you get small broken shells mixed in with the egg in the bowl. Instead, gently tap the egg on the counter or work surface, this creates large cracks and does not puncture the protective membrane of the egg.
Upside-Down Bacony Italian Meatloaf
This is my husband’s meatloaf masterpiece, I see it as a beautiful rustic bacon-enrobed brick of succulent spiced meat.
I love that my husband is indeed very capable in the kitchen, and I love the fact that even in the kitchen we are a solid team, meaning I can never and will never claim the kitchen as “my” turf in our home, but it will always be “our” place where he is as passionate as I am about cooking, baking and eating.
And although this meatloaf is my recipe, my wonderful husband did every single prep work, baking, picture taking, eating and raving about how “f”**ing awesome!” this is. And so this is my husband’s home cooking, and this meatloaf is nothing short of awesome.
(Asian) Ham Wraps
These tasty wraps are super simple, easy and even inexpensive (not to mention kinda healthy) to make as appetizer, snack or entree (if one eats a dozen) that I am utterly convinced this dish can even easily replace Cup Noodles (Ramen) in every college kid’s diet.
Simple really, all you need are Chinese pancakes or flour tortillas, fried matchstick slices of ham, julienned red and green bell peppers, scallions (spring onions), torn iceberg lettuce and hoisin sauce (if you are actually making it “Asian”) or your favourite store-bought bottle of barbecue sauce.
Fresh, salty, sweet and savoury, oh, and I did mentioned “kinda healthy”.
Chilli and Garlic Sauteed Prawns
I think this is the most easy yet most tasty dish to cook and eat with crunchy garlic bread.
All you do is saute crushed garlic and chilli flakes in butter (or olive oil) until garlic is soft and fragrant, then throw in shelled and deveined prawns and add a splash of dry white wine, season with salt and pepper. The minute prawns curl and turn orange (cooking time is only 3-5 minutes) remove from heat, sprinkle chopped chives or parsley, serve on crusty garlic bread, and apply to face.