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Thank You! In more ways than one….

Ya know…I always knew that I counted on blogging and sharing recipes and funny stories and friendships to get me through the day to day…that creative release that doesn’t seem to fit anywhere else…it’s what I strive for, what I crave. 

As you may or may not have read in my ‘about’ page…planning food, cooking food, photographing food, and sharing food are some of the major ways I deal with stress and depression.  You guys visiting and commenting on the crap stuff that I write and cook and photograph, is like…like…I dunno…Amazing.

By now, everyone knows about the demise of Tastespotting.  It was, like, OhmyfuckingGawd…NO…WAY!  SHIT!  Let me be so shallow as to say that *every* time my photos made it, I was filled with satisfaction…with glee and with utter validation that I was worthy.  But.  BUT.  The majority of the pics didn’t cut it.  Which led to a fervent desire to do better…to capture that perfect shot….get that perfect lighting and style that food the way artists would (sadly, I rarely accomplish any of those, but I keep. on. trying!)  Thank you, TS for being the catalyst to but one of my obsessions.  But the best thing about TS, was finding all of YOU!  There are so many inspiring photos that have been filed away in my brain…so many gorgeous dishes just waiting to be recreated according to you.  So, it is with that thought in mind that I direct you to FoodGawker.com.

Chuck, is one of those food bloggers that I check every freaking day.  Seriously.  He has some Damned good recipes…you have GOT to check out his spring rolls with nuoc cham….pure nirvana.  AND?!  He has the technical smarts to create something so wonderful…so necessary…so ingenious as FoodGawker.  So THANK YOU! Chuck!  My hat is off, and my thanks goes to you, and your ‘hungry bear.’  I will be frequenting your *new* site often, my friend. MUAC!

Empanada of the Month! Empanadas Mendocinas

empanadas mendocinas 

The lovely Rebecca at From Argentina with Love is hosting “Empanada of the Month!”and you know I just couldn’t resist participating.  Empanadas (or empanadillas as these little ones are called over here) are basically beautifully flaky pastry wrapped around the filling of your choosing.  They’re like little pillows of crispy on the outside, flavor explosion on the inside.  The variety is endless…you can fill them with meat (as in this case), fish, vegetables, cheese or even custard and/or fruit for dessert empanadas.

empanadas mendocinas 

Empanadas Mendocinas are basically filled with ground beef, onion, olive slices and a slice of hard boiled egg, with a bit of bite from the crushed red pepper.  The first time we tried Empanadas Mendocinas was (if you can believe it! lol) at our favorite neighborhood Italian restaurant, Calabria.  Before you think we’re goofy for ordering Argentinian food at an Italian place, let me explain.  The owners and all of the workers are native Argentinians.  Of course, that doesn’t detract from their ability to make incredible Italian food…one of these days I’ll tote my camera along so you can see.  :)   So anyway, back to the story.  One of the appetizer menu items is empanadas, so we asked what they were and she explained.  Well, that was the end of that!  Bring it on out!  We want that!  So, we had our first delicious taste of these little bites.  Since then, we order them as an appetizer every time we go.

I was thrilled when Rebecca graciously invited me to join in her Empanada of the Month event, and really excited to get my little paws on her recipe.  It’s incredibly good, you guys.  Incredibly good.  I didn’t add the lard at all…The ground beef I bought had a bit of marbling, so I just left it out in the interest of lowering calories.  I think the next time I would perhaps add just a bit more olive (one slice just ain’t enough for my greedy olive loving self lol), but other than that, wouldn’t change a thing. 

Extreme Rotini and Cheese and a Gaw-jis Meatloaf

rotini and cheese

“So what in the Sam Hill is Nikki doing making meatloaf and mac and cheese in the summer for?” you ask? Well. Even though the temps are soaring, and the sun is blazing, I braved the house heating oven. For One Reason. Michelle, at Thursday Night Smackdown posted her oh so decadent creamy cheesy rotini. Did you see that stuff?! I may have slobbered all over myself. And cried with envy at that dish. She is such a fabulously funny writer, making *thee* most amazing of foods. I mean, this gal makes $55 sticks of butter for recipes, folks. Michelle is also the poached egg Master (Madame? Mistress?).  I bow down to her talents, people.  Seriously. 

So back to the Cheeeese….the Rotini and Cheese…I followed Michelle’s recipe pretty closely, though I did make a few changes, which I’ll note here:

Ingredients:

1 1/2 pounds (750 grams) rotini
1/2 cup butter
a few saffron threads
1/2 cup flour
1 1/2 quarts (1 1/2 liters) milk
2 cups grated white Cheddar
1 cup grated Gouda
2/3 cup freshly grated Parmigiano Regiano
1 tablespoon garlic powder
plenty of freshly cracked black pepper
a spoonful of sweet Spanish paprika
a generous grate of nutmeg
2 chicken bouillon cubes, crumbled
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1 cup seasoned bread crumbs

Preparation:

First, preheat your oven to about 350ºF/175ºC and get your pasta water boiling.
While this is getting started, get your sauce going.
Heat butter over medium heat.
Remove from heat and add saffron threads.
Stir this around a little bit so the saffron releases it’s color and aroma.
Add flour and whisk until creamy.Add the bouillon (be sure it’s pretty powdery, and whisk it through)
Add a bit of milk and whisk until thoroughly combined.
Add remaining milk and return to heat.
You’re going to have to whisk this pertnear (that’s a Minnesotan word, guys…it means “almost.”) constantly until it heats through and begins to thicken.
This will happen after about 10 minutes or so.
When the sauce is just beginning to thicken, add the remaining seasonings and stir through.
Now it should really start to thicken up.
Remove from heat and add the cheeses.
Taste a spoonful (or 5) to make sure the seasonings are right.
You might need to taste some more spoonfuls to be sure.
Once you’ve gotten the sauce right, cover and set it aside.
Your noodles should be about done by now, right?
Drain them and add them to the sauce.
Stir it all up.
Pour this into an oven proof dish.
Now, melt a couple of tablespoons of butter in the mic quick.
Add the melted butter to the bread crumbs and mix it up really well with a fork, until it has a sandy texture and appearance (yum! let’s eat sand!).
Sprinkle this all over the top of the noodles and cheese.
Bake about 20 minutes or until browned and bubbly.
See that?

rotini and cheese

“So what about this so called ‘gaw-jis’ meatloaf?” you ask…”And anyway, who the hell has ever seen a beautiful meatloaf?”  No one has.  It just isn’t possible, because meatloaf is ugly assed food.  But I don’t care, because it is really, REALLY good.  Meatloaf may not be beautiful on the *outside,* but it sure is gorgeous when you take that first tender bite, seasoned just so, with a kick of Sweet Baby Ray’s slathered over the top for good measure. 

gawjis meatloaf

Now that’s good eatin’.

Ingredients:

2 pounds (1 kilo) ground beef
1 egg
2/3 cup seasoned bread crumbs
1 cup milk
garlic powder…lots, at least a tablespoon
1/2 envelope of Knorr Onion soup mix
a bunch of cracked black pepper
a good splash of Worcestershire sauce
a good splash of HP Sauce (or Heinz 57, or A1)
Sweet Baby Ray’s bbq sauce to cover the top

Preparation:

Preheat oven to 350ºF/175ºC.
In a large bowl, mix everything except bbq sauce really well.
You may need to use your hands for this, it’s just easier.
Spread the meat mixture into a loaf pan, or make a free form loaf on a lipped baking sheet or jelly roll pan.
Cover with bbq sauce.
Bake for about an hour, until cooked through.
Drain off excess liquid and allow to rest, covered for about 15 minutes.
Slice and serve.

I decided to serve this with some steamed asparagus, bathed in butter and lightly seasoned with sea salt and cracked pepper.

asparagus

Man. This is living. So THAT, my friends, is why I made rotini and cheese and meatloaf in the summer. I bet you anything you want to do the same right about now. LOL ;)

Proximamente…las recetas en español. :)

The Best Cup-o-Noodles You’ll Ever Eat! Creamy Pesto Penne

Fresh basil is abound at the vegetable markets, and you know what that means! Pesto! Lots and lots of pesto! It’s such an easy sauce to make, and goes oh so wonderfully well with, well, with *everything!* lol Would you believe the very first time I ever had pesto was at the Renaissance Fair in Southern Minnesota? There was a stand there that had freshly baked dense bread slathered with pesto. I think I went back to that stand like 5 times that day. lmfao Of course after that fateful day, I had to learn to make it on my own. Well, that was over 20 years ago already (and you better not make any old jokes either! :P ), and pesto still pays regular visits to my table. And by regular? I mean like at least once a week.

pesto

See those pine nuts in there? Yum. Pine nuts are soooo good…One of my first visits to Spain, we went up to a little town called Ávila. While walking, one of my friends picked up a gigantic pine cone and started eating from it. I was all like, “WHAT are you doing?” And she started laughing at me and showed me that she was eating the fresh pine nuts, straight from the cone. OMG! Free pine nuts! All over the place! Well, needless to say, we picked up a bunch of those suckers and had our fill of those delicious little nuggets. Good times, good times.

And while I’m on the subject of good times, Tony at Olive Juice is having a pesto event (It’s actually part of a series of events called, A Taste of the Mediterranean)!

italy

Doesn’t that sound like fun?! Why don’t you join in and submit one of your own pesto dishes? This time, I’m submitting my old standby, Creamy Pesto Penne. I already have plans for another pesto dish this weekend, too. :D

creamy pesto penne

Ingredients:

4 cloves garlic
1/2 cup toasted pine nuts (to toast pine nuts, just toss them in a dry skillet over medium heat until lightly browned and aromatic)
1 large bunch basil (by large, I mean about 3 cups leaves), stemmed
1 small bunch parsley (about a cup), stemmed
1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese, plus more for garnish
salt and cracked black pepper to taste
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil (about)
3 cups cream
1 pound (1/2 kilo) boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into strips
1 pound (1/2 kilo) penne

Preparation:

Prepare pasta according to package directions.
Meanwhile, make pesto.
Using a food processor, first process garlic, then add basil and parsley and process until finely chopped.
Now toss in the parmesan, salt and pepper and pulse until combined.
In a steady stream, add enough olive oil to bind the pesto (so it sticks together, but isn’t liquid-y).
Add in pine nuts and pulse to combine, you don’t want to break them up entirely..those little nuggets are good! :)
Mix about 1/3 of the pesto with the chicken strips.
Heat a skillet over medium high heat, and drizzle with a bit of olive oil.
Saute chicken until cooked through, then add cream and stir to combine.
Heat through, then remove from heat and add the remaining pesto and stir to combine.
Drain the pasta, and then toss with the creamy pesto sauce and chicken.
Serve with extra parmesan if you like.
Try not to die of happiness and joy with each bite. ;)

Penne con Pollo y Salsa de Pesto Cremoso

Ingredientes:
 
4 dientes de ajo
1/2 vaso piñones, ligeramente tostado
1 manojo grande de albahaca fresca, (unos 3 vasos)
1 manojo pequeño de perejil (un vaso)
1/2 vaso queso parmesano recientemente rallado, y mas para servir
sal y pimienta al gusto
1/4 vaso (mas o menos) aceite de oliva virgen
3 vasos nata
1/2 kilo pechuga de pollo en tiras
1/2 kilo pasta penne rigate

Elaboración:

Preparar pasta según el paquete.
Mientras tanto, preparar el pesto.
Utilizando el robot de cocina, procesar ajo primero.
A continuación, añadir la albahaca y el perejil y procesar hasta que estén picaditos.
Ahora añadir el parmesano, la sal y la pimienta y procesar.
Verter el aceite poco a poco hasta que el pesto esté homogéneo, pero no líquido.
Añadir los piñones y pulsar un poco, no quieres romperlos del todo–que son buenos! :)
Mezclar la tercera parte de pesto con el pollo.
Calentar una sartén sobre fuego medio fuerte y rociar con aceite de oliva.
Saltear pollo y pesto hasta que esté hecho, y a continuación, añadir la nata.
Calentar solo hasta que la nata esté caliente, y retirar del fuego.
Añadir el pesto que sobra y mezclar bien.
Escurrir la pasta y mezclar con la salsa y el pollo.
Servir con parmesano si quieres.
Intentar no morirse de gusto y felicidad con cada mordisco. ;)

I would also like to thank Elle at Elle’s New England Kitchen for awarding me an I love you this much award!

i love you this much

Thank you so much, Elle! I love YOU that much and MORE!!! MUAC!!! :D

I’d like to pass this award on to some great bloggers:

Nina at Nina’s Kitchen
Judy at No Fear Entertaining
Ginny at Just Get Floury
Gloria at Canela’s Kitchen
Brenda at Flanboyant Eats
 

Mo Taaaahts! Spinach and Feta Tartlets

Ok, so that was my sad attempt at an English accent. LOL Did you hear it? Was it close? The other day my friends were giggling at my accent from the video I posted…they said I have a combination of Minnesotan and Spanish accents (Spanisoooodan, hey? hehe)…I dunno. I don’t think I have one. :P LMAO

Anyway, about those taaaahts…one of the best fillings for pretty much *anything* is the spinach and feta combo. Spanakopita, quiche, tarts, omelettes, bread…I love the way the tangy feta contrasts with the delicate flavor of the spinach. And? It’s practically health food, what with all the calcium, folic acid and other nutrients these little babies provide. The filling is so quick and easy to throw together, too. Now, put this healthy and delicious stuff into some puff pastry…What’s not to love?

I’d also like to submit these little delights to this month’s Monthly Mingle Event (this month’s theme is appetizers) at Mansi Desai’s site, Fun and Food.  This fun event was started by Meeta at What’s for lunch, Honey?.  Go and check out the event and these great blogs! :)

 spinach and feta tarts

Just look at that flaky goodness!  Let’s get started making them.

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons butter
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 onion, minced
1 pound (400 grams) frozen spinach, squeezed dry
1 bunch spring onions, chopped
2 tablespoons dill
juice from 1 lemon
1/2 pound (200 grams) feta cheese, crumbled
1 egg
salt and pepper to taste
1 sheet puff pastry, cut into 9 equally sized squares

Preparation:

Preheat oven to 350ºF/175ºC.
Lightly oil muffin tins or ramekins with olive oil.
Heat butter over medium heat and saute garlic until golden.
Add onion and saute until soft.
Add spring onion and spinach and stir well.

saute

Remove from heat and add dill, lemon juice and cheese, and then season with salt and pepper to taste.
Stir in egg, beaten.  Look at this filling!

filling

Line muffin tins with a square of pastry, and put a bit of filling on each.
Pinch the corners together, leaving a little breathing space (you can see this here).
Bake about 20-30 minutes or until golden.

spinach and feta tarts

Tartaletas de Espinacas

Ingredientes:

2 cucharadas mantequilla
2 dientes de ajo, majados
1 cebolla, picada
400 gramos espinacas congeladas, completamente escurridas del agua
1 manojo cebolletas, picadas
2 cucharadas eneldo
zumo de 1 limón
200 gramos queso feta, desmenuzado
1 huevo
sal y pimienta al gusto
1 lámina de hojaldre, cortada en 9 cuadrados

Elaboración:

Precalentar el horno a 175ºC.
Engrasar unas flaneras individuales con un poco de aceite de oliva
Calentar la sartén y dorar el ajo en la mantequilla.
Añadir la cebolla y sofreir hasta que esté tierna.
Añadir la cebolleta y las espinacas y remover bien.
Retirar del fuego y añadir el eneldo, el zumo, el queso y salpimentar.
Añadir el huevo batido y mezclar bien.
Forar cada flanera con una pieza de hojaldre.
Poner un poco del relleno en cada una y cerrar las puntas.
Hornear durante 20-30 minutos o hasta que estén doradas.

canarygirl




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