Online Cooking School – Caramelized Onions

The Kitchn is offering an online 20 day (FREE) cooking course.  Of course, I signed up for it.  The first class was yesterday and focused on knife skills.  Today was onions and garlic.  One of the homework options was making caramelized onions.  Since I have never made it, I decided to go with that one 🙂

I started off with some normal yellow onions and sliced them
CO_CutOnions

All in the pan and I checked them at 10 minute intervals.
CO_AllInThePan

It is supposed to take about an hour to make them, but, for me, it took a bit longer.  I don’t know if the onions were too thick or if the heat was too low, but I had nowhere to go, so it wasn’t a big deal too me.  One thing I do agree with is that you cannot rush the procedure.  If you try to rush the process, I don’t think it would turn out very well.

I made a collage for you of all the cooking snaps I took
CO_CookingCollage

Last two ingredients were salt and a liquid for deglazing the pan.  I chose Balsamic Vinegar this time.  I think next time, I will use chicken broth.  Th ingredient list showed 2 tbsp, but the actual recipe said 1/4 cup.  I poured it into a measuring cup and added slowly.  It actually ended up being 2 tbsp before I decided to stop.  Taste and salt accordingly.
CO_LastIngredients

Finished product
CO_Done

I am still trying to figure out what to do with them.  Maybe some potatoes or a tart or quiche of some sort     .  If I don’t use it, everything I read says that they will freeze well, so there is nothing to worry about if I can’t find anything right away.  Of course my boyfriend has now graciously offered to take them off my hands if I need – lol

Um….how many boxes of pasta???

I was doing a little cleaning up and I noticed an unusual amount of pasta boxes.  I counted and ended up with 14 – FOURTEEN boxes of pasta!  And that doesn’t count the stuff I have in other containers!  I think I have a sickness.  Is there a meeting for pasta buyers anonymous?

So, I decided that I need to start cooking some pasta.  It’s getting chilly and it’s the perfect meal to be able to heat up the house.  Bear Creek makes a Creamy Chicken pasta mix that I just could eat the WHOLE thing easy.  I was going to go and buy it, but I thought “Huh.  I wonder if I could make it”.  I have never tried to recreate a recipe like this.  The only way I have ever tried was with another recipe – lol.  I didn’t take many pictures because I wasn’t sure it would turn out.  I do have some pictures for you and even something close to a recipe.

I had to think through how I wanted to make this and how I would get it the way closest to what the package is.

I started with a roux.  I added garlic to the butter to get some flavor.  The yellow glob is my version of bouillon.  I added that to kinf of ramp up the chicken flavor.
CCN_Butter

I added flour, but I couldn’t get a picture.  Next, I added the chicken broth VERY slowly.  I would add a little bit, wait for it to thicken up, add a little more, then wait, etc.
CCN_BrothAdded

I wanted to add some milk, but mine went bad.  I used powdered milk instead.  It is gross to drink, but I didn’t notice anything off when cooking with it.  I added the seasonings at this point too.  Parsley, salt and pepper went into the sauce.  I let it boil a bit on and off, but I was constantly stirring to make sure it didn’t burn.  I wanted a really thick sauce and this helped.
CCN_Milk

The original had carrots in it, so I took some of the pre-shredded ones I always have, cut them a little smaller and threw them in to cook.  I  turned down the heat and let it simmer slowly while I finished up the pasta.

See, because I made about 4 ounces of the mini pasta by Barilla, looked at my sauce and went, “Yea……that’s so not enough”.  I had to mix two different shapes which I hate doing.  BUT, I knocked out two boxes of pasta!  WOOHOO!
CNN_Done

Plated (with frozen fish)
CNN

Okay – verdict (drumroll please!!).  It was pretty good.  I couldn’t get the salt correct, but that was a small piece of it.  I actually liked the two different pastas in this.  I liked the carrots, but I should have put them in sooner so they had time to soften up a bit more.  I didn’t add nearly enough garlic.  I think there is something missing, but I can’t put my finger on it.  I think the base recipe is fine, but the seasonings still need tweaking.

Recipe: Creamy Chicken Noodles
2 tbsp butter
1 tsp Chicken Soup Base (I use Penzey’s)
Garlic cloves – I used about 1-2 tsp of garlic from Penzey’s2 tbsp flour
1 cup fat free, low sodium chicken broth
1 cup skim milk
7 ounces dry mini pasta.  If a bigger pasta is used, you may not need as much
Seasonings:
salt, pepper, parsley

Boil the pasta according to the directions on the package and set aside

Melt the butter, garlic, and soup base in a medium potAdd the flour and saute.  Cook for a couple minutes
SLOWLY add the chicken broth
Stir after every addition and wait until thick to add more
After the last of it is added, let it thicken a bit more and add the milk the same way
Taste and season accordingly.  I didn’t actually measure the salt, pepper or parsley.  I just dumped some in and tested, dumped some in and tasted
Let the sauce come to a boil to thicken up even more
Add the noodles and mix

Optional
I added in some shredded carrots.  Other vegetables may be good, too.  I would think broccoli would work well.

A different type of comfort noodles

When I was growing up, my mother would make us some kind of noodle boiled in chicken broth when we were sick.  I saw this and it was a very similar recipe.  I thought it would make a simple side for a busy weeknight.

Ingredients.  Yep, that’s it.  The yellow container is soup base.  The original called for bouillon, but this was all I had.  It worked just fine.
AN_Ingredients

Done.  I don’t have many pictures because it was SO simple.  One pot, boil twice and cover for 30 minutes, stirring 2-3 times.
AN_Done

Plated
AN_Plated

I LOVED these noodles.  They are effortless except some stirring.  I think this may just replace my mother’s orzo and broth for when I am sick.  I ate on them for a while, but it does make a lot.  I would think it would go with anything.  Maybe some beef and gravy poured over top of it.  Oooh – that sounds like a good idea.  Coming up at some point.

 

Not Your Normal Mac and Cheese

Always on the look out for some new way to pair cheese with some kind of pasta, I was excited to make Gnocchi Mac and Cheese.  I was nervous about the cheeses included.  They are cheeses (besides parm) that I have never had before.  I don’t like strong cheeses, really, but the picture looked sooooo good!

Ingredients.  I didn’t have milk, so I used half and half (who doesn’t have milk?!?)
GMC_Ingredients

Gnocchi prepared for the saucing
GMC_ReadyForSauce

Sauce ready.  The recipe says medium heat, but that was way too hot for my pans.  I should have gone medium low.  See those black marks?  That’s the garlic.  A moment of silence for the poor garlic.  I also forgot to add the salt and pepper.  I don’t think the salt was missed, but the pepper might have been a nice touch.
GMC_SauceDone

First layer on the gnocchi
GMC_FirstSauce

I didn’t add a whole 1/3 cup of parm like the original recipe.  I think it would have been way too much with all the other strong cheese in the dish
GMC_SecondLayer

All baked up
GMC_Baked

….it doesn’t look like the picture I saw.  This may be because I added too much cheese.  Possibly because of the half and half?  I don’t know, but it was really oily.  Did I eat it still?  You betcha!

GMC_Plated

Another view
GMC_FinalPLate

I ate it with the Spicy Chicken from the last post.  It was REALLY rich, but good.  I think I will have to be more careful about the cheese next time.  I will probably also pair one of the stronger cheeses with mozzarella or another mild cheese.  I will tell you, if you don’t have a place that will cut the cheese (HA!) into smaller chunks, this recipe WILL be pricey.  I don’t know if it is worth it.  It is good, I will give you that, but what do I do with the rest of the expensive cheeses I bought?  It is a really good idea, though.  And I want to make it again, just in a more affordable way.

Sweet Potato Fries at home

There’s a local deli that serves the best sweet potato fries – EVER!  I am not familiar with that particular tuber, so I never attempted it at home.  Then, I saw the picture in this post and I just had to try it.  I bought my first sweet potato and away we go.

Ingredients – missing the olive oil of course.
SPF_Ingredients

All chopped up.  Now, the hard part – waiting for a half hour.
SPF_Soak

Coated them with corn starch.  I wasn’t sure if I should dry the potatoes or not, first, so I did.
SPF_Coated

After turning.  They seem to be missing the brownish niceness.  Not sure what happened.  I actually ended up leaving them in for 10 instead of the 5 the recipe said.  I topped them with some kosher salt to try and replicate the deli fries as close as possible.
SPF_AfterFirstTurn

I paired it with some frozen shrimp and clams.  Yea, I know the clams were a gamble, but for some reason, they really sounded good (hangover).  I used some homemade sweet chili sauce for dipping the shrimp (coming in another post).  Ah – so satisfying.  They aren’t in the picture because I got hungry 😐

I ended up leaving them in for three times as long and they still didn’t really brown.
SPF_Plated

Unfortunately, that’s the only thing that was good.  The cornstarch was just bad.  It stuck in my teeth and overwhelmed the fries.  I didn’t even finish them and I eat burnt fries.  I don’t think this experience will stop me from trying them again, but I think I am just going to go the regular route of tossing them just in olive oil.

Garlicky shells of deliciousness

I found this side recipe and wanted to try it so bad, I built a meal around it instead of using a main dish.  I found it on Iowa Girl Eats (again).  If you haven’t checked out her site, you really need to go peek.  This is the first of two recipes of hers I will be posting in the next week.  This recipe is for Creamy Garlic Shells.  As a person who has eaten those noodles and sauce packets for dinner on multiple occasion, I was excited to read that she developed something to replace it with real food.  It takes about the same amount of time, too.  Nothing weird – made of stuff I pretty much always have in my arsenal of ingredients……just forgot to include them in the pictures

Ingredients.  Missing: Garlic
CGS_Ingredients

Measured out ingredients.  Missing: Garlic and flour
CGS_MeasuredOut

Sauce.  Missing: The white bowl in the previous picture
CGS_Sauce

Finished.  Missing: my fork
CGS_Finished

Dinner.  Missing: my second helping 🙂
Dinner_04252013

Pair this with the steak from the previous post and you got yourself a great dinner!  On the side, corn on the cob.  I actually baked this in the oven in the husk.  325 for 25 minutes for 2 cobs.  I was skeptical, but it actually worked.  The husk and silk just slide right off.  I think when the corn gets bigger, I will have to leave it in for 30 minutes.

I don’t know how else to end this post – lol.  It was good, it was great and easy.  Go make it!

Vegetable Egg…..Envelopes

I found this recipe in the America’s Test Kitchen Comfort Food Makeover cookbook.  I was really excited because I love egg rolls.  I figured “Healthy?  GIMME!!!”  lol.  The only problem?  I have a rolling deficiency.  This time, I blame the wrappers.  While I was writing that, I found that wasn’t my only problem *SIGH*

Ingredients
VER_Ingredients

This is me trying to roll them into nice little “rolls”.  As you can see, the spring roll wrappers aren’t square.  I ended up just making package type envelope things.
VER_RollFail

I ended up with 9 total instead of the 8 from the cookbook.  When cooking, I split them in two different skillets.  Apparently, I don’t have a mondo skillet needed for cooking these all at once.
VER_Batch1 VER_Batch2

The cooking method on the cookbook is to brown the “rolls” then steam them cooked, then brown again.  I decided that they weren’t browning right in the cast iron and moved a chunk to the stainless, muttering some derogatory statement about the cast iron’s ability to be non stick and evenly heated.  This is after they were steamed.  Can you guess what happens next?
VER_AfterSteaming VER_AfterSteaming2

Yep – horrifying sticking – the after math:
VER_Disaster VER_Ok

The ones in the cast iron faired better than the ones in the stainless skillet.  You could almost hear the cast iron skillet laughing at me.  I was just struck with an idea of why, though.  The cast iron had less “rolls” in it, but the same amount of water as the stainless steel.  The water was still in the skillet when I took the lid off, so I dumped it out.  I wonder if I would add double the water, but boil the same amount of time, if the stainless would end up good, too.  Although, I would rather try baking them like the numerous recipes online for the healthy egg rolls.

My Dinner
VER_Dinner

The taste of them wasn’t bad, but surprisingly bland.  Even with all the seasonings pictured above.  Since I couldn’t get it to brown the second time, the taste was more like a giant pot sticker.  I think it would benefit from more garlic, maybe some hot sauce….not sure.  I am also not sure if I will be making it again.  I was supposed to be having it with sweet and sour chicken, but that didn’t pan through – not enough time.  I didn’t eat until 8:30 as it was!  Instead, I substituted a frozen meal from Trader Joe’s.  One of my go-tos and one of my “Why do I keep getting this?” items.  It’s not bad, but a bit too salt and most of the vegetables are soggy when cooked.  I may be giving up on Trader Joe’s frozen meals…..