I'm Just Here To Cook…and Eat!


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Cookies and… Ice Cream!

A warm baked chocolate chip cookie, a scoop of ice cream, caramel sauce and chocolate sprinkles. Don’t really think I need to say much more than that!

Oh wait, I do… Don’t forget the milk. Enjoy!

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Pantry Cabinet Dinner – Tuna Pasta

What’s better on a blizzard-filled night than hot soup? A dinner cooked from all pantry items. Who wants to stop at the supermarket on the way home from work in 3 inches of snow with more coming down fast? Not this girl! Who wants to worry about not having certain ingredients once you get home and feeling like you need to run out? Not this girl! So make it a pantry cabinet dinner. There are certain things you always have stocked in your pantry. For me, it’s pasta, tuna, artichokes, and kalamata olives. And it’s very rare I don’t have garlic and a yellow onion. Tuna pasta is not only made from these ingredients which I always have on hand, but it’s warm, comforting, easy to make and healthy! Enjoy this one next time your stuck indoors on a cold, snowy night! Or any night!

ingredients
1/2 lb rotini shaped pasta
1 can tuna
1 garlic clove, minced
1 medium yellow onion, sliced
4 tbs olive oil
1 oz can artichoke hearts, chopped
1/2 cup kalamata olives, chopped
1 tomato, diced
Salt, pepper and red pepper flakes
1/2 cup reserved cooking water

directions

Boil water for the pasta. Cook until al dente , about 10 minutes. Reserve 1/2 cup pasta water before draining.

Meanwhile, heat oil in a sauté pan and sauté garlic and onion until fragrant, about 5 minutes. Season with salt, pepper and red pepper flakes. Add the tuna and break up. Cook for another 5 minutes. If the mixture seems dry, add another 1-2 tablespoons of oil. Add the artichokes and olives. Cook until warm, about another 5 minutes. Add the pasta and reserved pasta water to the pan. Add the tomatoes and mix everything together with the heat still on, another 2-3 minutes. Enjoy!

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Sunday Morning Baking – Corn Muffins

I love corn muffins. And I love baking them from scratch on a cold winter Sunday morning, especially a three day weekend one! I use a recipe which I found in The Good Housekeeping cookbook I bought back when I worked for a book club company and stocked up on tons of cookbooks! There is something about warm corn muffins with a pat of butter (or in my case lactose free butter!) that takes me back to my childhood and my mom baking these on the weekend. Pair this with a mug of coffee, snuggle under a blanket, and enjoy waking up slowly on a restful Sunday morning!

Corn Muffins

recipe from The Good Housekeeping Cookbook, copyright 2001, Hearst Communications, Inc.

ingredients

1 cup all-purpose flour3/4 cup cornmeal
3 tbs sugar
1 tbs baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
1 cup milk
4 tbs butter, melted
1 large egg

directions

Preheat oven to 425°. Grease 12 muffin-pan cups. In a medium bowl, combine flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, and salt. In a small bowl, with a fork, beat milk, melted butter, and eggs until blended. Add egg mixture to flour mixture, stir just until flour is moistened (batter will be lumpy).

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Spoon batter into prepared muffin pan cups, filling each two-thirds full. Bake until golden and toothpick inserted into center comes out clean, about 15-20 minutes. Immediately remove muffins from pan. Serve warm, or cool on a wire rack to serve later. Happy Sunday!

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Christmas Cookies and Drinks

I love cookies at Christmas. I spent my childhood watching and helping my mom make tons of Christmas cookies, which I now make to continue the tradition. I’ve shared two types of cookies with you already that I make at Christmas. Enjoy these re-reads and add them to your cookie list!

Finikia – Greek Honey cookie: These are a staple at every holiday! https://imjustheretocook.wordpress.com/2013/03/30/greek-honey-cookies-or-finikia/

Sugar cookies: I made these for girls weekend last year, but these are traditionally one of my Christmas cookies. Just use red and green sprinkles instead of girly colors!
https://imjustheretocook.wordpress.com/2013/03/03/girls-weekend-treats/

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I also make a mean Chocolate Chip cookie, which I actually, sadly, didn’t make this year. But I will admit. It’s the Toll House Chocolate Chip cookie recipe! It’s like that Friends episode, when Monica is obsessed with Phoebe’s family Chocolate Chip recipe, and she can’t recreate it from the one cookie Phoebe had left frozen in her freezer, when the “Nestle Tollhouse” (said in Phoebe’s best french accent) recipe was sitting right in front of them on the bag of chips the entire time! Yeah that’s me HAHA.

I did try a new recipe this year. It’s from Ann Burrell and I was inspired to try it after watching the Food Network Cookie special. They were so so good! Here is the recipe.

Palmiers

recipe from Ann Burrell, foodnetwork.com

ingredients

1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
Zest of 1 orange
1/2 (17.3-ounce) package (1 sheet) frozen puff pastry, thawed

directions

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.Combine the sugar, cinnamon, and orange zest in a bowl. Sprinkle 1/2 the sugar mix on a clean work surface. Lay the puff pastry on top of the sugar and sprinkle the remaining sugar mix on top of the pastry.

Using a rolling pin, roll the sugar into the dough, and roll the dough into an even rectangle, about 1/8-inch thick.

Working from the short ends of the rectangle, roll up each end of the dough to meet in the middle. Lay the rolls on top of each other and gently press to secure. Wrap the dough in plastic and let sit in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.

Cut the dough into slices that are 1/4-inch thick. Lay the slices on 2 parchment paper or silpat-lined sheet trays.

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Bake in the preheated oven for 12 minutes. Turn the slices over and bake for another 6 to 7 minutes. When done, the cookies should be golden brown.  Remove from the oven, and cool on a rack before serving. Enjoy!
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And now for what has become my famous drink for Christmas. I created it last year, and it was specifically requested this year. So I brought it again, and was told this is now a tradition which better be present next year! Sounds good to me! I love a good drink! 🙂  It’s very Christmasy as well with it being bubbly and red in color! It’s very simple to make. All you need it a bottle of either champagne or sparkling wine, sparkling pomegranate juice, and a package of pomegranate seeds. Mix everything together in your favorite pitcher and get your drink on! Enjoy!
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It’s never too late…

Wow have I been MIA, huh? The holidays and work blowing up definitely got the best of me! I have been cooking – the holidays of course I did tons of cooking, and cooking has kept me sane when work is taking over my life – I just haven’t been able to sit and write. But it’s never too late to talk about the holidays, right?!  “It’s never too late” is kind of the theme of my thinking lately. But for today I’ll just share with you some of my Thanksgiving and Christmas recipes! 🙂

I’ll be honest with you about something Thanksgiving related… I’m not, and never was, a huge fan of the turkey. I know, crazy right? I’ll eat some just because it is Thanksgiving, but I just don’t particularly enjoy it. I really prefer all the other dishes – and I don’t even mean the stuffing or the cranberry mold because I’m not a huge fan of those either (I know I know). You’ve heard me say before Thanksgiving is not Thanksgiving without apple pie. And while that is skipping to dessert, I most certainly made that! But to me, Thanksgiving is also not Thanksgiving without a Greek pasta dish called Pastitsio. I call it a Greek lasagna when trying to explain this to people. One year, my family decided not to make this, and brought some red sauced Italian pasta and I actually said “this just won’t do”. We almost even didn’t have Pastitsio this year! And when I said “no it won’t be Thanksgiving then”, everyone agreed and it was made! It definitely has to do with the tradition of the dish, but it is also the aroma and taste of the warm cinnamon and nutmeg spices that are used which totally represent autumn.  I’ll share this recipe with you, as well as the Brussel Sprouts I make that will most likely get anyone to like Brussel Sprouts! But first, here is the repost of the best Apple Pie ever! 🙂

https://imjustheretocook.wordpress.com/2013/09/29/grandmas-apple-pie/

For the Brussel Sprouts, all you need is about 8 oz of Brussel Sprouts, a saute pan, extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper. That’s it! and cooking it is that easy also. Just cut the Brussel Sprouts so that they are shredded. Since this has become a popular way of cooking Sprouts (if you watch Food Network as much as I do, you’d see this a lot!), some stores such as Trader Joes are actually selling shredded Brussel Sprouts in a bag! So back to the steps. Warm the oil in a pan, place the shredded sprouts in the pan, season with salt and pepper, and saute about 7-8 minutes. And you’re done! This is also a great make ahead side which can be heated easily right before serving. I would just under cook them slightly the first round (maybe about 5-6 minutes) as reheating will cook them a bit more.

Brussel Sprouts

The pastitsio is much more labor intensive to make, and has many steps. But it’s totally worth the time spent. This recipe is from the Greek cookbook my mom has that I’ve shared recipes with you before. The one that is out of print, and falling apart at the seams. The one that we were all so happy was up high enough on the bookshelf that it didn’t get destroyed in Hurricane Sandy. Here is the recipe. Just a tip, you can definitely make this ahead of time. In two different ways. You can make the different parts, assemble, bake and store the day or two before and reheat completely through the day you want to serve. Or you can make the meat portion the day or two before, then make the rest, assemble and bake the day you want to serve. Whichever your time constraints are, both will allow for a delicious end product!

Pastitsio

recipe taken from The Complete Greek Cookbook: The Best From 3000 Years of Greek Cooking by Theresa Karas Yianilos, copyright 1970

ingredients
2 lbs macaroni – if you go to the Greek store, they sell the pasta for this. They are long like spaghetti, thin, but have a hole like ziti. The thickness is somewhere between bucatini and ziti. They sell shorter versions of this pasta in the regular supermarket (not as long as spaghetti, but longer than ziti). If you can’t find either of these, feel free to use ziti
10 tbs butter
2 cups onion, finely chopped (I blend these in the blender so you don’t have chunks of onion in the meat)
3 lbs ground beef
2 cups tomato sauce
salt and pepper
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp oregano
1/4 tsp nutmeg
6 tbs flour
6 cups whole milk
1 1/2 cup cream
5 egg yolks
1 1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese

directions

1. Preheat the oven to 375°.

2. Cook the macaroni in salted boiling water until tender but still firm, about eight minutes. Do not overcook, but rather undercook, because the macaroni will be baked later. Drain the macaroni in a colander, rinse under cold water to stop the cooking process, and set aside. *Note: this step would be done in Day Two if choosing the Two day make ahead method I spoke up above.*

3. Heat four tablespoons of the butter in a skillet and add the onions or onion puree. If using diced onions, cook until wilted. If using the puree, cook a minute or two until fragrant. Add the meat and cook, breaking up the lumps of meat with a slotted spoon. Cook about 10 minutes and add the tomato sauce, salt, pepper, cinnamon, oregano and nutmeg. Heat through. *Note: this step would be done in Day One if choosing the Two day make ahead method I spoke up above.*

4. Melt the remaining butter in a saucepan and stir in the flour. Add the milk and cook, stirring constantly to not burn or create a film. Cook until the mixture is thickened and smooth. Combine the cream with the yolks and blend. Stir this into the sauce, tempering the cream and eggs as to not scramble it, and heat through. Do not boil or the mixture will curdle. This is your bechamel sauce. *Note: this step would be done in Day Two if choosing the Two day make ahead method I spoke up above.*

5. Using a large buttered 18X12X2 inch baking pan (6 quart), make a layer of macaroni, a layer of meat, a layer of macaroni, a layer of meat. Pour the cream sauce over all and sprinkle with parmesan cheese. Bake 45 minutes. *Note: this step would be done in Day Two if choosing the Two day make ahead method I spoke up above.*

6. Remove from the oven and let stand until warm. Slice into squares and serve luke warm. If you are making the entire dish ahead, the day of serving reheat in the oven until warmed through. Let sit and serve as you made it the day of.

Disclaimer! Not the best pictures as I had to take these as it was served on the Thanksgiving table, only had my phone camera, and the lighting wasn’t great!

Pastitsio 1

Pastitsio 2

This post has gotten kind of long. I’ll start a new one for Christmas! Enjoy this late, but yummy, Thanksgiving read and I hope you incorporate some of these recipes for your next Thanksgiving!