Sunday, 31 January 2010

Sausage and Peppers Pasta

This is one of Wes' most requested dishes. I like to make it because it's hearty, low fat, easy, and there is no way to screw it up. You can adapt the recipe easily if you're feeding a lot of people or there is just two of you.

There's a similar recipe to what I make in the Pampered Chef It's Good For You cookbook. I've changed it a bit, mainly because I can't find hot Italian turkey sausage in Ireland so I had to adapt. I use Marks and Spencer's reduced fat pork sausages, but you can use any sausage you like.I used penne pasta because that's what I had on hand, but I've used rotini and farfalle. Whole wheat pasta also tastes really nice with this. Any short pasta will do!

Sausage and Peppers Pasta

400g uncooked pasta
300g reduced fat sausage (I used 5 links from the M&S pack)
1 each red, yellow, and green pepper cut into large chunks
1 medium onion cut into large chunks
2 large cloves of garlic, chopped
1 can (400g) chopped tomatoes
2 tbsp tomato paste
1 tbsp Italian seasoning
1 tbsp olive oil
1/8 tsp red pepper flake
1/4 c grated Parmesan cheese (optional)
Salt and black pepper to taste

This will make enough for 4 generous servings. 

1. Chop the garlic and vegetables and put to the side.

2. Heat a large, lidded skillet with the olive oil over medium-high heat. Either cut the sausage into 1 in. pieces or just blob them out of the casings into little 1 in. balls. That's my preferred method. I think the little meatball shapes are cute. I got about 5 blobs from each sausage. Cook the sausage until it's lightly brown on the outside.

3. Once the sausage is brown, throw in all the chopped vegetables. After this cooks for a few minutes, throw in the garlic. If you put it in too early it will burn. Actually, when I made it on this go around I almost forgot to put the garlic in, so it went in after the tomatoes. No problem. Still tasted great!

4. Add the can of tomatoes, tomato paste, Italian seasoning, red pepper flake, salt and pepper. They didn't have chopped tomatoes at the store, so I used peeled whole tomatoes. I just crushed them in my hands as I was pouring them into the pan. If you like really spicy, just add a little more red pepper flake. Stir everything together, put the lid on it, turn it down to medium (or 3 out of 6 on my stove). You'll let this cook for 20 minutes or until the peppers are soft.

5. It takes forever for my stove to heat up, so as soon as I put the lid on this, I start heating up the water to cook the pasta. If you're lucky enough to have a fast stove, wait about 10 minutes to start your water. Follow the directions on the package, but you should cook the pasta al dente since it will soak up some of the sauce. Over cooked pasta is yucky. The sauce can sit for a few minutes with the lid on, so it's better if your sauce finishes before your pasta and not the other way around.

6. Drain the pasta and pour it into the sauce. Stir together well and add the cheese if you'd like.

I serve this with garlic bread I've made using ciabatta bread, chopped garlic, olive oil, and italian seasoning.


Sunday, 24 January 2010

Ham Pot Pie

There is only one way to describe ham pot pie: comfort food. This was my very first attempt making this family favorite and I'm pretty darn proud of myself! Up to this point, I would only eat it when I was at home and my mom could make it because it seemed so daunting. I mean, you have to make dough and roll things out. Mom would always be concerned if it was 'too stodgy' or 'the broth was too thin' or 'there's too much ham'. Yikes! My sister, dad, and I would just roll our eyes and pile up our plates. It always tasted good to us!

Now that the ham pot pie isn't quite as convenient to us and because I had a craving for it, I announced to the husband that I was going to attempt to make ham pot pie for dinner. Since being introduced to pot pie on his first trip to the US it is a new favorite of his, so he was all for it.

There are really only two steps to making ham pot pie: making the ham broth and making the pot pie dough. Oh, I should also point out that you can make this with chicken, beef, or any other kind of meat. Even squirrel if that's your thing. My mom always made ham, so that's what I prefer. Whatever type of meat you choose, you need to make the broth. I used a 1 kg piece of unsmoked, cured ham. Why 1kg, unsmoked, and cured? Because that's what the had in the store. Another time I made ham broth I used smoked ham. Honestly, I think it all tastes the same and I don't recall a particularly smoky taste. I still can't figure out ham in this country. So, I put the ham in a large pot, covered it with water, brought it to a slow boil, then turned it down to simmer. While the ham was boiling I peeled two large potatoes, cut them into 1/4 in slices, and left them in cold water until I was ready for them. I boiled the ham for a little over an hour, pulled out the meat, and cut it in chunks before throwing it back in the broth. After that was done, I made the dough.

The recipe for the dough comes from this cookbook:

The Granddaughter's Inglenook Cookbook was first published by the Church of the Brethren in 1901 and was updated through the years. This version was published in 1976 and includes recipes for things like American Chop Suey, Perfection Salad,  Eggs a la Goldenrod, and Baked Carrot Ring. Interesting... My grandmother gave each of her granddaughters a copy of the cookbook and as far as I know, no one has ever made a thing out of it other than pot pie.

The recipe for pot pie is as follows:

2 c all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder
2 tbsp shortening
3/4 c water

Mix as for pie dough but roll out somewhat thicker. Cut in squares or strips.

That's it. Oh, and if you don't have a rolling pin, a bottle of beer works as a pretty good substitute.

Once you have your broth with your chunks of ham in it, you bring the broth up to a boil and start dropping in your dough squares and potatoes. Mom always did one slice of potato per each slice of dough, so that's what I did too. I let that cook for about 30 minutes and that was it! Done!

It turned out pretty good and I will most definitely make it again, but I did learn a few things:

1. Make sure you take the plastic sleeve-thing off the ham. Yes, I took it out of the packaging, but there was this weird plastic thing around it that I found floating in the broth. Oops.

2. Know your potatoes. The red rooster potatoes that we have here break apart really easily. They're great for mashed or roast potatoes, but don't stand up to long periods of boiling. I put the potatoes in at the same time as the dough, which was too long for them to cook and they broke down. If I use those  potatoes again I will wait about 15 minutes before I put the potatoes in, which means they'll only cook for about 15 minutes.

3. I prefer the taste of Crisco over Frytex. Wes didn't notice a difference in the taste of the pot pie, but that's because he's an amateur. If I had never had it made with Crisco, it would have been fine, but 35 years of taste-testing this dish means I can taste the difference in my shortening. Unfortunately, we can't get plain Crisco here so I'll be importing some.

I guess that's how it works with these handed-down family recipes. You keep working at them until you get them perfect for you and your family. Fortunately, my mom has been making it perfect for years, so I can keep getting tips and tastes from her every time I go home!

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Oatmeal, Cinnamon Chip and Raisin Cookies

For my bridal shower I got lots of tasty recipes from friends to test on my new husband! Kim gave me this cookie recipe and it's delicious! I'm not the best baker, but these are really simple to make and the recipe made a ton of cookies. Wes' work colleagues like me a lot!

Word of warning: if you're not in the US you probably won't be able to get cinnamon chips where you are. Kim gave me two bags of chips to get me started and they are definitely something I'm going to have to bring back with me from now on. I'm sure you could buy them online at one of the many American food sites.

Oatmeal, Cinnamon Chip and Raisin Cookies
1 c softened butter
1 c light brown sugar
1/3 c white granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 c all-purpose flour (I used cream flour)
1 tsp baking soda
2 1/2 c quick-cooking oats
1 10oz pkg Hershey's Cinnamon Chips
3/4 c raisins

1. Heat oven to 350F or 160C (fan assisted)
2. Beat butter, brown sugar, and granulated sugar in bowl until creamy. Add eggs and vanilla and beat well.
3. Combine flour and baking soda, add to butter mixture, beating well. Stir in oats, chips, and raisins.
4. Drop by heaping teaspoons onto ungreased cookie sheet.
5. Bake 10-12 minutes or until lightly browned.

Makes 4 dozen

Mixed Bean Salad

The recipe I use for this tasty salad was originally for a low fat white bean crostini that I found on the internet years ago. It is delicious as crostini, but I prefer to eat it as a salad with some French bread or like tonight, we had it as a side dish with a Spanish omelette. I also mix it up a bit by using the tinned mixed beans instead of white (cannellini) beans. If you make this as a salad, you can be a bit chunkier with the red pepper and onion. If you choose to make it as crostini you will want to finely chop the veg.
BEWARE OF THE GARLIC!!! We love garlic and even I still find it can be too much at times. If your cloves are large I would recommend using one rather than two. You can always add more if you want a bit more flavor.

Italian Mixed Bean Salad
2 cans (15 oz or 440g) of mixed beans, rinsed and drained
1/2 large red bell pepper, chopped
1/3 c onion, chopped
1/3 c red wine vinegar
3 tbsp chopped fresh parsley, or 1 tbsp dried
1 tbsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/4 tsp black pepper

In large bowl combine beans, bell pepper, and onion. In a small bowl whisk together vinegar, parsley, oil, garlic, oregano, and black pepper. Pour over bean mixture; toss to coat. Cover and refrigerate for 2 hours or overnight. Serve with crusty French bread.

Makes 2 dinner servings or 4 side servings.