Potato Pancakes

Latkes. Boxty. Croquettes. Potato pancakes. These little treats should be super easy, right? Shredded potatoes, an egg, a bit of flour, little s&p, no problem? Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.

Raw potatoes can take an eternity to cook, especially if you fry them. I’ve attempted to make potato pancakes on numerous occasions with varied success. I’ve tried them with shredded, uncooked potatoes. I’ve made them with soaked shredded potatoes. I’ve made with with leftover mashed potatoes. I’ve made them with cheese & cream. I’ve made them after a failed attempt at hashbrowns. I’ve made them with apples. I’ve served them with kielbasa and basil eggs. This is a stupidly easy dish that is stupidly difficult to get right.

This recipe is the one that I will go with from now on. It used a mixture of cooked and shredded potatoes and it’s the only one that really works all the time with a texture that isn’t too mushy like mashed potatoes and isn’t too much like a sort-of-circle of half-cooked hasbrowns.

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Potato Pancakes
yields 6 – 3 inch diameter pancakes

needs:
2 potatoes, peeled, one chopped & one shredded
1 T. butter
1/4 c. minced onions
1 small clove garlic, minced
salt & pepper, to taste
2 T. sour cream (optional)
1 egg
1/3 c. flour
oil for frying
scallions & sour cream for optional garnish

To begin, heat a small saucepan of water to boiling. Place ONLY the chopped potato in the water, cooking for about 8 minutes or until fork tender. Once ready, place the shredded potato in the pot and cook for no more than 2 minutes. Remove from heat & strain the liquid.

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While the potatoes are cooking, you may saute onions & garlic in butter in a saucepan over medium heat until slightly browned.

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Next, combine saute mixture, potatoes, egg, flour, and sour cream in a mixing bowl.

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Mash with a fork, masher, or pastry blender until smooth.

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In a cast iron skillet or heavy frying pan, heat 1/4 inch oil over medium heat. Take a spoonful of the rather sticky potato dough and quickly flip in flour on both sides (the dough shouldn’t be really stiff).

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Place in hot oil and fry and flatten with your hands if you are a daredevil (like me)  or if you are a sensible person who doesn’t like to get burned, a spatula is a handy tool. Fry on both sides until golden.

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Remove from oil and place on a paper toweled plate to cool slightly. Garnish with sour cream, applesauce, or scallions.

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Eggplant Parmesan Stack with Spinach Saute

I used to be obsessed with the PBS program Art:21. I used to watch it, take notes, and make personal powerpoint slides out of the information. I was completely absorbed in how the artists talked about their work and loved being able to see a variety of styles and mediums. (I was so crazy about it that it led me to achieve a second major in art history). On one program, the artist William Kentridge shares his belief that the world is process, not fact. I wrote the quote down then and it stuck with me over the years.

So what does this have to do with anything? I’ve been making eggplant parmesan for years. It is a dish that seems to signify my growth & progress with cooking. It started with way too much garlic, mushrooms, a jar of prego, and barilla whole wheat linguine noodles in my early college days. It evolved to include my first attempts at homemade tomato sauce thickened with corn starch and even featured hand rolled egg noodles. This version is much more visually appealing with a much more complex tomato sauce. It doesn’t even feature noodles! I guess I should add, for fun, this recipe certainly doesn’t represent the fact of eggplant parmesan, but it represents one stage in the process of developing it. hehe.

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Eggplant Parmesan Stack
yields 2-3 servings

sauce:
2 c. tomato sauce, homemade or canned

eggplant + breading:
1 eggplant, peeled and cut into 1/4 in. slices
1 egg, scrambled
2-4 tablespoons milk to thin egg

3/4 c. plain bread crumbs
1/2 t. basil
1/2 t. parsely
1/2 t. oregano
1/2 c. parmesan cheese, grated
salt & pepper, to taste

spinach saute:
1 – 6 oz container spinach leaves
1 T. olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced

garnish:
1/2 c. parmesan
chopped basil for garnish

To begin, ready your eggplant. Heat a saute pan or cast iron skillet with about 1/4 inch canola or vegetable oil over medium heat. In a small saucepan, heat your tomato sauce over medium low heat so it’s ready when your spinach is finished.

In a shallow dish, combine egg & milk (make sure it’s big enough to dip your eggplant in). In another shallow dish or on a plate, combine the bread crumbs, seasoning, and parm cheese.

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Take your prepared eggplant slices and dip in the eggwash, one at a time is easiest. Dredge the pieces, both sides, in the breading and immediately place them in the hot oil. Fry on both sides, until golden brown. Repeat until all the pieces are fried.
**Be sure not to have the oil too hot, or the breading will crisp without cooking the eggplant inside.

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In a large saute pan, heat the olive oil and add the garlic, sautéing for just a minute. Add your container of spinach, stir until wilted & dark green in color – 3-4 minutes.

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Time for assembly!

Start with the spinach on the bottom of the plate. Make sure the spinach is patted down so it has a flat surface to build from. Add a piece of eggplant. Top it with a  few spoonfuls of sauce. Add a full pinch of parm and repeat!

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Don’t overstack! Try to use the larger pieces towards the bottom and the smaller pieces to the top. Garnish with a little chopped basil.

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Almond Cashew Tofu

I worked in an asian restaurant for a grand total of four years. I’ve been covered, seemingly head to foot, with a variety of dark, white, and sichuan sauces. I’ve eaten endless bowls of rice and stir-fried vegetables and I’ve recommended countless Mongolian Beefs, Ginger Chickens, and Ma Po Tofus.

However, it’s been a few months since rice has been a staple of my diet. I feel my sodium levels are no doubt back to normal and thus I am finally able to happily make stir fries and pad thais at home.

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Almond Cashew Tofu
yields 4 servings

needs:
sauce
2 c. veggie broth
1/4 c. soy sauce
1 T. sesame oil
1 T. minced ginger root
1 minced clove of garlic
1-2 T. sugar
a few dashes of red pepper flakes
1 T. corn starch dissolved in 2 T. water

stir-fry
1/2 sweet or white onion, cut 1×1 inch
1 green pepper, cut 1×1 inch
1 c. green beams, cut into 1 inch pieces
1/4 c. cashew halves, unsalted
1/4 c. whole almonds, roughly chopped
1 package organic extra firm tofu
flour for dusting tofu
canola or vegetable oil for frying

To make the sauce, start with a little oil in a saucepan. Add the garlic and ginger just sautéing a little until fragrant, 1-2 minutes. Add the veggie broth, soy sauce, sesame oil, red pepper flakes, and sugar. Heat until simmering. Add the corn starch, allowing the sauce to thicken. Remove from heat & set aside.

In a large saute pan or cast iron skillet, heat about 1/4 inch canola or veggie oil over med-high heat. While the oil warms up, open and drain liquid from the tofu package. Cut the tofu block into cubes, about 1×1 inch. Pour a little flour in a dish or pie plate. Gently roll the tofu in the flour and transfer to hot oil. Fry on all sides until slightly golden brown. Transfer to paper toweled plate and set aside. (or skip the frying if you prefer just plain silken tofu)

In a wok or large saute pan, start with a little oil. Add the cashew & almonds and toast gently for 1-2 minutes. Remove with the nuts with a slated spoon and set aside. Add the onions, allowing them to turn slightly translucent and fragrant, 3-4 minutes. Add the green beans & green pepper and the prepared sauce. Saute together for about 8-10 minutes. Before removing from heat, add in the fried tofu and nuts and toss together or another 1-2 minutes. Remove from heat & serve immediately with rice or noodles.

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Spicy White Cheddar Mac & Cheese

We all have our kitchen staples, you know, things that, when you run out, you finally pick yourself up off the floor to go buy at the grocery store. I must always have eggs, milk or cream, butter, sugar, cheese, and flour. Even when there is embarrassingly little to behold, my staples & I can conjure fresh baked bread or biscuits, homemade pasta, or some elaborate cupcakes for a guest.

This recipe for homemade mac & cheese is one of the recipes that I can throw together quickly with whatever-is-left. Sometimes I don’t have bacon. So what! I’ll use Italian sausage. I don’t have a jalapeno? Whatever. I’ll add a little extra sriracha and some potatoes. I’m sure you could make shredded chicken work deliciously (unleash that creativity!) or you don’t really have to include a meat at all! It’s delicious &  easy & everyone really loves it because it’s no doubt horrible for you 🙂

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Spicy White Cheddar Mac & Cheese
Pasta:
1 1/2 c. dry noodles, cooked al dente (use penne, rotini, mini shells, elbows, or whatever else)

Cheese Sauce:
2 T. butter
2 T. flour
1 1/2 c. milk
1 c. white cheddar, shredded (+ 2 T. for top)
1 T. sriracha sauce
salt & pepper, to taste

Filling:
1/2 onion, minced
1/3 c. corn
1 jalapeno, seeded & minced

Topping:
1/4 c. panko
1 T. butter
2 slices bacon, cooked & chopped
reserved 2 T. white cheddar

To begin, boil salted hot water & cook your noodle of choice to al dente following directions on package. Strain in a colander and set aside until further assembly.

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Meanwhile, we’ll begin the cheese sauce. In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the flour, mixing in with the melted butter to make a smooth paste, cooking for just a minute or two.

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Pour in the milk. Add a dash of salt & pepper. Continue to heat until the milk simmers & starts to thicken, about 3-5 minutes depending on your stove. Once it begins to thicken, remove from heat and add the cup of white cheddar & the sriracha sauce. Stir to combine until all the cheese is melted to form a thick sauce. Add more salt, pepper, or sriracha to taste.

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Moving on to the filling…
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In a small saute pan, heat a little butter or oil. Saute onions until slightly browned, about 3-5 minutes. Add the jalapeno & the corn. Continue to saute for another 2-3 minutes. I like the veggies to have a little bit of crunch left to add a bit more texture to mac & cheese.

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Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Separate the noodles into two oven safe bowls or ramekins. Split the veggie mixture and cheese sauce evenly between the two bowls. Fold to combine. Add one piece of chopped bacon to each bowl.

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In one more pan (I know, right? I’m sorry you have so many dishes to do!) Melt one tablespoon of butter. Toast the panko until slightly browned.

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Evenly distribute on top of the bowls & add the reserve cheese. Place in oven for about 10 minutes, or until the cheese melts on top and forms a toasty crust.

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Yum! Mix together with a fork and enjoy all the sweet and spicy flavors + all the different textures of this awesome mac & cheese.

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Spicy Tomato Basil Soup

It has recently come to my attention that I missed Groundhog’s Day. To most people, this is not a big holiday, but for me this tradition might be my favorite thing about America (clearly an exaggeration). But really, I love the absurd and the magical so this groundhog business is absolutely delightful to me. Unfortunately, it passed by without a wave or a nod AND we are scheduled for six more weeks of winter. Ughh. Fortunately, it is sunny & clear skied so I’ve got my fingers crossed that the mystical Punxsutawney Phil Sowerby misspoke this year.

Anyways, we’ve got to find ways to keep happy and warm for another six weeks. I suppose we could always fall back on an old childhood favorite – tomato soup & grilled cheese.
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Spicy Tomato Basil Soup
yields approximately 3 servings

needs:
1 – 28 oz can peeled, whole tomatoes, separate tomatoes from liquid
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1-2 T. olive oil
salt & pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 450.

Separate the canned tomatoes from their reserved juice. Place them on a small, foil lined jelly roll pan or cake pan. Drizzle oil over them with a dash of salt & pepper & the minced garlic. Bake for about 15 minutes.

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2 T. butter
1 shallot, minced
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 carrot, peeled & chopped
1/2 serrano, chopped with seeds in
1 c. veggie broth
1 bay leaf
1/4 c. cream
1/4 c. chopped basil

In a medium sized sauce pan or stock pot, melt the butter and add in the veggies, except the serrano. Cook the veggies down over medium heat for about two minutes. Add the serrano and continue to cook until the veggies are browned & translucent.

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Add the reserved juice from the can of tomatoes & the veggie broth. Drop in a bay leaf and the tomatoes which should be finished roasting. Simmer over medium heat for 15-20 minutes, allowing the flavor to meld.

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When ready, transfer the soup to a blender and add the basil & cream. Blend on high for about 2 minutes or until the soup is smooth.

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Distribute into bowls & serve with crunchy croutons or a grilled cheese!

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Mini Chicken Pot Pies

So, I claimed that this blog would help you to make a variety of dishes from similar ingredients without having to eat the same flavors over & over again. I’ve, so far, not been very good about following my mission statement. I’m working on it.

So let’s think about what we’ve got in the fridge from chicken noodle soup. Carrots, celery, a little leftover chicken, fresh thyme. Maybe a little broth. OK. OK. What else? We always have milk, butter, and flour. Okay. I’ve got it. We’ll make little Sunday night pot pies, one to share or to make everyone jealous about at work!
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Mini Chicken Pot Pies
yields 2 pot pies

For the recipe, I am using Calphalon mini pie pans. There is no way I can eat a traditional sized pie by myself. Also, I am over the moon at how precious these pans are!

crust:
1 cup flour
pinch of salt
6 T. cold butter
4-6 T. cold water

In a mixing bowl, combine the  flour and salt. Cut the butter into the dry ingredients using a pastry blender. Keep working the butter into the flour until the combination looks like a coarse grain. Gradually work the cold water into the dough until a soft dough forms. Cover tightly in plastic wrap & place in freezer (if doing this quickly) or fridge for later on.

Moving onto the sauce now…

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sauce:
1 T. butter
1 T. + 1 t. flour
3 T. milk
1/2 c. chicken or veggie broth
salt & pepper, to taste
a pinch of cayenne pepper

In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the flour and stir quickly to coat. Allow it to cook for 30 sec-1 min. Add the broth & milk. Season to taste. Continue to heat until the sauce thickens. Remove from heat & set aside.

Moving on to the filling…

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filling:
1 T. butter
1 small carrot, chopped
1/2 c. onion, minced
1/3 c. peas, frozen are fine
1 c. shredded chicken, cooked (I used leftover from a rotisserie)
2 stalks celery, thinly chopped
1 sprig thyme, leaves only

In a small saute pan over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the minced onions & thyme. Allow the onions to saute for about 3, or until they start to lose their rigidity and color. Add the celery & carrot and continue to saute for another 3 minutes or so.

**We want the veggies to be softened, but it is important to remember that they still have a little bit of time to cook in the oven. I like them to keep a little crunch in the pies, so try not to cook them down to mush.

In the final moments, add the chicken and peas and heat until everything is warm. Oh and preheat the oven to 375 degrees! We’re almost there!

Time to assemble!

Roll out the dough on a clean working surface. The dough should be pretty thin, but keep it thick enough to move easily without tearing.

Turn the pie pans upside down on the rolled dough. Cut around the outside, leaving about 1/2 in. extra dough around the outside. Do this four times total. You will need one for the pan and one for the top.

Press the first circle down into the pie pans.

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Distribute the veggie & chicken mix evenly between the pie pans. Don’t be afraid to stack it in there!  It will make hearty pies! Next, ladle the sauce over the top of the mix, not covering the ingredients completely, but enough to create a semi-even surface near top of the pan.

Now take the other crust and cover your pie, pressing the doughs together with your fingertips over the rim of the pan. If you can do a decorate edge, this is your time to shine. If you are just hungry and sick of dealing with crusts, press firmly with your fingers or use a fork to create a pattern around the edge. Cut any excess dough off with a dull knife.

With a scoring knife, create a slit in the top of the pie to create an outlet for steam. Place in the oven and let bake for 15-20 minutes, or until the dough is firm and slightly golden.

Remove from oven & let cool for 5 or so minutes. Gently remove pies from pan and enjoy! Try not to burn your tongue!

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Warm & Comforting Chicken Noodle Soup

The polar vortex has finally caught up with me. I feel like my head is an angry balloon. My knuckles are red & cracking from the cold & I am seriously considering giving up on Ohio. Take me to mountain & ocean air!

The sad part about being sick & living alone is that you either have to cook for yourself, hope someone loves you enough to bring you food, or rely on the temporary fix of the fine food establishments surrounding you. Well as it turns out no one loves me & I didn’t want to leave the house multiple times, so this girl zombied around the grocery & made herself some soup.

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Chicken Noodle Soup 
yields approximately 8 servings

1 T. butter
1 onion, minced
2 cloves garlic
3 stalks celery, thinly chopped
2 carrots, cut into quarter inch disks
2 sprigs thyme (leaves only)
2 – 32 oz. chicken broth
2 cups cooked shredded chicken (I used a rotisserie)
salt & pepper, to taste
1 bay leaf
1/4 t. cayenne pepper
1/4 t. turmeric (for color)

In a stock pot on medium heat, combine butter, onion, garlic, and a dash of salt & pepper. Allow the onions to cook down for 1-2 minutes before adding the carrots, thyme sprigs, & celery. Stir occasionally to ensure all the vegetables are cooked evenly. Cook until soft & lightly browned.

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Add both cartons of chicken broth, the bay leaf, turmeric, and cayenne pepper and allow the soup to slowly heat to boiling. In the meantime, we shall make our noodles!

homemade egg noodles:

1 1/4 c. flour
1 egg
1/4 c milk
dash salt

In a bowl, combine the dry ingredients. In a liquid measuring cup, whisk together the milk & egg. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in the egg & milk mixture. Gently mix the two together with a spoon or fork until a rough dough is formed. Turn the dough out on a clean working surface and knead for 2-3 minutes, then form the dough into smooth ball.

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With a rolling pin, roll out the dough to the desired thickness, a little thicker than a nickel, perhaps.

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With a knife or a pizza cutter, cut your noodles into long strips, somewhere between 1/4 in. & 1/2 in. If you like long noodles, keep them long or if you prefer those short 1-2 inch noodles, then you can cut them down accordingly.

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When the noodles are cut, simply scoop them up and drop them into the boiling soup. At this time, you can also add the shredded chicken. The noodles will look puffy & rise to the surface.

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Allow the noodles to simmer in the soup for at least 3-5 minutes. Adjust your salt & pepper ratio to taste and serve your soup  with crusty bread or crunchy crackers.

Here’s to feeling better soon.

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Vegetarian Corn Chowder

When I think about corn, one of two thoughts emerge: the time in college where my best friend couldn’t be convinced to eat anything but bags of reheated frozen corn or that horrible sensation I get from shucking sweet corn, when the silky hairs creep all over my hands and wrists. I also conjure the pictures my mother loves of my siblings & I grinning with sticky smiles & ears of corns as big as our arms teetering precariously between pudgy fingers.

In the spirit of these grand corn memories, I’ve decided to make one of my most favorite soups. I absolutely love combinations of salty & sweet & spicy. I love how vibrant the fresh thyme leaves make an otherwise dull vegetable broth.

Spicy Vegetarian Corn Chowder
yields 3-4 servings

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Needs:
1 T. butter
1/2 yellow onion, minced
1 clove of garlic, minced
3-4 sprigs fresh thyme, just the leaves
1/2 t. salt
1/2 poblano pepper, diced
1/2 jalapeño pepper, minced (or more if you want more spice!)
3 T. flour
2 cans of vegetable broth (or one of those cartons if you prefer to buy the cartons)
1/2 t. cayenne powder
fresh ground black pepper, to taste
1 medium-large potato, cubed
1 c. cream or half & half
3 ears of corn or 1 1/2 c. frozen corn

To begin, melt the butter in a saucepan or stock pot. Add the onions, garlic, & salt. Cook on medium heat until translucent, about 4-5 minutes. Add the thyme leaves, jalapeño, and poblano pepper. Cook until the peppers begin to soften and the onions brown, maybe another 3 minutes. This caramelization process is where much of the rich flavor will derive from for the soup.

Add the flour (this is important for the subsequent thickening of the broth) and toss it around a bit to coat the vegetables in the pot. Pour in the vegetable broth. Add the black pepper & cayenne pepper. Keep soup on medium heat, slowly bringing the broth to boiling. Add the potatoes and cream and allow to simmer for 7-10 minutes, until the potatoes start to break down and the cream begins to thicken the soup. If using fresh or frozen corn, you can add it in once the potatoes and cream begin to simmer. Once the potatoes are soft and broken down, you can remove the pot from the heat & gently use a pastry blender (if and only if your pot is leaves enough room to do this without putting your entire hand in scalding soup) to mash some of the potatoes to add additional thickness or you can leave them as larger chunks, depending on the consistency you desire.

Garnish the soup with fresh thyme sprigs and serve immediately with warm crusty bread.

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Basic Pasta Dough

The best valentine’s day gift I ever received was a bright red Imperia pasta roller. It’s amazing the epiphany you experience when you’ve spent your whole life eating dried & packaged pasta noodles only to discover it’s fluffier, hand rolled counterpart. I will admit that the first time I rolled out the pasta, I was a bit intimidated by how much more work it was in comparison with the drop-handfuls-of-noodles-in-a-boiling-pot method. In time, it became easier and now I think of homemade pasta as a benevolent side dish instead of a leering task.

This recipe relies on Semolina Flour. I use Bob’s Red Mill which can be some trouble to locate. I’ve always found it at Whole Foods & sometimes in the natural food section of the renovated Krogers. The combination of all-purpose flour & semolina is, I feel, the most important part of this recipe. The all purpose flour evens out the coarser semolina, making the dough softer and smoother while the semolina gives the all-purpose a little grit and absorbs the liquid of the dough eliminating the characteristic stickiness from traditional flour doughs. It’s truly a beautiful match.

Basic Pasta Dough

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Dough:
3/4 c. all purpose flour
3/4 c. semolina flour
1 t. salt
2 eggs
2 T. olive oil

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In a bowl, combine the flours and salt. create a well in the center. In a smaller bowl, combine the eggs & olive oil. (It is probably best to scramble the eggs before including them in the dough, but apparently on the photo taking day, I simply just didn’t think to worry about that). Pour the wet ingredients into the center well.

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Starting in the center, (you could scramble the eggs now) gradually work the surrounding flour into the liquid center. Continue until the wet ingredients are incorporated. Turn the dough out on a clean working surface and knead for 3-5 minutes, or until the dough becomes slightly elastic-y.  Cover tightly with plastic wrap for about an hour to allow the liquids to absorb in the flours.

Follow instructions included with your pasta roller to create delicious homemade fettuccine, spaghetti, ravioli, and lasagna.

Super Bowl Series – Boneless Wings

In the first quarter of my life, it seems I have depended on others to teach me some of life’s little wisdoms. My mom taught me the importance of simple pleasures like fresh cut flowers, warm cookies, & fuzzy blankets. My sister taught me how to ride a bike & how to do my hair & makeup (though let’s be honest, I have no idea how to do my hair or makeup). My grandma taught me that blackberry brandy is the best nightcap for a long day.

Some lessons come at a great price and carry a great deal of nostalgia. This recipe is one that is weighty in my memory. It was developed between my ex-boyfriend, a lover of fried chicken wings, and me, a reformed vegetarian who didn’t love the thought of eating meat from a bone. It’s one of those recipes that you learn because you care about someone & want to make them happy.

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Spicy BBQ Boneless Wings
yields: 2-3 servings
Needs:
2 small chicken breasts

Wing ‘Batter’:
1 c. flour
2 t. salt
1/2 t. paprika
1/2 t. cayenne pepper
1/4 t. garlic powder

1 c. milk
1 egg

Combine dry ingredients in a bowl. Chop chicken breast into bite-sized pieces and coat in flour mixture. Set aside for one hour.
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In a cast iron or heavy skillet, fill with oil so it will cover about half of the chicken chunks (I always fry things in my cast iron because it has good, even heat. ‘Tis the cook’s choice. Fry however you love to fry things).  Heat the oil to medium/medium-high heat.

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Place the wings in the oil and fry about two minutes on each side, until lightly browned. Transfer to a paper-towel lined bowl until ready to toss.

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Spicy Wing Sauce
1/4 c. Sweet Baby Ray’s Honey BBQ (or whatever BBQ you have)
1/8 c. hot sauce
1/8 c. sriracha
1 T. Butter

In a small saucepan, heat ingredients until the butter has melted & the sauce is smooth.

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Place sauce in a large bowl. Toss with fried chicken chunks to coat.

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Serve immediately with ranch or blue cheese or celery & a cold beer 🙂

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