I really need to work on a few things with photographing food: (a) actually taking photos of it before wolfing it down, and (b) figuring out how to take better food photos. I mean really, a photo of a purplish mushy mess doesn’t look very appealing so how am I going to convince anyone how delicious it tastes??
Needless to say, I’m going to talk about three tasty dishes today but I have no photos to share. :(
First up is a 30-Minute Meals winner, You Won’t Be Single For Long Vodka Cream Pasta. I’d made this one a few times in the past, but hadn’t put it into heavy rotation for some reason…until my friend Julie reminded me of just how good a recipe this is. Since her friendly reminder, I’ve made this recipe twice in two weeks! Thanks, Julie, for bringing this one back to my attention!
Some people are “so over” Rachel Ray, but I think that while she’s a little over-exposed at the moment, her recipes are still solid. And for the most part, they really do take right around 30 minutes to prepare – a nice thing indeed for a weeknight meal.
You Won’t Be Single For Long Vodka Cream Pasta
Adapted from Rachel Ray’s 30-Minute Meals
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, once around the pan in a slow stream
1 tablespoon butter
2-4 cloves garlic, minced
2 shallots, minced
1 cup vodka (make sure to use good vodka, or else it's just not as good)
1 cup chicken stock
1 can crushed tomatoes (32 ounces)
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 cups shredded chicken (shrimp or salmon would be good, too)
Coarse salt and pepper
16 ounces pasta, such as penne rigate
1/2 cup heavy cream
20 leaves fresh basil, shredded or torn
Heat a large skillet over moderate heat. Add oil, butter, garlic, and shallots. Gently saute shallots for 3 to 5 minutes to develop their sweetness. Add vodka to the pan, 3 turns around the pan in a steady stream will equal about 1 cup. Reduce vodka by half (this will take 2 or 3 minutes). Add chicken stock, tomatoes, tomato paste and chicken. Bring sauce to a bubble and reduce heat to simmer. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
While sauce simmers, cook pasta in salted boiling water until cooked to al dente (with a bite to it). While pasta cooks, prepare your salad or other side dishes.
Stir cream into sauce. When sauce returns to a bubble, remove it from heat. Drain pasta. Toss hot pasta with sauce and basil leaves.
I like to serve this with a Caesar salad and some crusty rosemary bread from Trader Joe’s. Quite the crowd pleaser, if I do say so myself. If you want a bit more spice, add in some crushed red peppers.
Next up is a marvelous side dish from our gal Giada, Red Wine Risotto with Peas. We had a wonderful meal with some wonton-wrapped shrimp (a little Asian/Italian mix), an antipasto salad, this risotto and some delish focacia bread from Trader Joe’s (I heart TJ’s so much that it deserves its own separate post). I should have cooked the risotto at a lower temp to make it a bit creamier, and I completely over-salted it. Despite all of that, it was still really good…just watch the salt!
Red Wine Risotto with Peas
As seen on Everyday Italian with Giada De Laurentiis
3 1/2 cups canned low-salt chicken broth
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup finely chopped onion
2 garlic cloves, minced (I usually add more garlic!)
1 cup arborio rice, or medium-grain white rice
1/2 cup dry red wine
1/3 cup frozen peas, defrosted
1/4 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves
1/2 cup grated Parmesan, plus additional for garnish
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Bring the broth to a simmer over medium-high heat. Cover the broth and keep it warm over very low heat.
Melt the butter in a heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and saute until translucent. Stir in the garlic and saute for 30 seconds. Stir in the rice and cook for about 2 minutes until the rice is toasted. Add the wine and stir until it is absorbed, about 1 minute. Add 3/4 cup of hot broth; simmer over medium-low heat until the liquid is absorbed, stirring often, about 6 minutes. Repeat, adding 3/4 cup of hot broth 3 more times, stirring often, about 18 minutes longer.
Add the remaining broth and simmer until the rice is just tender and the mixture is creamy, about 5 minutes longer. Stir in the peas and parsley. Add the 1/2 cup of Parmesan. Season, to taste, with salt and pepper. Spoon the risotto into bowls. Sprinkle additional cheese over and serve.
Really tasty! The peas give a nice pop, and it’s a great comfort food for a cold and rainy night.
Finally, I’d like to share a chicken salad recipe that is quite possibly my most favorite chicken salad ever. That’s the great thing about the internet, is that you can find all of these fabulous blogs – photography, cooking, humor, crafts, scrapbooking…you name it, there’s a wealth of information out there for it. This recipe comes from a great food blog, and I modified it just slightly (she’s a little too healthy for me…ha!).
Curried Chicken Sandwiches
Adapted from Everybody Likes Sandwiches
2 c leftover cooked chicken, chopped
1 rib of celery, diced
1/3 c onion, diced
1/4 c dried cherries, chopped (I used whole Craisins)
2 T pecans, chopped
2 t curry paste (I used crumbled Golden Curry mild sauce mix and mixed with a tiny amount of water, and I probably used more than 2 teaspoons)
4 T mayo (use more or less, to your liking)
salt & pepper
In a medium sized bowl, combine the first 5 ingredients. Add in the curry paste and mix well so that everything gets combined. Add in the mayo (you may want to use more if you like a wetter consistency) and the salt and pepper to your taste. Combine well.
Lightly toast your bun and build your sandwich! Spread a thin layer of mayo (optional, I didn’t do this and it tasted great) and add on a couple spoonfuls of the chicken salad mixture and spread over the bottom bun. Cover with fresh spinach leaves and add the top layer of bun.
Fabulous with a toasty Kaiser roll!
One final food item to note. Karl and I went to the new(ish) Whole Foods in Redmond on Saturday night and Mama Mia, this place is amazing! It’s an evening of entertainment all on its own! The place is so well organized, and the produce (oh, the produce!) is just beautiful. We found tons of lactose-free food options for Karl, and as a treat to ourselves we each got a cupcake. Check out this selection, it was very hard to choose just one.
In the end, Karl got a carrot cake cupcake and I got a vegan chocolate cupcake with chocolate icing. So decadent!