Tag Archives: cooking class

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

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!

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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

Post-Op Foods & Saga Hill Cooking Class

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I’m putting together a grocery list of items I need to buy to have on hand after my surgery. They are warning me that the pain killers are going to have some side effects, in which plenty of fruits and vegetables should help do the trick. 😉 Also, since my husband does not cook, I want to have some easy, fast – meaning 5 minutes or less! – healthy go-to meals and snacks so he doesn’t bring me take-out every night. {Although it’ll be nice a couple of times!} I may be off of work for up to two weeks; but even if I’m not, I want some easy things to grab so that I don’t make any poor choices out of inconvenience. Planning ahead and taking out the guesswork, ya know?

I do know that I could do a few make-ahead meals, but with the pain I’ve been in, it just sounds exhausting at the end of the day. Even after sitting all day, my legs feel like they can’t take any more. I have been cooking a bit, but not enough to put that much effort into it.

Here is my list of meal and snack ideas and the corresponding list of groceries that I will need to shop for since they are not currently in my pantry:

Meals & Snacks

  • Egg Bagel Sandwiches {aka 90-second Breakfast Sandwich}
  • Lean Cuisine Frozen Entrees  – I always have a few of these in the freezer. I don’t eat them everyday, only when I’m in a pinch. My favorite? Salmon with Basil!
  • Chipotle Black Bean Burgers – Currently in my freezer. I can just pop them between a bagel thin and or smear on some guacamole.
  • Healthy Choice Country Vegetable Soup – I know that we are talking a lot of sodium here, but it’ll be an easy way to get in some needed veggies
  • Peanut Butter Toast
  • No Hassle Fruits – see grocery list below.
  • Magic Smoothie
  • Fiber One Brownies
  • Veggies and hummus
  • Chocolate
  • Nuts
  • Hard-boiled eggs

Grocery List

  • Bananas
  • Grapes
  • Clementines
  • Cherry Tomatoes
  • Carrots – cut and put in baggies or containers
  • Cucumbers – cut and put in baggies or containers
  • Bell Peppers – cut and put in baggies or containers
  • Hummus
  • Spinach
  • Eggs
  • Lean Cuisines
  • Healthy Choice Country Vegetable Soup
  • Wholly Guacamole or Avocado

To prep

  • Make sure dishes and ingredients are reachable from hip to chest level
  • Cut veggies
  • Hard Boil Eggs

That should be it! This also serves as a reminder if I find myself thinking that there is nothing to eat in the house. I can come back to this past to read about my available options!

But of course, Rob, I won’t mind a little takeout now and then, or even a little ice cream. 😉 I’m just trying not to go overboard while I’m immobile!

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Food Journal for Thursday:

Breakfast

I was running late, so I made a 90-second Breakfast Sandwich to take in the car (not pictured because, uh, I was running late). But if you want to see a photo or learn how I heard about these, click here. Approximately 300 calories with blueberry bagel thin (sweet and savory sandwich!), one egg, and one ounce cheddar cheese.

At work – 2 cups of black coffee with a piece of Dove Dark Chocolate (the one with almonds). Isn’t this message appropriate right about now?

Thurs-Choc

Lunch

Salad

Salad with mixed greens, grape tomatoes, chopped carrots & celery, chopped almonds and avocado

I put the avocado in the container the night before and squeezed a bit a lime juice over it, but it still browned. It tasted fine, though. And that little jar is leftover from a Love with Food sample. Guess what I put in it? Leftover Balsamic Glaze from my Avocado-Bruschetta-Mozzarella Chicken dinner. I used it as my salad dressing!

Afternoon Snacks

Banana (not pictured).

Peanut Butter and Dark Chocolate Kind Bar courtesy of my February Foodie Penpal. 😉

Kind

Peanut Butter and Dark Choclate Kind Bar

Last night, I went to a Saga Hill Cooking Class with some friends. Knowing that we probably wouldn’t eat until later, I snacked again after work. I had an apple with some Biscoff Spread. Then I went to a small wedge of double cream brie. It could have turned into an all-out binge, but I stopped myself and called my mom instead.

Dinner

When we arrived at cooking class, we poured ourselves some wine. I started with a glass of white, but it was too warm, so I switched to red. For $15, wine is unlimited for the evening. My friend Jen was driving and I could no longer be on meds before surgery, so I took full advantage! Actually, I was a little apprehensive on how I would hold out for the evening. By this time of night, I’m usually just wiped. Luckily, from where I was sitting at our table, I could sit on the stool or stand up whenever I needed to.

I lost count of my wine, but I think we concluded that I had five of their bar-sized glasses. This is equivalent to probably 2 and 1/2 to 3 glasses the size that I would have at home.

In the past three classes I’ve done at Saga Hill, we usually don’t eat until she’s done her explanation of what to expect and have cooked our first item. However, this time she served us little dishes of jambalaya right away!

Jambalaya with Smoked Sausage

Jambalaya with Smoked Sausage

This class was All About The Pig. I thought this would be a good one to give me some ideas and what else I could make for Rob. We learned about pre-packaged bacon versus pork belly. We cut the pork belly into lardons and sautéed them in a little oil. We then learned how to make scrambled eggs the correct way! You should not beat the crap out of thembut should be patient and guide them to ebb and flow in the pan. We finished the eggs with some chives and butter and served them with the bacon and toast:

Scrambled eggs with lardons and toast

Scrambled eggs with lardons and toast

I don’t know if I can ever eat packaged bacon again! Next up, we made our own sausage. Chef Marianne taught us that sausage is made of one-half pork belly and one-half the middle section of the pig (the loin). We each got some raw ground pork and were able to make our own sausage in a way that could easily be replicated at home. We were given ingredients such as thyme, fennel, cayenne, nutmeg, maple syrup, chedder, etc. and were told to be creative. My sausage included fennel, cheddar {like I would have done anything else!}, with a pinch of cayenne, and some salt and pepper. We rolled them in plastic wrap and poached them for four minutes in boiling water. While that was going on, we were served some pork carnitas on a small baked corn tortilla. (Not pictured, the wine must have kicked in at this point.) The carnitas had a great warmth of spice and were uber-flavorful. They were topped with some sour cream and cilantro.

After our sausages were poached, we browned them in a little bit of oil:

Medley of Sausages

Medley of Sausages!

Since there were six of us at our table, we cut each sausage into six pieces to try a little bit of each creation! Here is what my plate looked like:

Sausage bites with potatoes

Sausage bites with potatoes

To be honest – I loved all of them! Each sausage had a very distinct, unique flavor! And each time we tasted one, we could figure out who made it. It was a fun guessing game and a test of our taste buds.

Then we finished off with dessert – which had nothing to do with pork. We learned how to section/supreme citrus. We put Lynn at our table to work and they turned out beautifully!

Thurs-Citrus

One of the chefs gave her the wonderful compliment that in all of his years as a chef, he’s never seen in any kitchen a more beautifully sectioned/supremed selection of citrus!

We each had to make and flip our own crêpe. For some reason, this was a challenge for me. I could get it out of the pan, but not flipped over. One of mine landed on the floor. I guess I just don’t have that flick of the wrist! The citrus {lemon, clementine and grapefruit} ended up in the pan with some sugar and after reducing, some brandy was added to flambée the mixture. We topped our crêpes with the sweetened and flambéed citrus, folded them up and sprinkled with powdered sugar.

Thurs-Citrus Crepe

Overall, it wasn’t a low-calorie day. However, I’m glad that our portion sizes were small enough at the cooking class that we didn’t get overly stuffed. And it was still enough to feel like you’d had a good meal!

When I got home, I started to eat a double cheeseburger because Rob had brought home an extra and I didn’t want it to go to waste. WHAT?! What kind of thinking is that? I had already had plenty of food. Lesson learned. I have to eliminate that kind of thinking.

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What easy, fast, healthy ingredients, snacks and meals would you add to my post-op lists above?

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

Saga Hill Cooking Class – Summer 2012

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Last winter, my friend Jared and I attended a cooking class at Saga Hill Cooking School in Minneapolis. He had a Groupon for two, so he invited me to join him. The class topic was sauces and I was unsure what to expect, but decided to give it a whirl!

We had so much fun!

Chef Marianne Miller’s no-nonsense, yet entertaining approach in teaching is spot-on. I loved her philosophy of not just reciting a recipe, but instead, teaching a method and encouraging us to think for ourselves. {She doesn’t even send the recipes out until after class.}

We got the hands on experience, but cooked in a group so that we could still lean on our fellow peers. What’s more, Chef Miller was trained at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris and has used her culinary skills extensively throughout Europe and the United States. She’s cooked for several high-end restaurants in Minnesota; and I’ve even read some of her contributions to Minneapolis-St. Paul Magazine. She knows her stuff! I learned real techniques that I can use at home to become more confident in my cooking.

I sipped wine, ate the fruits of our labor and laughed a lot.

I knew that I would be attending one of her classes again. What’s more? Returning students never pay full price. {But then again, Groupon holders don’t either!} Unlimited wine service {help yourself!} is only about $15. {At the time of this writing the website states that if you want to pop the cork on your own bottle for a special occasion, the corkage is $15/bottle.} Overall, it’s an excellent value for the education and a fun night out.

How does it work? Well, a series of the same classes are only offered four times a year. For example, each season, the same class will be taught several weeks in a row. {Private events, team builders and catering are also available.}

Unfortunately, I didn’t attend the spring class. I decided that the menu didn’t excite me. I don’t like barbecue sauce and the menu advertised this heavily as well as baby back ribs, potato salads and such. Not my cup of tea.

What was I thinking?!

My husband looks through my DVR picks and asks me when I’m actually going to watch an episode of a cooking show on the Food Network that makes XYZ. I don’t even like XYZ. I would never even make XYZ. Those are his arguments.

“Because I always learn something!” is my rebuttal.

It’s true. I always learn some tip that I end up using somewhere else. Just to name a few:

  • Crack eggs on a flat surface, not the edge to minimize getting shell in the dish/bowl/pan.
  • Keep fresh ginger in the freezer and just grate it when you need it.
  • There’s no need for special equipment when separating egg whites. Just let the white fall through your fingers as you keep the yolk in your hand.
  • Smash garlic cloves with the side of your knife once to remove the paper easily.
  • Squeeze lemons or limes in the palm of your hand and let the juices flow through, catching the seeds in your hand.

These are just a few of the things I’ve picked up that have now become second nature to me! I often find myself giving fun wine tips like these at my Wine Tastings!

I really should have taken that spring class. Who knows? I may have not only learned something new, but learned to like barbecue sauce! {It’s usually too sweet and too smoky for me. I know, I know. Am I a true American? The verdict is still out on that one.}

However, my friend Jen and I did end up taking the Summer Class! It was her first time to Saga Hill and I let her know that she was going to absolutely love it.

And she did.

While I have no photos of the class, I can give you a couple of examples of what I learned and what you can expect, should you attend. And I hope that you do!

Both times I attended the class, I got so nervous about not being on time because I was cutting it close. Even with a GPS and directions, it can be a little confusing. The street to turn on seems like a parking lot instead of a road and the building isn’t very well marked. So give yourself some extra time for that and traffic if you are not familiar with the area. Parking is free!

I think the school comes to expect this because both times that I arrived, people were still in line to check in. I noticed that while the published class start time was 6pm, after a brief announcement and sending everyone over to wash their hands, we didn’t really start until 6:30. Smart thinking! It also gives you a little extra time to get settled, use the restroom, pour yourself a glass of wine and introduce yourself to your table-mates, etc.

The menu you follow and the techniques you learn may not mirror the one originally advertised, but it will be close. When it comes to food, you need to improvise! It really depends on what is available that day.

I share Chef Miller’s philosophy about quality ingredients. If you use the real stuff, you will get the best quality result. At Saga Hill, you learn techniques that are science-based. The steps are broken down simply. One thing from this class that stunned me:

Hollandaise Sauce is just butter, egg yolks and lemon juice.

Chef Miller told us that anyone can cook with fat. But truly excellent food is all about balance. What’s more important is the acid you add – lemon juice in this case. If we can figure that balance out, we know 10% more than most chefs. Yippee!!!

And to make Béarnaise sauce, just add tarragon.

Seriously. That simple.

And we didn’t get the exact amounts of each ingredient that we needed to make our concoctions either. We were required to taste and decide as a group how to adjust accordingly. We determined the amount of seasoning – salt and pepper – needed for every dish! Tasting is paramount in cooking!

In this Summer Class we made:

  • Hollandaise & Béarnaise sauces (and had them over scrambled eggs)
  • Tapas (stuffed Peppadew peppers)
  • Sushi (California rolls) – so much easier than I thought!
  • Champagne Mojitos
  • Lobster Rolls

I walk away from these classes having plenty to eat, but not feeling overly stuffed. For a night out, it’s an exceptional value. And yes, I’ve already bought my Groupon Living Social voucher for the fall class. You can get yours here. Don’t even worry about the menu. I promise you won’t be disappointed.

Come join me!

What’s the best tip you’ve learned recently from a cooking show or class?

Cheers~
Carrie