Category Archives: Cooking Classes

And the 2014 Olympics come to an end…

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I just love the Olympics! I didn’t watch as much this year as I normally do. But I get excited every time it comes around. I’m sad that it has come to an end.

And please know that those twin toilet bathrooms that many found in Sochi can be found here in the states, too! Here’s a throwback photo from our visit to Michigan last summer:

Really?

O’Sullivan’s Pub – Gladwin, Michigan

In other news, yesterday was my two-year blogaversary. I don’t know what I really want to say about that. Time flies? 😉

Now it’s time for the usual…

planning

Food

Dinners:

Just an fyi – last week’s Zoodles with Meat Sauce were a hit! <<– Highly recommended. I followed this recipe, but used a julienne peeler like Jen did here. I made a meat sauce instead of meatballs.

Lunches:

  • Leftovers
  • I’m still loving these Quick & Easy Bowls! Last week’s bowls were heated. This week’s lunches will be leftovers of the Taco Salads I’m making for dinner. The layers will include:
    1. Base: romaine
    2. Grain/Starch: 1/2 cup rice {I might forego the rice this week if I don’t have time to make it and double the protein!}
    3. Protein: 1/2 cup beef & black bean mixture from above {I might put this in a separate bowl to re-heat and top on the salad at work before eating.}
    4. Veg: onion and grape tomatoes or drained canned tomatoes
    5. Fat: shredded cheese or Wholly Guacamole
    6. Sauce: Salsa-Ranch Dressing that Biz always recommends!
  • I have blackberries, bananas as well as nuts as snacks. And of course, my daily dose of dark chocolate.

Breakfasts:

  • I have a couple of options available and will make them depending on what I am in the mood/have time for each day:
    • Breakfast Quesadillas – I made a couple of these last week inspired by the Breakfast Quesadilla we had at Ike’s before our flight to St. Augustine. In my at-home version, I used:
      • Flour tortilla
      • Scrambled egg with diced onion
      • chopped tomato or salsa
      • Shredded cheddar
      • So easy and delicious! {I guess I’ve been in a Mexican/Tex-Mex mood lately!}
    • PB Toast
    • Granola with milk

Fitness

  • Post-back surgery PT exercises until I get strong enough to move into more yoga.
  • Recumbent bike
  • I should be good to get back on the treadmill next week!

Do you prefer the winter or summer Olympics?

What your favorite thing to make when you are in a mood for Mexican or Tex-Mex?

Cheers~
Carrie

Italian Done Right: Meatballs in Tomato Sauce

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Sounds simple, right? Maybe even boring.

To be honest, I never really made meatballs before those Award Winning Poker Meatballs… you know, the ones stuffed with cheese? What, I may have made some another time a while back when we had friends over and did a holiday potluck… If I remember correctly, they were really big.

In any case, at our last Cooking Class at Saga Hill, the theme was Italian Done Right. The premise was that although it can be satisfying, places like Buca di Beppo and Cossetta’s aren’t truly Italian. So one of the things we learned was to make meatballs in tomato sauce.

This dinner is one of those high-protein, minimally processed ones you can be proud of.

At Saga Hill, Chef Marianne likes to teach the “method” rather than a recipe. She sends the recipes out after the class via email. After following the pretty easy approach in class, I was determined to action those meatballs again right away for Rob. I pulled up the recipe she sent and realized that it was actually quite different from what we did in class!

This made me realize that it was more important that I learned the method… and that there was room to improvise. I could take that method, along with her tips and tricks that I learned in class and use the recipe as a guide. Then I just used what was in my pantry… and followed my gut.

meatballs

Here is the Rob-Approved-Keeper-Recipe that I created. He didn’t want me to change a thing for next time, so I thought I’d make an account of exactly what I did so that I don’t improvise next time!

Meatballs in Tomato Sauce

(Makes 4 servings)

Ingredients:

  • olive oil
  • 1/2 medium onion, diced
  • garlic, minced
  • pinch crushed red pepper
  • 12 cherry tomatoes, quartered
  • 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes, undrained {I used the kind with onions and garlic.}
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 c panko (or bread crumbs)
  • 8 oz lean ground beef
  • 8 oz ground pork
  • finely chopped fresh rosemary and thyme (about 1-2 Tbsp)
  • salt
  • pepper
  • 1/4 c grated parmesan
  • shredded parmesan for garnish (optional)

Method:

  • Heat large skillet with olive oil.
  • Add diced onion and garlic and saute until onion is translucent.
  • Add crushed red pepper and stir in quartered cherry tomatoes.
  • Stir in canned tomatoes (with juices!)
  • Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to low to simmer.
  • In a medium bowl, beat one egg.
  • Mix panko into beaten egg mixture.
  • Add meat, fresh herbs, salt, pepper and parmesan.
  • Mix well with hands so that seasonings are well-distributed. Add water if needed to get desired texture.
  • Form into about one-inch diameter balls (maybe a little less). I yielded exactly 30 balls.
  • Stir the sauce before adding balls because you won’t be able to stir it for a while.
  • Add balls directly to simmering sauce and increase the heat.
  • Turn balls often and continue to until cooked through. (You may have to sacrifice a ball or two to check!)
Keep turning those balls!

Keep turning those balls!

When meatballs are just about cooked, you can stir the sauce with the intact balls to keep the sauce from sticking to the bottom of the pan. Serve alone or atop pasta or spaghetti squash. Sprinkle with shredded parmesan cheese. (Optional)

Ta da!

Get in my tummy!

Some tips I learned from class:

  • Traditional Italian meatballs call for a combination of beef, pork (sausage) and veal, but you can work with whatever you have.
  • It’s best to use a combination of raw and canned tomatoes.
  • Use whatever herbs you’d like – oregano, thyme, rosemary, basil, parsley, etc.
  • Use 1 egg per lb of meat.
  • If you are tearing bread to create breadcrumbs, soak them in a little bit of milk.
  • Don’t make your meatballs too big. Make an “O” with your thumb and forefinger. That should be about right.

I like that I usually have these kinds of ingredients on hand, so it’ll be an easy go-to “recipe” that Rob will love!

What is your favorite meat combo for meatballs?

What herbs do you like to use?

Cheers~

Carrie

Crunchy Onions & Raw Tomatoes {Food & Fitness Link-up}

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This past week was a real wake-up call for me.

After a vacay of indulging in food, wine, beer and more food/wine/beer, it was time to reset things and start practicing good habits again. {Rob’s mom asked him if ALL we did was eat and drink on that trip and I thought, “Yeah, pretty much!}

I know Biz, is going to scrunch up her nose at this one, but one of the things I learned this week is how much I love diced, crunchy, raw onions on top of things! Seriously. I got the idea when I followed suit in the picture of this Chocolate Chili recipe. I learned in our cooking class last week that soaking and rinsing your onions can take out the bite of that strong onion flavor that can stick with you all day, too.

I also had so many tomatoes leftover from the Farmers Market that I’ve just been chopping them up and putting them on top of anything!

So let’s see how I did following the plan this week:

planning

Last Week’s Food:

  • Dinners
    • Monday – Cheesy Beefy Skillet Melt
    • Tuesday – Lazy Girl’s Chicken Enchilada Casserole (with pork) <<–You must make this! It would be even easier if you have leftover sauteed or shredded pork or chicken. It makes great leftovers, too!
    •  Wednesday –  Spicy Thai Basil Beef Instead, I chose to make this Chocolate Chili I mentioned above. It’s a keeper, especially for Rob, who’s allergic to beans! We like spicy, so the only change I made was to add some extra cayenne and hot chili flakes.
    • Thursday – Cooking Class! We made beef carpaccio, ricotta and sweet potato stuffed ravioli, meatballs and tomato sauce and cannoli. It was the perfect amount that I didn’t feel stuffed.
    • Friday – Poker Night – We had Happy Hour at the Mediterranean Cruise Cafe. I had the half-priced Chicken Kabob Munchies, a Surly Furious IPA and some Turkish Coffee!
    • Saturday – Engagement Party
    • Sunday – A cup of Chicken Wild Rice Soup and a Strawberry Balsamic Steak Salad at McHugh’s.
  • Breakfasts
    • Peanut Butter Toast
    • Protein Granola with Milk
  • Lunches
    • Buffalo Chicken Salad with crackers + pear or applesauce + Laughing Cow-stuffed mini peppers + Chobani yogurt – Next time I’m going to stuff the mini peppers WITH the Buffalo Chicken Salad!
    • Caprese Salad + pear or applesauce + Laughing Cow-stuffed mini peppers + Chobani yogurt
    • Leftovers

Last Week’s Fitness:

  • Monday – Walk on Treadmill – 30 minutes!
  • Tuesday – Pilates – Walk/Run on Treadmill – Tried the Jillian EASY level program. I couldn’t complete it at her inclines and speeds. But I did 30 min, nonetheless. Something to strive toward!
  • Wednesday – Walk/Run on TreadmillEasy Pilates – Yeah, not so much. It’s amazing how much I can’t do still, with my back. I think I’m going to go back to doing my PT exercises.
  • Thursday – Elliptical in am – 20 minutes!
  • Friday – Elliptical in am REST
  • Saturday – Walk REST
  • Sunday – Pilates Walk/Run on Treadmill – 26 minutes
  • 30-day Arm ChallengeDidn’t start until Wed and only did two days. It’s easy and quick, so there is no excuse not to do this.

Now for this week…

Food:

  • Dinners
    • Monday – Spicy Thai Basil BeefRob’s been begging me to make this, although I’m not sure why. He doesn’t care for bell peppers. {I’m going to substitute onions.} He’s allergic to fish, so I”ll need to substitute *something* for the fish sauce. {Although I’m quite certain all of the Thai take-out he’s had is probably made with fish sauce and he is still alive.} And he just told me last week that he’d prefer I’d made green beans on the side rather than in a dish. WHAT?! I’m going to half the recipe, just in case it isn’t a keeper.
    • Tuesday – Pork Chops this way – most likely with green beans on the side.
    •  Wednesday –  Meatballs with Tomato Sauce –  just like we made in class last week!
    • Thursday – TBD – I’m having the girls over for dinner. It will be some sort of chicken or fish! Got any favorite recipes? I don’t get to cook those two proteins very often!
    • Friday – Dinner night out with the girls
    • Saturday – Leftovers for lunch, dinner out
    • Sunday – Leftovers
  • Breakfasts
  • Lunches
    • Leftovers + 1 piece Dove Dark Chocolate + applesauce or Chobani yogurt

Fitness:

  • Monday – Walk on Treadmill 
  • Tuesday – Walk/Run on Treadmill 
  • Wednesday – Walk/Run on Treadmill
  • Thursday – Elliptical in am or REST
  • Friday – REST
  • Saturday – Walk
  • Sunday – Pilates
  • 30-day Arm ChallengeLet’s give it a real go this week

What is your favorite quick and easy chicken recipe when you have company?

Cheers~
Carrie

Thai Cooking Class

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Last week, I posted about a Thai restaurant in our neck of the woods that we totally fell in love with this past August.

A couple month’s later, on October 24th to be exact, my friend Jen and I took a Thai Cooking Class at the Kitchen Window in Uptown, Minneapolis.

The class was called Spicy Thai Street Food and was taught by Joe Hatch-Surisook, Co-owner & Executive Chef of Sen Yai, Sen Lek {meaning Big Noodle, Little Noodle in Thai} also located in Uptown. It was advertised as one of the most popular classes. Since both Jen and I love Thai food, we gave it a try.

The classes that I’ve taken at the Kitchen Window have varied greatly in style. My Knife Skills class was instructional in nature; however, we did get to practice what we learned. It was life-changing! The food that we chopped was cooked into a dinner we ate later. The Cooking from Your CSA Box class was completely demonstrative in nature. We sat and watched as we obtained ideas for using CSA box items and ate all of his delicious creations in courses!

However, in this Thai Cooking Class, we were separated into groups to cook together by following the recipes, creating our own dinner! We were instructed on specific techniques and learned about lesser known ingredients throughout the evening, too. We’d cook a few dishes together and then the entire class sat at one big table and ate what our group cooked. We repeated the process after a few other dishes.

While the class was a ton of fun, I remember thinking that some of the ingredients weren’t practical for me to buy just for one specific dish. It’s just way too easy to get excellent take-out Thai all throughout the Twin Cities metro area instead. But now that I look back at the recipes we were given in class, there really aren’t all that many unique ingredients.

If anything, though, this class did get me out of the Pad Thai/Green Curry box to try new Thai dishes. Here was our menu that evening:

  • Gai Satay – Chicken Satay with Peanut Sauce
  • Cucumber Salad (The dressing was made with Thai chilies!)
  • Som Tum – Green Papaya Salad
  • Khao Neow – Steamed Sticky Rice
  • Pad See-Iew Gai – Stir Fried Wide Noodles with Sweet Soy, Chinese Broccoli and Chicken
  • Khao Soi – Curried Chiang Mai Noodles with Beef

I was having so much fun that I didn’t think to take photos until we reached the end of the evening…

Pas da'sdj

Khao Soi – Beef and noodles in a coconut curry sauce and topped with crispy noodles

Yes! We made that! And it was excellent. I can’t imagine making it now, though, without the help of my teammates.

But both Jen and I found our new favorite Thai dish!

zxcvzc

Pad See-Iew Gai – Stir Fried Wide Noodles with Sweet Soy, Chines Broccoli and Chicken

Those of you who know me well are probably wondering how I loved a dish with broccoli. But Chinese broccoli is nothing like the broccoli we know.

source

Chinese Broccoli (source)

To me, it’s more like a bitter green. Click here for more information on Chinese Broccoli {also known as gai lan} and what you can substitute if you can’t find it.

Since the class, Jen has ordered Pad See-Iew (but with pork) at a local Asian restaurant. It’ll be the next thing I try at Spice! And now that I’ve revisited Chef Joe’s recipe, the Pad See-Iew doesn’t look difficult to make at all. I’ve decided that I’ll attempt to make it the next time I host my girlfriends for dinner. {Jen and Kim, you now must hold me to that!}

While it wouldn’t be appropriate for me to share a restaurant’s recipe from a class for which I paid, you can do a search for pad see-iew {there are spelling variations} online and yield great results!

And I do need to take my husband for a trip to Chef Joe’s Sen Yai, Sen Lek. It’s an award-winning Minneapolis restaurant where I already know that the food will be made with fresh ingredients and taste delicious!

What new vegetable have you tried lately?

Cheers~
Carrie

Top 5 Gifts for that Hard to Buy for Person Who Has Everything

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Yes, we all have at least one of them on our gift lists. That person that you rack your brains over every year to find them a gift that they’ll actually like and use. If you’re lucky, you might find one that they’ll adore.

Gifts for that Hard to Buy for Person Who Has Everything

Believe it or not, my husband is hard to shop for when it comes to gifts. He thanks me politely and then the gift ends up on the shelf in a closet or in a drawer for an indeterminate amount of time before it disappears. That is so frustrating! The problem is that {as Racheal mentioned here}, when men want something, they tend to just buy it for themselves. It turns out, my attempt to be creative usually backfires on me.

A couple of years ago, I finally found the perfect gift – one that he loves and that keeps on giving:

an iPhone

It worked out perfectly because I am the one that handles our cell phone account. Plus, it was something he never knew he wanted. To this day, he still thanks me for this gift.

However, unless you are buying for your spouse or adult child, you probably aren’t going to buy anyone else an iPhone.

Instead, I’m thinking of those people that you may not know as well or those people who seem to have everything, or people like grandparents who are older and don’t want/need more stuff. With this list, I sincerely hope you find that aha! gift for that seemingly impossible person to buy for on your holiday list. If nothing else, maybe this list will spark an idea for something perfect!

Here are some items I’ve come up with over the years and are in no particular order:

1) Gift Card

  • I know some people who hate giving these. They feel that they are impersonal.
  • However, I love receiving them! I often wait to use them as weight loss or NSV rewards!
  • They are perfect for teenagers!
  • Think iTunes, sporting good stores for athletes, craft stores for the crafty, a unique store online that you found, an electronics store for the techie. Or just think about where your gift recipient often goes.
  • I know teachers who say they love getting $5 Caribou Coffee and Target gift cards that they can actually use.
  • And you’d know I’d accept a gift certificate to any restaurant just to try it out. {The first time we went to Sul Lago, there had to be over a dozen people who came in to get gift certificates. And this was before Thanksgiving!}
  • Not sure which gift card to get?
    • Many grocery and other stores have stands with all different types of gift cards in many denominations. Check out the stand to be inspired with ideas.
    • Do a search on line. Just Google: X {Gift Recipient hobby} + gift card.
  • This is what makes the gift certificates personal:
    • “I know you love to do this/these types of things! So pick out something you really want!” or
    • “I know you love this place and will use this!” or
    • “I thought of you because I love this place and thought you’d like to try it out.”

2) A Photo Canvas {or other photo gift}

  • My friend Stacy swears by the photo canvas deals on Groupon and other daily deal sites. You send in or upload a photo and they convert your photo to canvas. Your favorite photograph becomes a work of art you can hang on the wall. With all the traveling I love to do, I plan to pick out favorite from a trip to canvas-ize.
  • Grandparents love photo memories. A photo book or calendar you either create yourself or online will do the trick. {Note: I am NOT a scrapbooker, so I love using websites like Snapfish.}
  • If you are in to giving ornaments, consider a photo ornament.  I know people who give their children an ornament each year with the year printed on it so that by the time they leave home, they’ve got not only their own collection of ornaments, but also memories. A photo that depicts that year for someone or a memory of the two of you is a great idea.

3) Subscription boxes

  • I know, I’m addicted to these right now. But, really, but who wouldn’t want one?
  • If you love or want to learn more about wine, would you turn down a Wine Club gift subscription? I didn’t think so.
  • Two of my current favorite subscription boxes are:
    • Birchbox – Beauty, grooming and lifestyle products for women and men! Check out my latest box and review here.
    • Love with Food – Gourmet Food Samples. Each month your box ships, a meal is donated to a hungry child. Check out my latest box and review here.
  • Need a gift for a pet or pet parent? Check out BarkBox – my pooches LOVE IT! Latest box and review here.
  • Or how about a magazine subscription? There are so many unique ones out there now. Do a search online. Just Google: X {Gift Recipient hobby} + magazine.
  • There are also gift subscriptions for olive oil. We’ve done this before and have found exceptional quality!
  • And this Wisconsin girl would never turn down the gift of a Cheese of the Month Club!

4) Experiences

  • This is my favorite category! I’m talking things like:
    • Plays or concert tickets.
    • Cooking Classes – Twin Cities peeps: I’d recommend Saga Hill, Kitchen Window and Local D’Lish.
    • Spa Day – I don’t think I know of one woman who wouldn’t want this.
    • Or any experience that makes you think of your recipient! Like the Beer Trolley Tour I’m taking my husband on this weekend as part of his birthday box!

5) Your Time

  • This is one of the best and most cherished gifts you can give.
  • People who love you, but don’t really don’t need more stuff would love to spend more time with you!
  • Get tickets to a play or concert that you both love.
  • Take them to a movie, a trip to their favorite restaurant or do something together that you know they love to do, but don’t get to do that often.
  • Buy tickets for the event, or just create your own coupon that states something like: “Coupon good for: A Trip to Izzy’s Ice Cream”. I suggest putting an expiration date on it so that they will redeem it ASAP. (Although you don’t have to adhere to that expiration, of course.)

What’s the most unique gift you’ve given?

What ways have you given experiences or times to loved ones?

Happy Holidays~
Carrie

San Marzano Pasta – A Recipe

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Last summer, I took a cooking class at Kitchen Window in Uptown on How to Cook from Your CSA Box with my friend Jared.

While the instructor was a former chef and owner of a local CSA that neither of us subscribed to, it didn’t matter. The class was more about using seasonal produce and becoming more confident in our own cooking. The young instructor’s experience and expertise was impressive. The #1 thing I learned from that class:

NEVER apologize for your cooking.

I’m a novice cook. So I’m always afraid of how something new is going to turn out. When I plop something in front of my husband, I start out by telling him why I’m not sure this or that worked or if I under or overcooked something.

This is wrong!

Repeating these words and apologizing only reinforces our cooking insecurities, creating the fear to try something again. Instead, our instructor said, if someone has anything to complain about our cooking, they can do the cooking next time. Gotta love that.

When I made the San Marzano Pasta that was demonstrated in that class, my husband was so impressed that he said I could take cooking classes any time because I just keep getting better.

Note: My husband does not cook nor does he have any interest in ever cooking. Furthermore, he’d rather go out to dinner any night of the week. So this comment is a huge step – in both his willingness to eat at home and my cooking ability.

While there were many different dishes demonstrated (and eaten) in this class, the one that stood out most to me was this San Marzano Pasta.

Rob and I spent our Honeymoon on the Amalfi Coast, where we discovered what just may be the best tomatoes in the world! I am a huge lover of tomatoes. When I embarked on an adventure to a healthier lifestyle over a year ago, I started adding more fruit and vegetables to my diet. It was then that I was reminded how much I love tomatoes… so much that I wondered why I didn’t have them in my kitchen at all times. If I love them so much and they are a healthy addition to my diet, there is no reason why they shouldn’t have a permanent place in my home!

On the other hand, Rob is not a fan of my adored fruit. But, over the years, he’s actually grown to appreciate them in certain contexts.

Still, he enjoyed every single tomato and tomato sauce on our Honeymoon like it was something sacred.

He, too, fell in love with San Marzano tomatoes.

What makes them different? Well, in my opinion, the flavor is just better. But that is not a good enough description for you, I’m sure. Some say that the flavor is sweeter. However, the reason I don’t like that description is that I absolutely hate sweet marinara sauces in restaurants. {These are generally made by adding sugar to the sauce, but when someone describes tomatoes as sweet, that’s the flavor I think of.} They are also said to be less acidic.

And while the San Marzano tomato variety can be grown here in the U.S., the best tomatoes come from Italy. Why?

Because they are grown in volcanic soil – near Mount Vesuvius in the Campania region! This is the reason I believe that these tomatoes taste so much better. While on our Honeymoon, every tomato and tomato sauce we tried was divine. There, they didn’t even label their tomatoes as San Marzano. They didn’t have to. They were just the local tomatoes, and I believe the volcanic soil they were grown in had something to do with the difference.

But you can buy canned San Marzanos here in the States! And yes, they still taste phenomenal.

San Marzano tomatoes

You can get canned San Marzanos in your regular grocery store! Sometimes they are near the other canned tomatoes and tomato sauces. Other times you’ll find them in the ethnic and specialty foods aisle. There are many brands out there and it really doesn’t matter which one you get. Just make sure that they not only say “San Marzano” on the label, but that they also state they are from Italy.  There is often a map on the back of the can highlighting the San Marzano region in Italy they come from. 😉 A 28-ounce can runs around $3.50 to $4.50 per can. Yes, they are a bit more than your average can of tomatoes.

But they are so worth it.

A couple of times, my grocery store has been out of them, so when I see there are more than a few cans on the shelf, I stock up! A few times, I found them cheaper at a all-natural specialty food store than my regular local Cub Foods or SuperTarget. And most recently, I got a steal on a three-pack of them at Costco. Of course, we bought two of those three-packs… just in case.

To make the San Marzano pasta, you will need the following ingredients:

Clockwise, from top left: extra virgin olive oil, pasta, San Marzano tomatoes, fresh garlic, fresh mozzarella, cilantro. Not pictured: salt.

With these ingredients, you may have to play around with the ratios to see what’s right for you. It took me a while to find how we like it best. I usually just grab what I have on hand and improvise. For those of you who know me, this is a big deal! I’m more of a recipe follower, so it’s a big step for me to just wing it. I’ve given some suggested quantities in the recipe at the end of this post. But use it as a guide, taste often, and decide how you like it best.

San Marzano Pasta

Start by pre-heating your oven and bringing a pot of water to a boil for the pasta. Then heat the olive oil in an oven-safe skillet on medium high heat. Put a small piece of chopped garlic in the pan. Once it starts to sizzle, the pan is ready and you can add the rest of the garlic. Cook it for a few minutes, but watch so that it doesn’t burn.

After it starts to brown a bit, to stop the garlic from cooking, add your can of San Marzano tomatoes, juices and all. Your can may come with a lone basil leaf in it! It is up to you whether you want to leave it in your sauce or take it out.

Break up the tomatoes with a spatula so that they are no longer whole. This way, it’ll become more of a sauce. Once it becomes bubbly, turn the heat down a bit and let it simmer until the pasta is almost ready.

TIP #1: Do not cook your pasta all the way!

Any kind of pasta will do. I believe our cooking class instructor used penne. However, my husband’s favorite is angel hair pasta, so I use that whenever possible. {Although I find shorter styles easier to serve!} Cook the pasta according to package directions, only just shy of al dente. For example, if the package says 7 minutes for al dente, I cook it for 5 minutes.

Why?

You are going to finish cooking the pasta in the sauce! If the pasta is cooked completely, by the time you let it mix with the sauce, it will become mushy. And who likes mushy pasta?

TIP #2: Do not add all of the pasta to the sauce at once!

You want to make sure that you have the correct pasta to sauce ratio for you. I once added a whole box of pasta and was left with very little sauce. Add your pasta a little bit at a time until you have the right ratio. Any leftover cooked pasta can be used to make a pasta salad or used for another dinner. I’ve found that my pasta to sauce ratio is a 28-ounce can of tomatoes to just shy of 8 ounces of uncooked pasta.

Salt the sauce with the pasta in it to taste. Keeping tasting for seasoning (salt) and to be sure the pasta cooks just to al dente. Remove from heat and add slices of fresh mozzarella cheese.

Put the skillet in the oven and bake for about ten minutes, or until the mozzarella has melted.

Meanwhile, roughly chop about half of a bunch of cilantro and put it into a food processor with a bit of olive oil. Turn on the food processor and slowly stream in more olive oil until you get a pesto-like consistency. Taste and salt. Add more cilantro, olive oil or salt until it comes out the way you like it.

Of course, you can use something else like basil, which is seemingly more Italian.. Our instructor just used cilantro because there was so much in the box that week and he wanted to show that you could still use it in Italian cooking!

When the cheese is melted, pull the baked pasta out of the oven.

Use a spoon to drizzle your cilantro pesto onto your mozzarella. You’ll have a beautiful red, white and green dish – the colors of the Italian flag!

You don’t need a lot. Now, just dish up and enjoy!

You can put the rest of your pesto in a jar and store it in the fridge for a few days. Mix it with your leftover cooked pasta that you didn’t add to the sauce, perhaps. Or stir it into scrambled eggs. Really. Just try it.

Ask me a few years ago if I ever thought Rob would eat a pasta sans meat with red sauce like this and I’d say, “NO WAY!” My man is a meat-eater at heart. He turns his nose up at vegetarian pizzas. The less vegetables the better… and pile on the meat, please.

But this is a dish he ASKS for.

Thank you, Italy!

Thank you, San Marzano tomatoes!

Here’s the recipe in case you want to copy, paste and print without photos:

San Marzano Pasta

Ingredients:

  • Extra virgin olive oil (I use Italian, either expeller or cold-pressed)
  • Chopped garlic – 3 cloves or so should do, but lately I’ve been wanting more!
  • 28-ounce can of San Marzano tomatoes
  • 8 ounces of uncooked pasta of your choice
  • 8 ounces of fresh mozzarella – the kind in the ball, not the shredded stuff!
  • Cilantro (or other fresh herb to make a pesto, such as basil)

Method:

  • Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Boil a pot of water for your pasta of choice. Once it comes to a boil, salt the water and bring it to a boil again before adding the pasta. Cook one or two minutes shy of the al dente directions on the package.
  • Meanwhile, heat 1 to 2 Tbsp olive oil in an oven-safe skillet on medium-high heat. Put a small piece of chopped garlic in the pan. Once it starts to sizzle, the pan is ready and you can add the rest of the garlic. Cook the garlic for a few minutes, but watch so that it doesn’t burn.
  • Add your can of San Marzano tomatoes (juices and all) to the pan to stop the cooking of the garlic.
  • Break up the tomatoes with a spatula so that they are no longer whole.
  • Once it starts bubbling, lower the heat a bit and simmer while you are waiting for the pasta.
  • When the pasta is a minute or two shy of al dente, drain the water and slowly add the pasta, a little at a time, to the tomato sauce to finish cooking. If the pasta was cooked completely prior to adding it to the sauce, it will overcook and get mushy.
  • Remember, add the pasta a little at a time. I’ve added too much pasta before and had very little sauce. By adding a little at a time, you can control the ratio and never add too much.
  • Salt the sauce with the pasta in it to taste. Keeping tasting for seasoning (salt) and to be sure the pasta cooks just to al dente.
  • Remove from heat and add slices of fresh mozzarella cheese on top.
  • Put the skillet in the oven and bake for 10 minutes, or until the mozzarella has melted.
  • Meanwhile, roughly chop about half of a bunch of cilantro (or some basil) and put it into a food processor with a bit of olive oil. Turn on the food processor and slowly stream in more olive oil until you get a pesto-like consistency.  Taste and salt. Add more cilantro, olive oil or salt until it comes out the way you’d like it.
  • When you pull the baked pasta out of the oven, use a spoon to drizzle your cilantro pesto onto your mozzarella. You’ll have a beautiful red white and green dish – the colors of the Italian flag!
  • Dish up and enjoy – especially with a nice bottle of Chianti Classico.

What’s your favorite Italian dish?

A link to a recipe is encouraged!

Salute~
Carrie

Local D’Lish Cooking Class: Healthy Cooking for One

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I loved the last cooking class I took at Local D’Lish so much that I wanted to do another one! In fact, when the opportunity came up to take a class from the same instructor, Kate Moore, I suggested the Healthy Cooking for One class to my single friends.

We all know that it’s hard to cook for one, or even two, without having a ton of leftovers. My husband hates leftovers (except for a couple of dishes), so I wanted to learn how to pare things down, too.

I was surprised that Kate recognized my friend Jared and I from our previous class! She told us that she didn’t know which class it was that we attended, but that we would recognize a few things she likes to do in all classes. But truly, I believe that the more you hear something or see something done, the more you really understand and remember it.

Kate in action

Kate was her usual fun, quirky relaxed self. Her main goal is to empower people in the kitchen. I love that! I am becoming more and more comfortable with whipping up my own dishes and not having to follow a recipe exactly as written, or even use one at all! From experience, as with anything else, the more you do this, the easier it becomes.

Her handouts always include extensive information. While she doesn’t follow her packet from start to finish in class, it’s excellent to bring home and use as a reference.

Kate’s life experiences make her more than qualified to teach a class such as Healthy Cooking for One. She lost over 50 pounds just by cutting portions by half, eating twice as slowly and enjoying real food!

Her formula for a meal for one:

vegetable + starch + protein

=

1 to 1.5 cup veggie + .5 to 1 cup starch + 2 to 4 ounces of protein

~

I thought that in the past year, I’d come to learn true serving sizes. For the most part, I have. However, this class made me realize how little I really need to buy when I shop. Some examples:

  • 1/2 of a small potato is a good portion size for one person
  • 1 egg = 2 ounces protein
  • pasta or rice for one person = about a half cup

Kate is great at showing how to make one dish with a particular ingredient and then take anything leftover of that ingredient or reuse it in a different way later in the week.

“It really doesn’t take very much product to cook a meal for one person! Minimize leftovers so each meal is fresh and different to keep your palate interested,” she said.

In both classes I’ve been in, Kate has made a Bean Dip to start. She knows her students are hungry and wants to tide them over in class! Her handout gives a list of flavor profiles, so that you can make this bean dip at home with a variety of beans and spices depending on your your mood or what you have on hand. Which dip she makes is dependent on what fresh ingredients Local d’Lish has that day! As students, we get to taste it every step of the way, so we can understand the importance of seasoning.

Kate asked me something I liked about the last class and I told her that she made the best dressing I’ve ever had! She then inquired if I made it at home after class. I told her I did, but that, although good, it didn’t turn out as yummy as hers. She said, “Well, let’s take this opportunity to practice!” She had me come up in front of the class and put the herbs in the food processor and taste and adjust!

She also taught me (er, the class) to start learning how much a measurement is… to just count. Pour olive oil into a quarter cup and count while it’s coming out. That way, you’ll have an idea about how long the stream takes when you are pouring the oil into a food processor. She said you can do that for anything when learning measurements and becoming more comfortable with winging those.

In this class, she also made her own Herbed Boursin. I totally fell in love with this store-bought cheese spread when I studied in France. My host family would serve it after almost every meal. But the one that Kate made one is even better! Everyone in class went crazy over it. The dish was empty before dinner was served.

Just like the dressing I posted from the last class, you make the herbed cheese by using a base and adding directional herbs:

Herbed Boursin as taught by Kate Moore

  • 1 eight-ounce package cream cheese, softened to room temperature
  • 1 cup chopped herbs (50% parsley and scallions/garlic, 50% directional herb)
    • directional herb = the herb you want as the dominant flavor. I think Kate used sage in this class.
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • optional: citrus zest or juice to taste

Put everything into a food processor and mix. {Kate suggests that if you don’t have one you can finely mince all the herbs by hand and fold them into the softened cream cheese.} As always, taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper or more herbs. *Option: Swap cream cheese for butter to make a compound butter. It will freeze beautifully!

Now that I’m writing this post, I’m realizing how extensive this class was! She made a bunch of different kinds of dishes to demonstrate the speed and ease of putting something healthy together. The Toasty Garlic Tomato Kale made us drool! My friend Jen said, “Wow, now I know what to do with kale besides make kale chips!” Kate recommended serving the Toasty Garlic Tomato Kale over rice with a fried egg on top. Oh yeah, baby.

Speaking of eggs, she told us we all needed to practice flipping an egg in the frying pan. Jared was up to the challenge:

Kate showing Jared how to flip an egg (uh hem, without a spatula)

During our break, Kate kept encouraging us to give it a try, that we had nothing to lose. Only one other gal was brave enough. I just wanted to try it at home. My fear? That I’d flip it on myself , burning myself in the process and ending up covered in egg yolk. Yeah, didn’t want an audience for that!

Jared’s attempt to flip! SUCCESS!

Kate made cabbage two ways. One was an Asian Slaw and the other was just sautéed with butter, sage and apple. That cabbage in my CSA box always sits in the fridge too long before I end up using it or throwing it out. I never thought to sauté it. The flavors were soooooo good!

At the end of class, Kate served up everything she made Family Style for us to eat:

Salad greens with the dressing I made!

Leftover Bean Dip, Toasty Garlic Tomato Kale, Kale with Potatoes & Herbs

Asian Slaw, Sauteed Cabbage, Sauteed Veggies, Ginger-infused Rice, Chopped Fried Eggs

My beautiful plate: A little bit of everything

If you haven’t taken a cooking class yet, I highly recommend it. I also recommend taking one with Kate. You’ll learn so many tips and walk away with not only with a pleased palate, but also with a new sense of, “Hey, I can make that, too!”

Please share your favorite, easy go-to recipe for one or two people!

Cheers~
Carrie