Sunday, April 20, 2008

A Gourmet Lunch in Your Kitchen

Inspired by a portabella sandwich I got during my layover in O'Hare Airport and the Michigan Hollow from CTB, I decided to try and play around with portabellos in my apartment. Portobello mushrooms pack so much flavor and automatically transform any dish into a gourmet delight. So here was my attempt at a Spinach Portabella Sandwich. So easy, healthy, and yummy!

Spinach Portabella Sandwich

1 portobello mushroom, sliced
2 slices of Italian Bread (can use any roll or even buns)
1 or 2 slices of Provolone (or any cheese you prefer)
1 cup spinach leaves
2 or 3 slices of tomato
mayonaise (optional)

Heat up a pan on medium-low heat. Coat pan with olive oil and add the portobello mushroom slices. Add salt and pepper to taste. Cook for 4 minutes, or until soft.

Drizzle some olive oil on both sides of each slice of bread. Put the bread on a separate pan, lay the portabella slices on one of the slices bread, and place a slice of cheese on top. Toast on low heat for 2 minutes, or until lightly browned and the cheese has melted into the mushrooms.

Take the slices of bread off the heat. Stack the spinach and tomatoes on top of the cheese. Spread some mayonnaise on the slice of bread without the mushrooms and cheese. Place this slice of bread on top of the stack. Secure sandwich with toothpick.


Saturday, April 12, 2008

Trader Joes to the Rescue

Every time I get a serious craving for some pumpkin muffins, I head down to Trader Joe's and pick up a package of their Pumpkin Bread mix. If you have never been to a Trader Joe's, it is an affordable gourmet grocery store--sounds like an oxymoron, doesn't it? That is the beauty of Trader Joe's, with its 2-buck Chuck (Charles Shaw wines, which sell for $2.99 a bottle) and its fabulous frozen dinners (such as tilapia with pesto and asparagus, yum yum).

One of my favorite items is, of course, their pumpkin bread mix. I make it in muffin form, and the muffins always come out perfectly--bursting with sweet, slightly spicy pumpkin flavor and moist as can be. And they are sooo easy to make--just add the mix, a couple of eggs, a cup of oil, and some water (these are approximations. follow the recipe on the box.) I also like to add in a handful of cranberries, or chocolate chips. Then bake them for about 20 minutes, and ta-dah!

My friends always ask me for the recipe for these muffins, and I always tell them it's my secret. Well, the secret is out. Who knew muffins from a mix could be so delicious? Once again another success for Trader Joe's.


Sunday, April 6, 2008

Tired of the same old pasta and Prego?

...Then spice it up with a delicious and easy Pasta Carbonara Florentine. The key is to get all your ingredients chopped and prepared because cooking only takes about 10 minutes. Perfect for a dinner with friends or put the leftovers in a tupperware and you have dinner for the next couple of days!

Pasta Carbonara Florentine
(modified from Rachel Ray's The Only Recipe You Need: Carbonara)

Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 pound rigatoni ( I used penne instead)
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 pound pancetta, chopped (can substitute with bacon)
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
5 or 6 cloves garlic, chopped
Half a large onion, chopped
1 cup mushrooms, sliced
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 large egg yolks (I used 3)
2 cups baby spinach
1/2 cup grated Romano cheese (can substitute with parmesan)
A handfull of finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley, for garnish (optional)

Put a large pot of water on to boil. Add a liberal amount of salt and rigatoni; cook to al dente, about 8 minutes

Meanwhile heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add extra virgin olive oil and pancetta. Brown pancetta 2 minutes. Add red pepper flakes and garlic. Then add onion and mushrooms and cook 3 to 4 minutes more. Add wine and stir up all the pan drippings.

Beat yolks, then add 1/2 cup of the pasta cooking water. This tempers the eggs and keeps them from scramling when added to the pasta.

Drain pasta well. Add the spinach and pasta directly to the skillet with pancetta and oil. Pour the egg mixture over the pasta. Toss rapidly to coat the pasta without cooking the egg. Remove pan from heat and add a big handful of cheese and lots of pepper and a little salt. Continue to toss and turn the pasta until it soaks up egg mixture and thickens, 1 to 2 minutes. Garnish with parsley, if desired, and extra cheese.

Serves 4.