Asian Salad and Homemade Pastas

Today we continue our Happy Lunar New Year theme and will enjoy an Asian Chicken Salad made with chicken breast, red peppers, asparagus, and a peanut dressing. Yesterday, my daughter and I decided it would be fun to serve the salad with hot Indian Naan bread. We will serve Trader Joe’s Naan Garlic bread.  We like to mix up the international flavors. Here is the link to my recipe for the Asian Chicken Salad: https://thelabyrinthguide.wordpress.com/2014/03/15/chinese-chicken-salad/

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We love Dad’s homemade pastas. A year ago we enjoyed a homemade pasta with a mushroom duxelles truffle sauce. Mushroom duxelles is finely chopped mushrooms cooked with butter, shallot or onion, and cream. We enhanced the flavor with a black truffle pâté.  We love mushroom duxelles on pasta, pizzas, and puff pastry. My son even uses left mushroom duxelles on sandwiches. Dad also made that night a family  favorite: fresh focaccia bread. Daughter and father team spearheaded dessert. Just an aside, if my daughter is ever making dessert it will most likely have chocolate or a combination of chocolate and peanut butter. On the menu was Oreo cookie crust peanut butter chocolate ganache pie. I think it’s time to repeat that whole meal.

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Another favorite way to prepare our homemade pasta is with a homemade vodka sauce and Italian sausage.

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That brings us to 2014 when we enjoyed eggplant parmigiana with pasta. We sometimes buy frozen eggplant parmigiana which is easy to prepare for a quick weeknight meal. We ended the night with homemade vanilla ice-cream and chocolate cake.

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I bring you quotes from Thich Nhat Hanh, Anatole France, Paolo Coelho, and the movie “About Time”.

Happy last day of January.

 

 

I love cookbooks. I have a huge collection of cookbooks. But that’s a topic for another day. In 2014, I purchased America’s Test Kitchen, “The Complete America’s Test Kitchen TV Show Cookbook 2001 – 2014”. This book has turned out to be a favorite. It has some photography but this is not a glossy coffee table book, it is a cooking textbook. America’s Test Kitchen, both the show and its publications, set out to instruct and explain why some methods and/or ingredients work better over others. Although I have enjoyed preparing Asian inspired dishes for a long time, it was not until I got the ATK cookbook that I really started making Asian food a staple. Tonight we are enjoying a Thai-style soup with coconut milk, lemon grass, cilantro, chicken, red pepper, green beans, and noodles. I deviate a little from the recipe and add what ever vegetables I have at hand. This is a great soup for a cold winter day.

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Exactly a year earlier we were enjoying a chicken orange stir-fry.

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In 2014 on this day, we enjoyed a traditional Colombian Beans, Rice, and Carnitas Meal. The carnitas was Cuban-style slow cooked pork shoulder. Here is the link for my Colombian Beans & Rice with chorizo recipe. I hope you enjoy it. https://thelabyrinthguide.wordpress.com/2013/10/16/frisoles-colombianos-con-arroz-chorizo-y-aguacate/

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Happy Lunar New Year

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The Lunar New Year celebrated by many Asian cultures was yesterday. Our family is celebrating tonight with a Chinese inspired meal. My husband will make us his delicious Chinese pork dumplings. We will accompany the dinner with store-bought Chinese pork buns and roasted cauliflower.

I share a quote from the wonderful Buddhist monk, Thich Nhat Hanh. When I lived in London I was introduced to the topic of mindfulness and to Thick Nhat Hanh. I also had the opportunity to see him speak. His teachings and his words are very inspirational.

Happy Lunar New Year, Year of the Rooster!

More on Mindfulness: https://thelabyrinthguide.wordpress.com/2013/11/01/mindfulness-and-living-a-mindful-life/

 

Omnivores

Today I share two days of meals with you. We are a family who enjoys meat, poultry, and fish but once in a while our meals are vegetarian. This was the case on January 28, 2015. Our standard roasted butternut squash soup also has apples, onions, and curry powder. Roasted cauliflower is a family favorite. The chopped cauliflower is drizzled with olive oil and is seasoned with salt, red pepper flakes, and garlic. That night we sampled a new Trader Joe’s frozen product called Polenta Provençale, small polenta balls with spinach and peas in a cream sauce. Although it was tasty, we have not had the chance to circle back to it.

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That brings us to tonight’s meal. It’s a date night because we are sans children.  My husband is preparing the sirloin steak sous-vide style. Sous-vide is a cooking method in which food is vacuum-sealed in a plastic pouch then placed in a temperature-controlled water bath for several hours until the food achieves the desired temperature. This allows the food to cook evenly and retain moisture. My husband designed his own sous-vide pot back in 2010. Now sous-vide appliances are readily available. He cooks our steaks sous-vide style to medium rare. Once the steaks come out of the water bath they are seared quickly on high heat to brown the outside. I love sauces with my steaks. Tonight my hubby is making a traditional french-style brandy cream sauce with reserved steak juices, peppercorn, shallot and parsley. He loves to flambé the brandy which has been a little scary at times. He takes more precautions now. I’m in charge of side dishes tonight. I plan to make red potatoes that are par-boiled, pressed, drizzled with olive oil, seasoned, and roasted. I’ll boil the green beans and then place them in an ice bath. To finish the green beans I’ll add butter and pressed garlic and microwave them warm when we are ready to eat. My husband wants to use the spiralizer that he got for Christmas. He plans to spiralize a sweet potato and then fry it. Pretty decadent. We shall accompany this delicious meal with a Petrucelli Cabarnet Sauvignon. Yes, my husband makes his own wine and beer and it is excellent. And there you have it, an awesome Saturday night date.

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Today I share a new quote by Henry Ford.

Lasagne Bolognese, Chicken Fingers, & Soft Tacos

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In Italian, lasagna refers to one sheet of pasta and its plural form, lasagne, refers to the dish with several layers. This distinction is rarely observed in English. That’s why often in the United States we’ll see Lasagna spelled in the singular form. Over time, my husband and I have specialized in our cooking. When there is lasagne on the menu the family knows  it’s coming from mama. When we traveled to Italy we would love the lasagne that they served there. It is different to the American lasagne that is made with ricotta cheese. In fact lasagne Bolognese (from the city of Bologna) does not have any ricotta in it at all. I prefer to make lasagne over 2 days. On the first day I make the Bolognese meat ragu. This  meat sauce cooks for about 3 hours with primary ingredients of ground beef and pork, carrot, celery, onion, milk, wine, and a small amount of tomato paste. I let the meat sauce cool and refrigerate until the next day. On the second day I make a béchamel sauce which is a butter, flour, and milk sauce with a small amount of parmesan and a hint of nutmeg.  I use either fresh or dried  lasagne pasta sheets. I then prepare for the lasagne assembly. In a buttered lasagne pan I start with pasta sheets, followed by 1/3 of the meat sauce, and parmesan cheese. This is followed by another layer of pasta sheets, 1/3 of the béchamel, and parmesan cheese. You should end up with six alternating layers: three of meat and three of béchamel, with béchamel as your last layer. This classic Bolognese Lasagne al Forno is mouth-watering.

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On the 27th of January of 2015 we were threatened with a huge blizzard which turned out to be all of 1 inch of snow. Hey, I was not complaining.

That day we had ourselves a party of homemade chicken fingers and sweet potato fries. Sure, homemade chicken fingers take longer to prepare but nothing beats knowing what is in your chicken fingers. I like to brine the chicken for several hours before assembling the strips. I use a simple brine of brown sugar and Kosher salt. There are many ways to bread the chicken. You can use panko or regular breadcrumbs. Lately I  have been making a very flavorful coconut panko breaded version. We have cooked chicken fingers 2 ways, deep-fried or baked. Recently it seems that we mostly bake the strips and the family is very happy with the outcome. As for the sweet potato fries, we have made two kinds, store-bought and from scratch. If making from scratch we cut up the sweet potato, cover it in corn starch, and then deep-fry it. We serve the chicken fingers with all sorts of fun dipping sauces: bbq, sriracha mayonnaise, plain yogurt with chili, garlic, and cilantro, honey mustard and ketchup.

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This brings us to tonight. I had previously made a delicious Cuban slow-cooked pork shoulder which is then shredded. I had frozen the leftovers. Tonight we are repurposing this delicious pork and using it in soft tacos. Our family members like different types of shells which is why we usually have both corn and whole wheat shells on hand. We typically use cheddar cheese but we discovered that smoked gouda adds an interesting flavor profile. For toppings I’ll chop green onion and cilantro, and offer store bought salsas and sour cream. The Cuban pork is so juicy that I generally don’t add salsas to my soft taco.

With every dinner we always have green salads with my homemade salad dressing. If we have a vegetable(s) with the meal I generally include that on the blackboard.

Last night my husband and I did some brainstorming on what meals to have this weekend. Stay tuned!

 

 

Driver’s Permit, Salmon, & Gnocchi

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The day that many parents dread is the day when your teenager gets behind the wheel. My son had gotten his driver’s permit in late December of 2013 and on January 26, 2014 my husband began to officially teach our son to drive. That night we celebrated this milestone with a family staple. I am not much of a fish or sea food eater. In fact one of the few fish dishes that I enjoy is my husband’s Bourbon glazed salmon. Whenever he makes Bourbon glazed salmon, he and my daughter make homemade potato gnocchi together. And what a meal this is!

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My hubby and I are by ourselves beginning today since our daughter is attending the Model UN Conference for the whole weekend. He and I will be enjoying leftovers of Spaghetti Al Limone, spaghetti in a delicious olive oil, lemon, parmesan cheese and parsley sauce.  Although I often make homemade meatballs tonight we are accompanying our pasta with Chef Bruce Aidell’s chicken meatballs. We also really like Trader Joe’s turkey meatballs and their small beef party meatballs.

My recipe for homemade Italian sauce and meatballs: https://thelabyrinthguide.wordpress.com/2013/02/01/you-dont-have-to-be-italian-to-make-homemade-italian-sauce-and-meatballs/

 

 

 

 

Super Bowl & Snow

Today I share January 25th from 3 years, 2015, 2016, and this year, 2017.

In 2015 I got my wires crossed and thought that the Super Bowl was on the 25th of January. My children read the board and told me I had the wrong date. Oops, I quickly added the word “practice” after realizing my mistake. Also on the board is the word that no one can ever spell including myself “hors d’oeuvres”. I got to practice spelling “hors d’oeuvres” again the following weekend for the REAL Super Bowl celebration. The reason for palm trees  was that my daughter had been on a school trip to Belize earlier in the month. Even after she returned I kept the palm trees to help get me through the doldrums of winter.

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In January of 2016 we had what I termed the Great Blizzard of 2016. It had started snowing days earlier and the children got a snow day on the Monday. That night we made delicious Indian food.

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And that quickly brings us to this year. There is a snowy theme on the board but we have yet to get a real snow storm (shhh don’t say it out loud). Tonight I am throwing together a pasta with ingredients I have in the house,  italian sausage and ricotta cheese. I’ll make an easy tomato sauce and the addition of the ricotta cheese will turn it pink and hence the word “blush”.

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I bring you three quotes from: Paolo Coelho, Sir Winston Churchill, and Margaret Thatcher.