Tortellini alla Vodka

I’m not going to lie and say that I woke up planning to cook tortellini alla vodka… If I’m completely honest I was planning to so something much more complex, but due to timing issues I found myself unable to do so. With an urge to find something tasty and relatively quick to do, I decided upon doing Tortellini alla Vodka.

The first time I tried anything alla vodka was when my brother Graduated college this past April. I tried Pasta alla Vodka at Brio and found myself mesmerized by the incredible flavours in the dish. The ricotta-filled pasta made great contrast with the spicy and creamy tomato sauce that accompanied it and had that special kick in it.

Finding inspiration in this dish and the simplicity with which it could be done, I decided to make some Tortellini alla Vodka. The parmesan filled tortellini have an evidently saltier taste than the ricotta filled pasta I tried back in Jacksonville, however, I decided to make it work and adapt the sauce to the pasta I had. I also decided to avoid having this sauce be too heavy, and used milk instead of heavy cream

I encourage you to give this tasty dish a try!

Ingredients:

  • 8 Saladette or Pear tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 cup of vodka
  • 1/2 a cup of tomato paste
  • 1 cup of milk
  • 1/2 cup of water
  • 1 cup of basil, chopped
  • 1/2 a cup of parmesan cheese
  • 1 tablespoon of butter
  • 1 tablespoon Olive Oil
  • 1 table spoon of oregano
  • 1 pack of 250g of Tortellini al Fromaggio
  • Salt & Pepper to taste
  • Extra Parmesan for garnishing

Directions:

Place a medium pot filled 3/4 with water in high heat. Salt generously and let boil. Once it has boiled, add the Tortellini and let it rest for about 16 minutes.

Place a sauce pan over medium-high heat. Add the olive oil, the oregano and about 1 tablespoon of salt and 1/2 a tablespoon of pepper. Place the chopped tomatoes and let them release their juices for about four minutes stirring continuously to avoid having them stick to the pan. Add the vodka and let simmer. Once the sauce has reduced slightly, add the milk and the water. Stir and add the tomato paste. Lower the heat and add the chopped basil. Mix well. Add the butter and the parmesan cheese and mix again. Taste and add salt and pepper to taste if necessary.

Drain the Tortellini and serve on a plate. Add the sauce and garnish with parmesan. Enjoy!

 

 

I hope you enjoy this dish plentifully, and always remember that if you have any comments or suggestions for what I can cook next, please let me know!

 

~AJ

Chocolate Chip Cookies

The 1930’s brought numerous changes to the world, however, one of the most notable changes ~cooking wise~ has to be the invention of chocolate chip cookies. This past Tuesday May 17th was the World Day of Baking, so I deemed it appropriate to bake some great chocolate chip cookies.

After numerous attempts at baking cookies, I’ve learned a few tips that are highly useful to know in order to bake great cookies. This of course is my personal concept of practicality when it comes to baking cookies si feel free to use them as you please. From knowing which type of chocolate benefits the cookies best, to knowing the importance of handling room temperature butter, it is important to remember that the small details are the ones that amount to something spectacular. 

I have figured out that using semi-sweet chocolate chips made the best chocolate chip cookies, seeing as it helps avoid having an overwhelming sweet taste in the cookies. Another thing that tends to work best, is to have room temperature butter as opposed to refrigerated butter at hand when cooking both cookies ,or any other pastry. In this recipe melted butter will be used but, worry not, room temperature can also be used without a problem. The final tip I have, which I believe is essential when cooking ANYTHING, is to have mise en place. “Mise en place” is a French culinary phrase which basically means “putting in place”, and refers to having everything ready to start cooking. This allows cooks to be more efficient and it facilitates cooking as a whole, so if anything, give a mise en place a try!

Now, onto what you all came, the recipe for the chewy goodness. I have come up with this recipe after trying many different recipes and never really setting down with one.

Ingredients: 

  • 2 sticks of butter (this makes up 1 cup of butter)
  • 1 1/4 cups of brown sugar
  • 3/4 of a cup of sugar
  • 2 3/4 cups of all purpose flour 
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 1 teaspoon of baking powder 
  • 2 eggs 
  • 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups of semi-sweet chocolate chips (or 2 if you’re feeling more it’s more of a chocolate day)

Directions:

In a bowl mix all of the dry ingredients except the sugars. (Salt, baking powder, and flour)

In another bowl, mix the sugars with the butter. In order to ease the mixing, you can melt the butter, let it cool for a bit, and then combine it. Add both eggs and mix well. After this, add the vanilla and mix once more.

Start adding the dry mix to the wet one and slowly start folding the mix in. Do so with all of the dry and wet mix until it is all mixed uniformly. Add the chocolate chips and mix. Let cool in the refrigerator for about 15 minutes. Preheat the oven to 375° F.

Grab a mini cupcakes oven tray and set about a tablespoon of the mix into each space. You can also get regular oven trays and set the tablespoons with about three inches of distance apart to avoid having them clash with each other. Once this is done, place the trays into the oven for about 14 minutes and remove the trays once it is golden. Let cool, serve with cold milk if you wish and enjoy! 

Feel free to serve these cookies with anything you wish, and always remember that if you have any comments or suggestions for what I can cook next please let me know!
 

~AJ

Crispy Chicken Tenders

As a child, many times our palettes are constrained to the same old “child-friendly” meals that are often offered at restaurants. These meals don’t really offer a wide variety of flavors and restrain our young palates to the same flavors year after year. Regardless, chicken tenders tend to be a favorite even after we grow and start experimenting with other flavors, which is why I decided to try them with my own personal twist.

Chicken tenders can be a guilty pleasure to many due to the high amount of calories a serving usually possesses, however, there are various alternatives to make this classic both tasty and healthy. I decided to serve these tenders with a baked potato instead of the classic fries in order to have a side that hits close to home but that isn’t so heavy ~calorie wise~. Check them out and give them a try!


Ingredients:

  • 6 boneless chicken breasts
  • 4 eggs
  • 4 teaspoons of olive oil
  • 3/4 of a cup of flour
  • 1/4 a tablespoon of Rosemary
  • 1/4 of a tablespoon of Thyme
  • 1/4 of a tablespoon of Basil
  • 1/4 of a tablespoon of Oregano
  • 1/8 of a tablespoon of Pepper
  • 1/8 of a tablespoon of Salt
  • 3 cups of Panko or breadcrumbs
  • 6-8 medium- big potatoes
  • Salt & Pepper to taste
  • 1/4 of a cup of fresh Basil
  • 1 teaspoon of butter
  • Aluminum Foil

Directions:

Set your oven in 350° F. Wash your potatoes thoroughly and dry them well. After dried, cover them individually in aluminum foil. Place the potatoes in an oven tray and place them in the oven for 30 minutes. Make sure to check the potatoes after the 30 minutes are up. If they are still not done place them for another 15 minutes. Repeat until tender.

After you have placed your potatoes in the oven, get your chicken breasts and cut them into individual strips and small chunks. Season with salt and pepper well.

Prepare your flour, eggs, and Panko to begin breading your chicken. Mix the flour with the Rosemary, Thyme, Oregano, Basil, and the 1/8 of a tablespoon of salt & pepper in a plate. Mix well with a fork. On another plate of the same size, place the four eggs and the olive oil and mix well with a fork. Finally place some of the Panko on another plate of the same size. (Add the rest as you go on and more is needed)

Carefully take each individual piece of chicken and cover them with the flour. Pass them through the egg (so that it covers it well) and then cover them with the Panko. Set the pieces in an oven tray separately but evenly.

Place the tray in the oven (make sure it is on 350°) for 15 minutes. After the chicken is evidently done, raise the temperature to 400°F and keep an eye on the chicken until it browns (that is about 2 minutes or less) and take it out.

Plate a couple of the tenders and a potato. Spread the butter on the potato and add salt. If you wish, you can add sour cream to the baked potato. Chop the fresh basil thin and sprinkle the chicken and the potato. Enjoy!

 

Feel free to add any other ingredients or sauces you wish, and always remember that if you have any comments or suggestions for what I can cook next please let me know!

 

~AJ

Bruschettas for Days

As it is already quite obvious, Italian is one of my favorite styles of cooking. The marriage of fresh and crisp ingredients create irresistible flavors that melt in your mouth. The huge variety of simple yet flavourful plates that Italian cooking has to offer is really something any cook, beginner or experienced, can take advantage of in order to create a truly magnificent plate. As a plus, Italian cooking is relatively simple; not many ingredients are needed in order to make a truly exceptional dish.

When it comes to appetizers, Italians have a dish that trumps chips and salsa all day, every day. Bruschettas are an Italian appetizer that is, simply put, a garnished toast full of flavor and colors. Bruschettas are made all throughout Italy and depending on where exactly they are being made, different ingredients are used, however, olive oil and garlic are the two definite musts for this dish.

Today I decided to play a little with this appetizer and I prepared a Tomato and Mozzarella Bruschetta and a Mushroom and Basil Bruschetta.

Ingredients:

  • 1 Baguette (or 2 mini Baguettes)
  • 8 Pear (or Saladette) Tomatoes
  • 2 cups of Basil
  • 6 medium-big Button Mushrooms (clean and dried)
  • 1/4 of a cup or olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove cut in half
  • 250 grams of fresh mozzarella
  • 1/2 a teaspoon of Oregano (+ extra for garnishing)
  • Salt & Pepper to taste

Directions:

Preheat your oven to 350° F.

For the Tomato and Mozzarella Bruschetta dice six tomatoes and chop 1 cup and 1/4 of Basil leaves chiffon style. Mix both of these ingredients with a little bit of olive oil and season with salt and pepper to taste in a bowl. Set aside.

For the Mushroom and Basil Bruschetta, put a pan over medium heat with a little bit of olive oil, about 1/2 a teaspoon of pepper, 1 teaspoon of salt and 1/2 a teaspoon of oregano. Mix well and once hot, add the sliced mushrooms and let cook for about six minutes. Afterwards add two diced tomatoes and let cook. Adding these tomatoes will give it more flavor and will prevent the mushrooms from drying out too quickly. Taste, and add salt if needed.

Grab the baguette and cut it into 1/2 an inch slices. Spread them in a baking tray. You can use a pastry brush to spread the remaining olive oil into the slices. Once this is done, grab the half of the garlic clove and rub it into the bread. (If you wish to have a stronger taste of garlic, add one of the halves of the cloves to the oil beforehand and rub the other half in the bread as well.) Place the tray into the oven and set the timer to 4 minutes.

After the timer has gone off, take the tray out of the oven and add small slices of the fresh mozzarella to the individual slices of bread. Put the tray back in and set the oven to Broil. Keep and eye on the oven and make sure your soon-to-be Bruschettas don’t get burnt!

Once the cheese has browned, take the tray out and carefully add the Mushroom-Basil mix to half of the slices. Make sure to turn the heat back down to 350°F in the oven. Take the other half of the slices out and set them in a plate. Put the tray back in for a couple of minutes. Grab the remaining slices and add the Tomato-Basil mix into them.

Garnish the Tomato and Mozzarella Bruschettas with fresh Mozzarella, and sprinkle a bit of oregano over them. Take the tray out of the oven, set the Mushroom and Basil Burschettas in a plate and garnish with a bit of fresh Basil.

Enjoy!

The fresh and sweet taste of Pear tomatoes combined with the buttery taste of fresh mozzarella make this a beautifully light appetizer. On the other hand, the woody taste of fresh Button mushrooms combined with the aromatic and peppery basil create an earthy taste and a dish with amazing contrast. I truly hope you enjoy this dish!

 

Feel free to add any other ingredients you wish, and always remember that if you have any comments or suggestions for what I can cook next please let me know!

 

~AJ

Breakfast Sandwiches

When Saturdays come around they are either filled with energy and excitement for what the weekend holds, or they come with the weight of the past week resting heavy on our shoulders. This was an extremely heavy week for me, and so I woke up relatively late and unsure of what the day would hold.

I decided to go downstairs and make some breakfast, however, I didn’t really know what I wanted. I eventually decided to make a Breakfast Sandwich for myself. This easy to make and healthy dish is filled with protein, veggies, and the necessary nutrients to fill your morning with energy.

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Ingredients:

  • 2 small or medium size eggs
  • 2 slices of bread
  • 1/4 a cup of spinach
  • 1/4 a cup of diced tomatoes
  • 2 small slices of the cheese of your choice
  • 2 slices of ham (it can also be turkey ham)
  • 1/2 teaspoon of low-fat butter
  • A pinch of rosemary
  • Salt & Pepper to taste

Directions:

In a small bowl whisk the two eggs with the rosemary. Add spinach and a little salt and pepper. After this, put a small sized non-stick pan in low-medium heat and place the tomatoes in. After a couple of minutes check that the tomatoes are significantly softer than before. Add a pinch of salt and add the egg mixture in. Lower the heat (set it to low) and cover your pan so that the omelet can cook thoroughly and evenly without having it burn.

Once the omelette is evidently done, set it aside and place a new pan in the stove. Put the heat to medium and add a little amount of butter to it. Once the butter has melted, place one of bread slices with the ham in, cover it, and let it brown slightly. Make sure that the ham is looking up to avoid having it stick to your pan! Once it is golden brown, plate it. Repeat this same process with the other slice of bread and add the cheese if you wish. Once both sides are done, add the omelette to the sandwich, finish plating and enjoy!

 

Feel free to add any other ingredients you wish, and always remember that if you have any comments or suggestions for what I can cook next please let me know!

 

~AJ