Thursday, January 26

Everything but the Kitchen Sink Pasta

We got 6 inches of snow last Friday and I decided it was the perfect excuse for some "everything but the kitchen sink" pasta!


It's one my Mom taught me when I first moved to Chicago.  She came out the weekend after I moved and took me shopping to set up my kitchen with cute red pots and pans and baking dishes and groceries.  In exchange, Roy and I took her to dinner in boys town on Cinco de Mayo where a VERY inebriated lesbian fell and dry heaved at her flip flopped feet.  Ohhhh the different ending that story could have had.  Remember that time Mom?  It's totally the way you should thank someone you love after they outfit your kitchen :)

Knowing me the way mothers know their daughters, she wanted to make sure to teach me something using my new kitchen goodies to ensure they'd get used in the future.  So she taught me this.  Because of that, around these parts it goes by "Ma Rob's Tasty Pasta" in addition to "Everything but the Kitchen Sink Pasta".


It's fantastic!  A go-to crowd pleaser packed with lots of delicious ingredients like prosciutto, sun dried tomatoes, peas, mushrooms, onions and pine nuts.  It's a bit salty and smoky with the prosciutto, the peas and pine nuts lend it some crunch and the mushrooms and sun dried tomatoes give it a subtle earthiness.  And it's so flavorful!  Try it the next time you want some good comfort food.



Ma Rob's "Everything but the Kitchen Sink" Pasta
serves 6-8, 40 mins

1 jar Vodka Sauce
1 Tbsp olive oil
6-8 slices of prosciutto, roughly chopped (cutting prosciutto with kitchen scissors is MUCH easier)
1 onion, roughly chopped
2 Tbsp sun dried tomatoes, roughly chopped
1 cup button mushrooms, roughly chopped
1 cup frozen peas
small jar of pine nuts
1 package (9 oz) of fresh linguine

Heat olive oil in a large frying pan over medium heat.  Add chopped onions and prosciutto.  Cook until onions are soft and translucent and the prosciutto is browned a bit. 

Add sun dried tomatoes, mushrooms and peas.  Stir and cook for 2-3 more minutes.

Add vodka sauce, turn heat down to low and cover.  Add linguine to boiling water and cook until al dente (linguine cooks VERY quickly, in 2-3 minutes). 

Reserve a cup of pasta water and then drain the pasta when it's done.  Add pasta to the pan and stir to combine with the sauce. If the sauce is too thick, mix in half a cup of the reserved pasta water to thin it out.  When you're happy with the sauce, sprinkle pine nuts over and serve.

Sunday, January 22

Updated: Corn and Sausage Chowder

Last week I talked about how I love fresh starts. There are lots of things on my list for 2012 which is why I'm backing off a bit from formal blog posting and going to a more helter skelter, stream of conscience format (think: Phoebe's style of running in Friends, which coincidentally, is exactly how I think Foster runs when we're at the park). 

This is one of my first new year, new rules "helter skelter" posts.  It's a link to one of my favorite meals that I posted about last spring, but with an update on timing.  I'm reposting this because it's amazing.  And if you haven't tried it yet, you should.  It's one of my all time family favorites and it's delighted all those who've tried it so far.  The mere mention of chowder is all it takes to make my younger brother jealous.  And somehow, Seth always finds his way over for dinner when I make this. 

"It's delicious!" -Seth, captured mid-bite by my lovely cell phone cam

As I mentioned in the original post, I always make this over the holidays.  Some families make Christmas cookies.  I make chowder.  This year, I made dueling pots and froze a batch to break out later this winter. 


that dark blob in the upper left corner is a bay leaf, I promise!

In making the dueling pots, I realized some of my timing was off in the original post. So I'm reposting the recipe with updated timing.  

I also wanted to toss out some of the suggested substitutes you guys made when you tried this in your own kitchen:
  • For some spice - 1/2 lb chorizo and 1/2 lb Italian sausage
  • For some "awesomeness" - 1/2 lb mild sausage and 1/2 lb hot sausage
  • For something a bit lighter - use 1 cup heavy cream, 1 cup half and half, 1 cup whole milk (chowder will be a bit thinner)


Corn and Sausage Chowder
Serves 6-8
90 mins

1 lb bulk pork sausage (I use mild, feel free to try hot to kick it up a bit)
1/2 c. coarsely chopped onion
1/2 c. coarsely chopped celery
1/2 c. diced red peppers
2 large baking potatoes, peeled and cut into a 1/2 inch dice (4 cups)
1/2 tsp. crushed dried marjoram
1/2 tsp. chopped rosemary
1/2 tsp. chopped basil
1 bay leaf
3 c. water
3 Tbsp chicken base or 3 bouillon cubes
1 - 17 oz can whole kernel corn (do not drain)
1 c. whole milk
2 c. heavy cream
1/2 c. brandy
salt and pepper to taste

For the Roux:
Take 4 Tbsp flour and 4 Tbsp of butter (half a stick) and mix with a fork until pea size balls are formed.  When the recipe calls for it add 1/2 the roux at a time.

In a large soup pan, brown sausage over high heat and drain the fat.

Add onions, celery and red peppers to the soup pot with the sausage.  Saute over high heat (if 1 is low and 7 is high, I go with a 5) until onions are transparent.

Add brandy and let it reduce until it's almost gone.

Add herbs, bay leaf, potatoes, water, chicken base or bouillon cubes, and corn.  Let simmer until potatoes are tender (takes me about 15 minutes).

Add milk and heavy cream, bring to a boil.

Reduce heat and thicken to desired consistency with roux (takes 15 minutes to thicken after you add the roux).

Season with salt and pepper, serve with bread.

Thursday, January 19

New Year, New Rules & New Resolution

New Year:  I love a fresh start!  One of my favorite things growing up was the night before the first day of school.  New outfit, fresh binders full of clean ruled paper, new pens, and a year full of possibility.  I still get that excited when I open a new notebook.  And I love the inspiration that a new year brings for tackling your personal to-do list.  Not the one for work, the one full of fun stuff like:
  • Practicing yoga and photography
  • Satisfying my addiction to Dexter by watching the next 5 seasons on Netflix
  • Traveling
  • Digging even deeper into food with some cooking classes and a few new cookbooks
Unfortunately all this new year business plus a kind of ridiculous workload for my job means less time for blogging. Which leads me to...

New Rules:  I spent a lot of time marinating (haha, lame food pun intended) about this blog before finally jumping in. I've told you all my culinary history - what on earth was I thinking, a food blog!?!  But I spent time reflecting on my food point of view and thinking about how to make it work and I took the plunge and put myself out there. 

I have to say, it's been a pretty cool experience!  I reconnected with old friends, uncovered a shared passion with new friends, and learned not to apologize for who I am. Opening up my kitchen and recipe books to you all virtually has been a wonderful experience.

But it's time for a change. The process of food blogging is crazy labor intensive. To post on a weekly basis I have to cook new stuff on a weekly basis, AND it has to be good enough for me to share.  Then I have to snap photos of everything in my kind-of-ill-suited-to-be-a-photography-studio kitchen, upload the photos, edit the photos in Lightroom and upload the final pictures to PhotoBucket.  Then it's time to write the post, attempt to be witty, proof the post (who are we kidding, I hate proof reading), preview the post, sleep on it, make adjustments, and then publish the post.  And if I have time, share it via social media.

I'm tired just thinking about it. 

But I'm not ready to throw in the towel on blogging yet.  So new year, new rules.  Less pomp and circumstance, less focus on trying to "grow" my readers, and less formality and pressure.  More stream of conscience, more straight out of the kitchen photos (so I can eat dinner while it's still hot), and more ideas and thoughts.  Like a personal letter.  Hopefully you guys will bear with me and this will work out better for both of us. I can't guarantee I'll be posting weekly but I'm hoping for once or twice a month and with more content. And finally...

New Resolution:  I don't really do resolutions. Instead, around my birthday I typically pick one or two things about myself that I'd like to work on and I make that my goal for my __th year. Stuff like being a more confident leader, better managing my time, ditching the unnecessary pressure I tend to put on myself, getting more exercise, being more receptive to feedback, you get the point.

I've been making a point to eat more fruits and vegetables in the new year and I decided to make it an official resolution. I'm going attempt to eat 5 servings of fruits and vegetables each day.  Ok, each weekday  :)

I'm always inspired to eat healthier in January so it seemed like good timing for this kind of challenge. I've been at it for a few days now and so far the only result is that I'm much more conscious of what I'm putting in my body. I think I've hit 5 servings all of once in the past week.  Do you know how hard it is to abide by those guidelines!?!

Ok, that's a lot for one post.  But I'm looking forward to the new way of doing things in 2012. 

Anyone else making big changes or resolutions in 2012?

Monday, January 2

Chicken with White Wine Sauce (Cooking Light)

I believe in the philosophy "everything in moderation".  But sometimes you have one of those weekends that includes too much wine and cheese at book club, a parade of appetizers and beer for a football game, a brunch with comfort food and old friends, and then some occasional late night fridge raiding.  Given that it's just days after Christmas and New Years, I'm sure I'm not the only one feeling this way.

After weekends like that, I make recipes like this.  Filling and flavorful, but a bit friendlier towards my body which is usually craving vegetables by that point.  [And there's a sentence I never thought I'd type]


Chicken with white wine sauce has been a standard for the Royfriend and I for the past 2 or 3 years.  It's one of our go-to's after long weekends when we're eager to get back on track.  It's absolutely delicious... the onions get so soft and sweet they melt in your mouth and the white wine vinegar gives normally bland chicken some really good flavor.  The little bit of butter at the end gives it a hint of richness so you forget you're eating healthy food, it's one of my favorites.


I also love this because it's one of those recipes that makes my life easier.  Most of the ingredients live in my pantry and I can have it on the table in under 30 minutes.  Extra bonus - the leftover sauce keeps well in the fridge (only pour the sauce over the chicken you're eating that night, put the rest in the fridge and reheat for leftovers).

I prefer to use thinly sliced chicken breasts for this recipe.  I don't have a good reason, other than thinly sliced chicken breasts seem to provide a better ratio of sauce to chicken.  I typically season my chicken with salt and pepper and then bake in the oven for 20 minutes.  This is really good served over penne pasta but you can also serve it with a regular side and a salad like I did in the photo above.

After traveling through 4 airports and 5 cities to see family and friends over the holidays, my body is definitely crying out for some "responsible food" (aka: not Taco Bell).  And I suspect I'm not the only one, so I thought I'd share one of my lighter recipes.  Stay tuned cause there's more healthy food to come!

Happy Holidays!


Chicken with White Wine Sauce (Cooking Light)
Serves 4-6; 25 mins active

Cooking spray
1/3 cup finely chopped onion
1/2 cup fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
1/4 cup dry white wine
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
2 tablespoons butter
2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh chives
1.5 lbs thin sliced chicken breasts
Salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Season chicken with salt and pepper and bake for 20 minutes until cooked through.  While chicken is baking, heat a skillet over medium-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add finely chopped onion to pan; sauté 2 minutes, stirring frequently.

Stir in chicken broth, white wine, and white wine vinegar; bring to a boil.

Cook until reduced to 1/4 cup (about 5 minutes). Remove from heat; stir in butter and fresh chives.  Spoon sauce over chicken and serve warm.