Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Whole Wheat Pasta with Spinach, Garlic, and Bacon



A Slightly Healthier Way to Eat Bacon


Bacon is an ingredient that's all the rage right now and it’s easy to see why. It’s smokey, salty, and fatty and as a result, it tastes of sin. Not only is it forbidden in two of the three Abrahamic religions and vegetarianism and veganism, but as we all know, bacon is chock-full of cholesterol and salt and is therefore a health hazard. However, there is a way to enjoy bacon without putting yourself at risk.

The trick is to use only a little bacon and surround with healthier ingredients. 

This pasta dish does EXACTLY that, smothering the bacon with spinach, garlic, and cherry tomatoes and tossing it with whole wheat noodles for a nice dose of fiber. The bacon is strong enough to hold its own against the other ingredients, and the result is something delicious you don’t have to feel bad about!

(Of course, if you can’t eat bacon, feel free to omit it and use olive oil and butter as your cooking fats. It will taste just fine 😉 )

Here’s How You Do It

Difficulty Level: Medium-Easy
Prep time: 10 Minutes
Cook time: 15-20 minutes
Serves 2 

Ingredients

3 Strips of Low Sodium Bacon, thinly chopped

1 ¼ Cups Frozen Chopped Spinach, thawed – about half of a 300g pack

1 Cup of Chopped Cherry or Grape Tomatoes

2 Scallions aka Green Onions, finely chopped

2 Cloves of Garlic, peeled and finely chopped

Pinch of Hot Pepper flakes, Optional

1 Tablespoon of prepared Pesto

Salt and Pepper to taste

½ of a 375g box of Whole Wheat Pasta

Equipment

1 Knife and Cutting Board

Measuring Cups and Spoons

1 Pot

1 Frying Pan

1 Wooden Spoon

1 Pair of Tongs

1 Strainer

Fill a pot with water and get your pasta started, boiling and stirring occasionally with your tongs until it’s your level of doneness. When it’s ready, drain off most but not all of the water.

While the pasta is boiling, in a pan on medium high heat, dump the bacon and a cup of water.

Stir the bacon occasionally with a wooden spoon until the water has evaporated, the meat has released its wonderful fat, and is crisp around the edges.

Scoop the bacon into a regular bowl and set aside.

Pour off half the fat in the pan and discard or put in an airtight container for future use.

Raise the heat to high and add the spinach, stirring it around until heated slightly.

Add the tomatoes and green onions and stir for another three minutes.

Add the garlic and hot pepper flakes (if using) and stir all together until you smell the cooked garlic.

Add the pesto and stir again.

Add the bacon back into the pan and stir again.

Taste and adjust for salt if needed. Season generously with fresh pepper.

Add the pasta to your pan and toss everything together with your trusty tongs until well combined.

Serve with a little parmesan cheese and enjoy!

-Samantha R. Gold

Questions? Comments? Requests?

Bring it on!

I can be reached at:  for.the.culinarily.challenged@gmail.com

Trolls will be unceremoniously deleted and dismissed.




Tuesday, September 12, 2017

No-Bake Chocolate Peanut Butter Crunch Cookies



No-Bake cookies were all the rage in the 70s as more women freed themselves from the shackles of their domestic prisons and entered the workforce. Tighter schedules meant less time to bake goodies for screaming children, so clever cooks came up with more no bake treats that went beyond the classic rice krispie square.

This recipe is a riff on one I found in a 1970s copy of Better Homes and Gardens Cookies and Bars cookbook. The original recipe used butterscotch chips instead of chocolate, but having tried the former, I can tell you the flavor was so artificial and sweet it gave me a bit of a headache. In an attempt to make this work, I did a little tweaking and was so happy with the result that I HAD to share it with you.

Like the original recipe, I use peanut butter and cereal, but I use bittersweet chocolate chips instead of butterscotch and add a hit of sea salt to cut the sugar a bit. The result is something so crunchy and melty-good you’ll have trouble sharing them!

Here’s How You Do It

Difficulty Level: Easy
Total Prep time: 15 Minutes
Fridge Time: 1 Hour

Yields about 2 dozen cookies, depending on how you big you make them

Ingredients

3 Cups of Frosted Flakes Cereal – Generic brand is just fine – buy what’s on sale.

1 Cup of Bittersweet Chocolate Chips

½ Cup of Smooth Peanut Butter

½ Teaspoon of Sea Salt

Equipment

1 Metal Mixing Bowl

1 Medium Size Pot

1 Wooden Spoon or Rubber Spatula

Measuring Cups and Spoons

Oven Mitts

Parchment Paper – Available in dollar stores and major grocery stores with the plastic wrap and aluminum foil

2 Baking Pans

1 Regular Spoon

Line your baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside for now.

Fill your pot 3/4 of the way with hot water and put it on the stove on low heat.

Dump the peanut butter and chocolate chips in the metal mixing bowl and rest it atop the pot of water.

Stir occasionally with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula, holding the bowl steady with an oven mitted hand until the chips are completely melted and combined with the peanut butter.

Turn off the heat and rest the bowl on a trivet on the counter.

Stir in the sea salt.

Add the cereal and stir until it’s evenly coated with the chocolate and peanut butter mixture.

Using your trusty spoon, drop blobs of the cereal mixture onto the lined baking sheets, smoothing with the back of your spoon to form a round cookie.

Repeat the process, spacing them about half an inch apart. They won’t be perfect, and they don’t have to be.

Make some room in the fridge and put the cookie covered baking sheets in the fridge to set. It will take about an hour.

Once they’re set, you can put them in a plastic container.

They’ll keep in the fridge for at least 2 weeks…

But they won’t last that long!

Enjoy!

-Samantha R. Gold

Questions? Comments? Requests?

Bring it on!

I can be reached at:  for.the.culinarily.challenged@gmail.com

Trolls will be unceremoniously deleted and dismissed.




Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Lazy Eggplant Parmesan


Nothing says comfort food quite like something baked with tomato sauce, cheese, and breadcrumbs, and no dish embodies it quite like eggplant parmesan. A deliciously layered dish of thinly sliced eggplant, tomato sauce and bubbling hot mozzarella, it’s a dish that will make anyone happy to eat their veggies. Sadly, there is a problem with traditional eggplant parm…

…It’s a pain in the butt to make.

Traditional Eggplant Parmesan requires that you thinly and laboriously slice some eggplant, dip each slice in flour, egg, and breadcrumbs, fry it all until it’s brown, AND THEN layer on the sauce and cheese before baking in the oven. People call it a labor of love, but the reason they say that is because you REALLY have to love the dish or the person you’re making it for in order to do it the old fashioned way.

Fortunately, I did some tinkering and figured out how to achieve a similar flavor and texture with a fraction of the work and time. The result is something that looks more like a casserole when sliced, but tastes just like Eggplant Parmesan!

Here’s How You Do It

Difficulty Level: Medium -Easy
Prep  time: 15 Minutes
Cook Time: 60 Minutes

Serves  2 to 4 Depending on Appetites


Ingredients

1 Large Eggplant, stem removed and flesh cut into even medium-small chunks

3 Cups of your favorite Tomato or Meat Sauce – Homemade is ideal but store-bought is fine

2 ½ Cups Grated Mozzarella Cheese

1 Cup Italian Style Breadcrumbs – These are breadcrumbs that have dried cheese and seasonings added to them.

2 Tablespoons of Grated Parmesan Cheese

2 Tablespoons of Olive Oil

Salt and Pepper, to taste

Chili flakes - Optional

Equipment

1 Medium baking dish – you want something with some depth to it

1 Knife and Cutting Board

Measuring Cups and Spoons

1 Box Grater

1 Regular Bowl

1 Frying Pan

1 Spatula

Preheat your oven to 350 o F.

Season the eggplant pieces with salt, pepper and chili flakes (if using).

Heat the Olive Oil in your frying pan on medium high heat.

Add the eggplant to your pan and cook, moving it around with your spatula until the eggplant has shrunk in size by about a third.

Carefully add your sauce of choice and stir everything around, continuing to cook for another five minutes so the eggplant has softened a little more and the sauce is heated through and fully combined.

Dump half the eggplant in the baking dish and cover with half the grated mozzarella, half the parmesan cheese, and half the breadcrumbs, in that order.

Turn off the stove and take the pan with the remaining eggplant off the heat, cover it, and set it aside for now.

Pop the baking dish in the oven and walk away for 20 minutes. This will allow the breadcrumbs to brown and crisp a bit.

Take the pan out of the oven and dump in the remaining eggplant.

Cover with the remaining mozzarella, parmesan, and breadcrumbs.

Put the dish back in the oven, set a timer for 40 minutes and walk away.

The result will be something bubbly and delicious!

Let it cool on the counter for 10 minutes so it’s not napalm-hot and serve!

Enjoy!

-Samantha R. Gold

Questions? Comments? Requests?

Bring it on!

I can be reached at:  for.the.culinarily.challenged@gmail.com

Trolls will be unceremoniously deleted and dismissed.