Archives for posts with tag: comfort food

Almost any homemade pizza dough recipe article will say that their pizza dough recipe is easier than ordering pizza delivery. Few things in this world are easier than calling and ordering a pizza — I am not going to lie. However, this pizza dough recipe I got from Mark Bittman’s The Food Matters Cookbook is very easy and fun for kids.

You need 5 ingredients:
2 cups of white whole wheat flour
1 cup of all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon of instant yeast
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups of water
Olive oil for greasing the pan
Toppings of choice

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1. Mix the dry ingredients in a large bowl. Slowly add water to the dry ingredients and mix with a big spoon until incorporated with the dry ingredients. Don’t over mix and don’t knead the dough. You just need to form a ragged mass shaped like a ball. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise for at least three hours or up to 12 hours.

2. When you are ready, heat the oven to 500 degrees. Oil a rimmed baking pan or iron skillet. Stretch or roll out the dough and press it in the pan or skillet and add toppings. Bake for 10 minutes in the oven.

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This is a super easy way to make pizza at home. Heat the oven to 475 degrees. Oil an iron skillet. Press your favorite pizza dough into the skillet (I like Trader Joe’s dough). Add your toppings and cheese. Place in the bottom shelf of the oven and bake for 15 minutes. Let the pizza cool for 5 minutes and then serve.

I love Pad Thai.  I think I have cut out a million recipes for Pad Thai from various magazines over the years.  One day I was at the market and saw some rice noodles and I really wanted to buy them; but, I wasn’t sure what I would make with them.  Then, I noticed recipes on the back of two different boxes one for Pad Thai and and another for a stir fried rice noodle dish.  I thought I could follow the Pad Thai recipe on one box and add the homemade sauce on the other box.  Last night, I was dying for some Pad Thai.  I got the two boxes out, mixed the recipes, added the ingredients I had on hand, and presto — lazy person’s Pad Thai was born.  I call this a lazy person’s recipe because it is really easy to make and it includes ingredients you probably have at home already.

The first step is to soak 1/2 pound of rice noodles. I used a fairly thick rice noodle.  The box for the noodles said to soak the noodles for 20 minutes in hot tap water.  That didn’t seem to work; so, I added boiling water and let the noodles soak for 30-40 minutes.  They were still stiff when I took them out of the water; but, they loosened up a lot when I stir fried them with the veggies at the end.

Next, make your sauce.  The sauce is made of three ingredients:  fish sauce, soy sauce, and brown sugar.  This is why I think of this as a lazy recipe.  Many Pad Thai recipes include tamarind paste and other ingredients that I know I will use once and then forget until they go bad and I have to throw them out.  If you like Thai food; then, fish sauce is a good thing to have on hand.  It adds a nice saltiness that is a bit like that secret briny salty flavor you get from melting anchovies into a sauce.  It is inexpensive, it doesn’t go bad, and it is a good flavor enhancer.

Then, stir fry your veggies in a bit of oil.  If you are using broccoli, snap peas, carrots or other long cooking vegetables then stir fry for a few minutes then add a 1/4 cup of water and allow the veggies to steam until they are tender.  If you are using baby spinach or other quick cooking vegetables you can add them at the very end of the recipe.  After your long-cooking veggies are almost done, add cubes of firm or extra firm tofu.

Add one to two slightly whisked eggs.  Allow the egg to firm up and then scramble it with a spatula.

Add your softened rice noodles. Stir fry the noodles until they soften.  Then add the sauce and stir fry for another minute.  Add fresh chopped cilantro, chopped roasted peanuts, slices of lime.

Enjoy!  This isn’t the most authentic or most complex-tasting Pad Thai; but, it is easy and versatile.  You can add other vegetables.  You could take out the tofu.  You could add fresh mint, bean sprouts, chopped scallions or try other nuts.  Have fun!

Lazy Person’s Pad Thai

Adapted from Thai Kitchen & Taste of Thai recipes

Ingredients

1 tablespoon fish sauce

2 tablespoons soy sauce

1 tablespoon brown sugar

a couple of handfuls of broccoli florets

a couple of handfuls of snap peas, thinly sliced

4 ounces extra firm tofu, drained and dried and cubed

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

2 eggs, slightly beaten

1/2 pound of thick rice noodles

1/4 cup of chopped cilantro

1/4 cup of roasted peanuts, chopped

2 limes, sliced into 8 wedges

1.  Soak rice noodles in boiling water from 30-40 minutes.  Drain and rinse with cold water.

2.  Make sauce — mix fish sauce, soy sauce, and brown sugar in a small bowl.

3.  Heat a tablespoon of oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add broccoli and snap peas (or whatever firm vegetables you like — carrots, etc).  Stir fry for a minute or so.  Add 1/4 cup of water and let the vegetables steam in the water for a few minutes.  Add the tofu and stir fry it for a few minutes.  Add the eggs let them set for a minute or so.  Then, scramble the eggs with a spatula until they are fully cooked.  Add the noodles and stir fry them until they are just limp.  Add the sauce and mix it with the other ingredients for almost a minute.  Add cilantro and peanuts (and quick cooking greens like baby spinach — if you like).  Serve each portion with two lime wedges.  Note:  You could also add bean sprouts and/or chopped scallions at the end as garnishes.

It is raining, it is cold, and I keep reading about hot pots on two of my favorite Japanese food blogs — The Japanese Food Report and La Fuji Mama.  I tried to make a traditional Japanese Sukiyaki with beef and vegetables.  I didn’t really like it.  I think I overcooked the beef.  Then, I decided to work with food that is more in my comfort range — vegetables, noodles, and tofu.  I found various recipes on the internet and looked around my kitchen and came up with this recipe.  It turned out really delicious.  And, it is very versatile; so, think of this as a good recipe to use to just clean out your refrigerator.  It also is good to make if you are cooking with people that have strong opinions about what goes into their meals (i.e. people on special diets, kids, etc.); because, you could make a couple of small pots of  this soup and let everyone put what they like in their pot.

I started by chopping and slicing all the vegetables I had in my refrigerator.  I think it is important to have some mushrooms (here I used fresh shiitakes) and some onion.  The other vegetables are optional and can vary based on what you have and what you like.

I also drained and cubed some firm tofu.  Soft tofu would also be good.  You can add any other protein you like. If you are using leftover meat that has already been cooked — add it at the end to just heat it up.  If you are using uncooked meat, add it at the beginning with the mushrooms and onions.

Boil four cups of water with four tablespoons of light soy sauce, two tablespoons of mirin, mushrooms, and onions.  Reduce the heat and let it simmer for 5 minutes.  For extra umami, you can add a piece of kombu (dried seaweed).  The kombu is optional; but, if you can find some (Whole Foods, Japanese market, etc.) it adds a nice texture to the soup.

Add your the rest of your vegetables.  I also added some dried rice noodles.  Let it simmer until the noodles and vegetables are cooked.  Season with salt to taste.  Simmer for another minute and remove from the heat.

Enjoy!

I sprinkled a bit of shichimi togarashi on my soup.  Shichimi togarashi is Japanese seven flavor chili pepper.  It typically contains:  red chili pepper, black and white sesame seeds, orange peel, ginger, Sichuan pepper, and nori.  It really adds a lot of flavor to this soup.

I liked this soup so much that I made it again the next night.  I was out of fresh shiitake mushrooms; so, I used dried shiitakes.  I added a piece of kombu, udon noodles, and roasted chicken.  I soaked the kombu and dried shiitakes in warm water for about 20 minutes in the pot before starting the soup.  I kept the soaking water in the pot and took out the shiitakes to stem and slice them.  I returned the mushrooms to the pot with some onions (and the kombu that was left in the pot).  I simmered this for 5 minutes.  Then, I added my remaining vegetables, the pre-cooked udon noodles, and the roasted chicken.

A bit of shichimi togarashi sprinkled on top.  Delicious.  I am looking forward to further experiments using this basic formula.  This soup is quick, delicious, easy to make, and a good use of leftovers.

Slurp-o-licious!

Vegetable Sukiyaki

Note:  Feel free to substitute other vegetables, noodles, and meat into this dish.  If you are using meat that has already been cooked, add it at the end with the noodles to just warm it up.  If you are using raw meat, add it at the beginning with the onions and mushrooms.  Roasted chicken worked well in this dish.

Ingredients for 2 servings (you can double this recipe)

1 cup fresh or dried shiitakes (soaked in warm water for 20 minutes), sliced

1/2 cup of chopped kale (or bok choy or chard or nappa cabbage)

1/2 cup of sliced red pepper

1/2 cup of tofu (cubed)

1 small onion, sliced

a handful of dried rice noodles or udon noodles (or whatever noodles you like)

4 tablespoons of soy sauce

2 tablespoon of mirin

kosher salt

Shichimi togarashi (optional)

1 piece of kombu, rinsed, dried with a towel, and soaked in warm water for 20 minutes (optional)

Boil 4 cups of water with the soy sauce, mirin, mushrooms, onion, and kombu (if using).  Let it simmer for 5 minutes.  Add red pepper, kale, tofu, and noodles.  Let simmer again until the noodles are soft.  Season with some salt.  Cook for another minute.  Remove from heat.  Remove kombu.  Season with shichimi togarashi.

I have been experimenting with various skillet mac and cheese recipes.  My goal was to find a recipe that is as easy or easier then the stuff in the box.  I was discussing my quest with my friend (and co-conspirator in the kitchen) Eva.  She said that she just puts cream cheese and shredded cheese on hot pasta to make a mac and cheese for her daughter.  Based on this information, I went to the internet and searched for recipes that had pasta and cream cheese and I stumbled upon a recipe on food.com that made a sauce for pasta by putting milk, parmesan cheese, and cream cheese in the microwave.  The microwave!  I always forget to use my microwave.  So, I took the food.com recipe, tweaked it a bit, and created this recipe that is so easy that a 3 year old can make it in 10 minutes or less (depending on the cooking time for the pasta).

First, fill a large pot with water and bring it to a boil.  Put the pasta of your choice in the pot of boiling water and cook it according to the instructions on the box.  I prefer small shapes like macaroni, shells, bow ties, etc.  Then, put 6-8 ounces of cream cheese in a medium-size bowl with 3/4 cup of milk, 1/2 cup of parmesan cheese, and about 3/4 cup of shredded cheddar cheese.  Put the cheese mixture in the microwave for about 2 minutes.  The sauce should look smooth and creamy.

At this point, I add a bit more shredded cheddar cheese and stir it into the sauce.  This isn’t necessary; but, I am a cheese freak and I like my mac and cheese extra cheesy.  When the pasta is ready — drain it.

Pour the cheese sauce over the hot pasta and stir well.

Enjoy!

The only problem with this recipe is that it may be too good and too easy.  I find myself making it at odd hours of the day when no one else is around.  And, when I am not making it — I am thinking about making it.  So, be careful!

10 Minute Mac & Cheese

Ingredients

6-8 ounces of cream cheese, cubed

3/4 cup of milk (I use non fat)

1/2 cup of grated parmesan cheese

1- 1 1/2 cups of shredded cheddar cheese

1 pound of pasta (preferably small shapes)

Directions

1.  Boil a large pot of water and cook the pasta according to instructions on the packaging.

2.  Put cream cheese, milk, parmesan cheese, and 3/4 cup of cheddar cheese in the microwave for about 2 minutes.  Check the sauce after 1 1/2 minutes to make sure it isn’t overcooked.  When the sauce is smooth and creamy take it out of the microwave.  Stir in more shredded cheddar cheese to taste.

3.  Pour cheese sauce over pasta and stir well.


For many years I have been searching for a macaroni and cheese recipe that is as quick as the stuff in the box.  I had some rules for this mac and cheese recipe.  First, I wanted to make the cheese sauce while boiling the noodles; so, the sauce had to be quick.  Next, I wanted a recipe that included milk, butter, cheese, flour, and noodles — no weird spices (that my kids would notice and reject) and no weird milk products.  Many recipes I found had ingredients like dry mustard or condensed milk.  I gave up for awhile.  Then, I came across this recipe from Simply Recipes.  Their recipe has lemon juice, ham, and black pepper in it; which, I didn’t use.  But, the genius part of this recipe is that they toss the grated cheese with corn starch to prevent the cheese from clumping up and to quickly thicken the sauce.

So, you need the basic ingredients I mentioned with the addition of corn starch.  The beautiful thing about this recipe is that you probably have all this stuff in your kitchen already.

Toss corn starch in the grated cheese (genius).

Boil whatever pasta shape you like.  If you are making this with kids you may want them to pick the pasta.  If they pick the shape of the pasta, it is more likely they will eat this.

To make the sauce, you melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat.  Add some flour and heat the flour.  Then, slowly add milk and allow the sauce to thicken over the heat.  Then, you add the cheese.

Drain the pasta, and put the pot on the stove over low heat to incorporate the sauce and the pasta.

Put in the appropriate serving vessels.

Enjoy!  If you want to get some of this good stuff you better grab a bowl before your kids devour it.  I love macaroni and cheese and I really love macaroni and cheese that takes less then 20 minutes to make.  So, throw out the boxes of mac and cheese (yes, even the relatively healthier one with the bunny on it)!  You can now make your own mac and cheese that is just as fast and even tastier.

Stovetop Macaroni & Cheese

adapted from Simply Recipes

Ingredients

2 quarts of water

1 tablespoon of salt, plus more to flavor sauce

2 cups uncooked pasta

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 cups of cheddar cheese, grated

1 teaspoon of cornstarch

2 teaspoons of flour

1 cup of milk

1.  In a medium sized bowl, mix corn starch with grated cheese, so that the cheese is coated, set aside.

2.  Boil water with one teaspoon of salt.  Add the pasta and cooked according to instructions on the box.  Melt the butter in a large saucepan on medium heat.  Whisk in the flour.  Slowly pour in the milk, while whisking until the sauce is smooth.  Slowly add the grated cheese, while whisking, until smooth.

3.  When pasta is done, drain it, and put it back in the pot.  Add the cheese sauce.  Cook over low heat until the sauce is incorporated with the pasta.

The other night I was hungry, lazy, and wanted to keep my kids occupied while I was cooking.  I cooked some pasta and thawed some tomato sauce I made this summer. I got out my ramekins and sprayed them with some Pam.  My child helpers and I put the cooked pasta and sauce into the ramekins.

Topped the pasta with mozzarella cheese.

Popped it into the oven at 350 degrees for 10 minutes.

And, yum, super cheesy baked pasta.  This is very easy and very quick and a good cooking project for children.  You could add various types of pasta, sauces or different cheeses to this.  You could even add some cooked peas, cooked broccoli, or cubes of ham.  Have fun and enjoy!

Baked Pasta Shells and Cheese

Ingredients

1 pound of pasta

4 cups of pasta sauce

2 cups of mozzarella cheese

Equipment

6 small ramekins (3 3/4 inch diameter)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Cook pasta and sauce.  Place the ramekins on a baking sheet and spray with Pam.  Mix pasta and sauce.  Add pasta with sauce into ramekins.  Top each ramekin with a small handful of mozzarella cheese.  Bake for about 10 minutes — until the cheese is melted.  Let cool for a few minutes.