Sunday, November 27, 2011

Pepperoni Pasta

Did you know that you should never use hot water when filling the pot to boil pasta? Well, if you've been doing that, stop right this minute. The problem stems from the rust and crud that coat the insides of water heaters. You don't want to eat that.

Last night I made a family favorite, the oft praised Pepperoni Pasta. Everyone loves it because it's seriously tasty. I love it because it is fast and easy to make even on a week night.

What you need:

1-2 T pure olive oil
1/2 an onion, chopped
2 t fresh chopped and smashed garlic - this dish is one of the few exceptions to my rule that you cannot ever use too much garlic, because here, it is quite possible. So just use either a couple nice sized cloves or four smaller ones.
4-8 oz Good quality pepperoni with the pieces sliced in half (like half moons) - I like Wilson's brand as it has lots of flavor and does not taste greasy or salty to me. Really do not like Hormel. The best pepperoni comes from a great Italian Deli in Pittsburgh called Parma Sausage. I often order their delicious meat. It's worth every penny of the shipping charge. Use four ounces pepperoni if you are counting calories and eight if you want a more substantial meal.
2 cans diced tomatoes - You can use plain, roasted, or the one with oregano and garlic.
Anywhere from 1/2 to 2/3 of one of those pint sized heavy whipping cream things.
black pepper to taste
1 pound pasta - preferably something like penne. This does not work well with the longer pastas. 

What you do:

Prep your onion, garlic, and pepperoni.

Fill the pot with cold water, with some salt added (I have no clue why I do this. Always have but if I remember right, it does help the pasta achieve a state of perfection and you do drain it off), and place the pot on a burner set on high to bring the water to a boil.

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat and when the oil starts shimmering, add the onion. Saute til the onion is clear or even a little browned if you have the patience. Add the garlic and saute for two more minutes.

Add the pepperoni and saute for two more minutes. Add the tomatoes and bring the thing to a nice simmer.

Once the pasta water is boiling, add the pasta. While the pasta is cooking, add the cream to the tomato sauce. Add and stir in batches until it looks lovely to you. Grind some black pepper into the sauce. Taste and determine if you need to add more cream or pepper. Simmer on low while the pasta is cooking.

When the pasta is al dente, drain it well in a colander. Then return it to the pot and dump in the pepperoni sauce. Stir well and serve with some fresh grated Parmigiano Reggiano and a loaf of crusty chewy hot bread to help push the pasta onto your fork and to mop up the remains of the sauce.

Friday, November 25, 2011

It's all in the Minestrone

Minestrone is one of those kitchen sink sort of soups. It's really all in there. It was one of the first soups I ever made - once I found out that meals don't just magically appear at the table and are not always supplied by restaurants. Back in the day, I used to make this from dried Great Northern beans. Since I started working, though, it's canned. Maybe in retirement....

Stuff that goes into Minestrone:

 If you are interested in nutrition facts, click here.

4 stalks celery, sliced
1 large onion, diced
4 carrots, peeled and sliced
1 zucchini
3 T pure olive oil
4 garlic cloves smooshed up good
8 sprigs of parsley, rinsed and chopped (either curly or flat Italian is just fine)
4 cups or more of the stock of your choice - veggie is best and keeps this recipe vegetarian, but you can use beef or chicken if you prefer.
28 oz hand crushed tomatoes - peeling is up to you, or just get a large can of whole tomatoes and you save some work and still get to crush them up!
3 red potatoes, diced, I like to leave the nutritious skin on 
2-3 cans of Great Northern white beans, rinsed and drained
at least 1 teaspoon dried oregano (or a tablespoon of fresh)
1/4 cup fresh rinsed and torn basil
fresh cracked black pepper to taste
Tabasco sauce - to taste, but if you are a non-salter like me, you will want several shakes as the Tabasco seems to act as salt and finishes the flavors beautifully

1/2 - 1 cup little bitty soup pasta (depends on how much you love pasta in soup)
2 cups rinsed and torn spinach


a drained and rinsed can of chick peas. I love this, but the Spousal Unit hates chick peas so....

Also, you may be a salter. Hopefully not, but you might be one. If so, taste near the end of cooking and add in only just enough. If you used salted stock though, do try to avoid adding the extra salt.

Add in any other veggie you love such as green beans are awesome, broccoli bits, or sweet red pepper. 

What to do:

Prep all your ingredients first. It's fun and organized and you can feel like Julia Child on her cookery show.

In a large pot, heat the oil over medium heat until it shimmers. Then add the celery, onion, carrots, and zucchini. Saute for several minutes until the onion is softened a bit. Then add in the garlic and parsley and saute for another couple minutes.

Add the liquids, potato, beans, oregano, basil, pepper and Tabasco sauce. Bring to a near boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for several hours...or until you are ready to eat and it tastes great. You can simmer it long or short depending on how long it is til dinner (I generally start soup early and just let it go on the stove). Just be sure the soup has the time to complete the marriage of flavors and makes you smile when you take a taste.

About 30-40 minutes before dinner, taste and adjust the seasonings to your preference. Then add the soup pasta and allow to simmer until they are tender.

Add in the spinach and stir, simmering, for another five minutes or so.

If at any time the liquid seems reduced too much, add either more stock or tomatoes as you prefer. It's fine for the reduction to take place as the flavors are concentrating. You are the judge as to how thick it should be. Taste and think. You may like a more tomatoey soup or a more brothy soup. This is also a good time to taste and adjust the seasonings.

Enjoy this very mindful thought provoking nutritious soup often.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Roasted Beef Stock

Roasted Beef Stock

5 pounds or so of Beef Soup Bones – meaty bones with marrow, adding a few veal bones gives a wonderful thick consistency
Your favorite veggie scraps (if you save the scraps in your freezer, you can make stock once your bag is full)
Or you can cut up: 2 carrots, 1 onions, 2 celery stalks with leaves, 6 garlic cloves smashed with skin on, sliced leeks, or mushrooms, etc. Use your favorites. Don’t use beets or cruciferous veggies in beef stock though. I never have, but have seen several chefs note that it throws off the taste of the stock. And as there seems to be a consensus I thought I’d best comment right along with them.
2 T Cider Vinegar
2-3 Bay Leaves
Optional – black peppercorns


Rinse and pat the bones dry.

Roast them at 400 ° F for about an hour until they are well-browned. If you used big chunks of veggies instead of scraps, roast them with the bones.

Drain the fat from the pan and deglaze with a little water. Add the deglazing water to the stock pot with the bones, and your veggies or scraps.

Add water to cover and bring to a simmer. It’s best not to boil beef stock. Add the vinegar and bay leaf and simmer for 4 – 12 hours. It’s up to you. Longer is great for beef stock, but it will be delicious after four hours.

Skim the scum that rises to the top every now and then – about every 30 minutes - and if you need to add water if it is evaporating too quickly, do so. If you are suspicious because there is no salt, taste it right before straining and add a little if you absolutely have to.

Strain the stock through a fine mesh colander lined with cheesecloth. Set the pot or bowl in the fridge to cool so the fat rises to the top and is easy to remove and discard.

Ladle the delicious stock into the container of your choice – I like freezer containers. If you like to put things up in jars, that will work well for stock.

It will thin as it is reheated. Try caramelizing some onions and mushrooms. Then heat them in a cup of stock for a nourishing meal.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Talking Turkey Stock

At some point, many of us will be faced with the sight of a turkey carcass, all that remains of a delightful meal. Lots of people pitch it, but hey, economy is a very good and mindful thing. Besides it's a cinch to make a great tasting stock that will serve as a delicious starter for the soup you planned to make with all the lovely bits of turkey meat you removed from the carcass after dinner.

This is a pretty basic stock method that also works great for chicken.

Start with a very large pot that has a lid. Place the left over bones in the pot (leave on the pieces meat and some of the skin - not JUST the bones, ok?). You may want to break it into a few larger pieces so it fits better. If you still have it, you can also add the neck. I never add the livers. I have no reason for this except that once I read a cookery book by the Great Julia Child and she said "no livers." Therefore, no livers will be added to your stock.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Mindfully Pie

Yes, I know you can go to the store and get pre-made pie crusts - and yes, they are a great thing for working people. Nice to be able to make an almost homemade pie when you don't have time for a completely homemade pie. Wouldn't surprise me if a lot of young people have never tasted an actual home made pie crust and I think that is a shame. Really doesn't take that much time and it tastes so much better. Far more of a mindfully pie experience.

Here's my recipe for a double pie crust that has never failed me:

3 cups flour
1 t salt
1 cup shortening
1 egg
1 t white vinegar
5 T very cold water

Mix together the flour and salt. Then cut in the shortening with a fork continuing until you have a nice coarse meal appearance. Under cutting is one reason a pie crust or for that matter a baking powder biscuit will fail. So do this mindfully and well.

In a separate bowl, beat the egg, vinegar and water with a fork. Add it to the four mixture and blend thoroughly.

Press into two balls and allow to rest for about five minutes.

Then using a rolling pin and a clean well floured surface, press one ball fairly flat and as circular as you can. I like my Tupperware surface which has circles in the design for you to follow as a sizing guide. Wax paper will do in a pinch, just invert the pan over it periodically to find out if you've rolled it out enough. Sprinkle liberally with flour and roll from the center to an edge, turn about 1/4 of the way, repeat, in fact, repeat the entire thing repeatedly (:D) until the circle is large enough to overhand the edges of your pie pan.

Carefully lift onto your pan gently press so there's no trapped air underneath. If there are places that were too thin, just remove a hunk of the overhanging crust, lightly dampen the piece with water and press into the offending area.

Prepare the top crust in the same way. After you add your pie filling, top, crimp the edges together with your fingers, cut off the excess crust, and finally make some decorative yet functional air ways for steam to escape with a very sharp knife.

You can get fancy and cut the top crust into 1/2 inch long slices and weave a basket looking design on the top - pretty and very festive for a holiday gathering.

Fill it with whatever pie filling you like. I really like this crust for apple pie. Or, use the crusts for two pumpkin or other open top pies.

One taste and you'll be hooked and unable to eat those un-mindful prepared crusts...well, at least you'll know the difference.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

The Real Leggett Corn

So, my daughter wanted me to blog my most requested Thanksgiving side dish...well except for the five layer butterflake rolls. I thought I had done so already and performed a quick google for Leggett Corn - named by my son after my Dad's corn raising and eating side of the family. I was most surprised when up popped a few recipes from bloggers that had the nerve to post recipes called Leggett Corn - and that no, I had not blogged it. So, appalled at the potential besmirching of my maiden name with recipes that could never be the most wonderful of all forms of corn deliciousness I checked the recipes out. They were so very near to my own cherished family "recipe" that I wondered if, in fact these were relatives. But, due to the use of Profile Names there was no way to verify that. I will proceed here on the assumption that there could be some confusion out there on how The Real Leggett Corn is made and thus entitle the dish and this blog accordingly.

This sign proves that I am in fact an original Leggett - please note that this Illinois farm was certified in 1987 by the Governor himself as a Century Farm - a farm owned and operated by the same family for 100 years. As my Uncle and Cousin still farm there, we are well into our second century.

My Leggetts go back to pre-Constitutional America. Thus, I win the right to name and own the recipe for Leggett Corn. *neener neener, as they say*

Here's some of the Leggetts that made the Original and Real Leggett Corn.

They don't look too happy. Perhaps they heard about all this upstart Leggett Corn stuff going on and available over the internet for anyone that does not know better.

Well, as a dutiful descendent, I am about to set the record straight.

I present to you, The Real Leggett Corn (TM) in all its rich complexity.


2 large cans of Green Giant creamed corn
1 small can of the Niblets extra sweet corn
A lot of Premium Saltine Crackers all crumbled up by hand just like the people above did - do not use any labor saving devices or it will not be Real Leggett Corn.
Milk - NOT skim
paprika - only if you are having guests for a formal eating party that uses real plates and need to fancy it up.

Difficult to follow instructions, but for the dish to work please perform all steps with precision:

Dump the creamed corn and drained regular corn into a bowl. Stir in crumbled crackers until it's real thick.

My Dad is the scrawny one front left
Thin a bit with milk and then add more crackers and keep this up until the crackers are absorbing the milk and the mixture looks kind of like a thick pudding of corn. Sorry, but there are no measurements. This is an intuitive recipe and you just go on adding crackers and milk til it looks dratted good. Sprinkle in some pepper once you've got a nice texture that is not too thin - here is where I will diverge from the original a tad because I do not add more salt but please don't tell the Victorian Leggetts that.

Pour into a buttered casserole dish and sprinkle a nice layer of crumbled crackers over the top.

Sprinkle paprika over crackers if formal dining is to be had.

Bake at 375 until the crumbs are just starting to brown and the whole is a bit bubbly.


you really can over bake the dish, so just slightly browned, ok? Maybe 25 minutes or so.

If you are eating this and interested in calories, you can find a reasonable estimate using low fat milk here.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Peace and Pappardelle

Any day that promotes peace should include a peaceful offering at the table. On this most excellent day (November 4, 2011), when bloggers world wide are writing BlogBlasts for Peace, it struck me that if the entire world could sit down together and enjoy a purposefully mindful and peaceful meal, world peace could be achieved in one evening. Mindful and peacefully prepared, served, and consumed food is a balm for mind and soul, so today, I will prepare Peace and Pappardelle. Please join me and serve a peace-filled meal tonight.

Pappardelle is perfect because its luscious wide ribbons offer a comforting texture with a substantial and satisfying presence on the plate. Fresh tomatoes - carefully peeled and hand crushed (with apologies and thanks to the plant) - will be combined with handfuls of fresh basil and parsley from my garden along with excellent thin ribbons of zucchini, a few cloves of garlic, red pepper flakes, and thin slices of either leek or onion gently sauteed in pure olive oil. The warm mountain of healthy goodness will be liberally sprinkled with freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano.

I declare world peace with my offering of Peace and Pappardelle.

If you are interested in nutrition facts, I've set them here.

8 oz pappardelle 
1-2 T pure olive oil
1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 cup chopped onion (or 1/4 cup chopped leek)
2 medium zucchini
4 cloves garlic
2 1/2 cups hand crushed tomatoes (peeled or not as is your preference)
1 handful fresh basil (approximately 1/4 cup but this is really to taste, I like a mix of regular and purple basil)
1/4 cup fresh parsley leaves do not pack (or to taste)
black pepper to taste
freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

I like to prep all the ingredients before beginning to cook. This is mindful in so many ways. I don't forget to add a critical ingredient, I don't have to put things on hold while I quickly and thoughtlessly chop that parsley, nor do I have to try to do too many steps simultaneously.

Make lovely long thin ribbons of zucchini and place them in a bowl - cut them as thin as you can or use a mandolin (I don't have a mandolin and will just use my best knife and pay particularly mindful attention so I do not slice me which would not further the peace).

Mince the garlic, chop the onion or leek, and prepare the tomatoes (you could use a couple cans of crushed or chopped tomatoes if you prefer). Place all in their very own little bowls. Harvest, rinse, and chop the parsley and basil. I like to leave the basil pieces a little larger than the parsley and usually just tear the leaves into two or three pieces. These can be mixed together in the same bowl. Save a few whole basil leaves to use as a garnish for each plate.

Once you have the ingredient preparation completed, fill a large pot with water and set it to boil - yes I do that separately from the chopping as that removes all pressure and allows me to be mindful as I chop.

While waiting for the water to boil, heat the olive oil in a large skillet set over medium heat. When the oil thins and shimmers, add the onions and crushed red pepper flakes. Saute, stirring every once in a while until the onion softens. Add the zucchini and saute another three minutes. Then add the garlic and saute one minute. Add the crushed tomatoes and simmer until the pasta is ready to cook. Turn off the heat and stir in the fresh basil and parsley and allow to sit. Taste after a minute or so and adjust seasonings.

When the water comes to a boil, add the pappardelle and boil only just until it is firm to the tooth (al dente) according to package directions. Drain the pasta, add the tomato sauce, and toss peacefully.

Plate and top with a few whole basil leaves. Very mindful with a good Chianti and pretty salad. Crusty chewy bread is also an excellent addition for those that have no need to be mindful of waistlines.

You may want to add a splash of red wine or a tsp or two of brown sugar if your tomatoes are acidic or if you've used canned tomatoes. Salt and pepper are always optional. I often use pepper, but never salt and some of you will need it. Those that like more of a kick from the crushed red pepper may want to add more at the table with the cheese like I did.

Join I Declare World Peace today.