Now, don't get me wrong, I LOVE meat! Just the thought of sinking my teeth into a juicy Italian sausage or a hearty sirloin steak drenched in garlic butter, makes my mouth water uncontrollably. It wasn't like I intentionally decided to become vegetarian. It actually was almost entirely out of my control!
My junior and senior years of college I lived off-campus with several of my friends. I had never thought about how living with other people might effect my eating habits, but when we moved into our house I happened to find myself surrounded by vegetarians. I guess, it didn't make sense to me, as a college student who didn't have a steady income, to buy chicken or steak if I was the only one in the house who would be eating it. So, the natural thing to do was conform. That's how I became an accidental "vegetarian"!
This wasn't a big deal to me, really. I didn't really care if I had meat on a regular basis or anything like that. As long as the food tasted good and I could eat it, I enjoyed it. Of course, I would still have meat if it was available, like if I went home or went out to eat, but having it as less of an option most of the time gave me the opportunity to try things I had never tried before. It forced me to become more creative in the kitchen and made me think outside of the box I had grown up in.
To this day I still live my life mostly as a "vegetarian" (with the occasional meat if I'm feeling indulgent). In all actuality, I think my experience as a "vegetarian" has made me a more well-rounded chef. If meat isn't available I can still make something that is delicious and hearty, with ease. I know how to make traditionally meaty dishes without any meat and have them taste just as good (if not better).
This is where the Vegetarian Pasta Carbonara recipe comes into play. Typcially, carbonara has bacon or pancetta in it, but I took the dish and made it vegetarian to fit my friends' dietary choices. Adding the mushrooms gives it an earthy and hearty flavor without the addition of meat, and the peas add some greens to the dish, making it healthier as well.
For this dish I used fresh pasta (see the previous blog post for that recipe) but any long pasta will work. The only difference would be the duration it takes to cook the pasta. I hope you enjoy!
Vegetarian Pasta Carbonara
1 lb. Pasta (Spaghetti or Linguine)
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup mushrooms, diced
1/2 cup green peas
4 Tbs. butter, melted
Salt & Black Pepper to taste
Bring a large pot of water to a boil, season with salt and then add your pasta. Cook until al dente.
In a separate bowl add the eggs, cheese and pepper, mixing well.
Saute the mushrooms in a hot pan with a little bit of olive oil until they are a lightly browned on all sides.
Drain the pasta and return to the pot.
Add the egg mixture to the pasta, stirring constantly on low heat until the cheese is melted and the sauce thickens slightly.
Add in the peas and mushrooms, and butter.
Stir to combine. Add more salt or pepper if necessary.
Serve with an extra sprinkle of Parmesan cheese and black pepper on top.
Recently I have found myself
Since then, I have made my own pasta several times and each time has been equally successful and delicious. The recipe in this post shows you how to make a simple linguine pasta from scratch, but the dough is the same for any type of pasta. Once it is rolled out, you can experiment with different shapes of pasta like farfalle or even ravioli on your own, but linguine is definitely an easy shape to start with, for those who have never made pasta before.
I took this pasta and made a Vegetarian Pasta Carbonara with it. If you are interested in that recipe it will be up on this site soon so stay tuned for that.
Basic Pasta Recipe
3/4 cup of Flour
3/4 cup of Semolina flour
1/2 tsp. Salt
2 Eggs, beaten
2 Tbs. Water
2 Tbs. Olive Oil
Combine the dry ingredients together, and form into a mound on a clean work surface.
(You can form the dough in a bowl or stand mixer if you prefer)
Form a deep well in the middle of the flour mound and fill with the eggs, water, and oil.
Slowly begin to stir the flour into the egg mixture incorporating it little by little, making sure not to let the liquid spill out of the well you made.
Once the liquid is well combined and has formed a very shaggy looking dough, knead the dough with your hands until all the flour is incorporated and the dough is smooth and has a nice golden color. (This will take 7-10 minutes of kneading)
Cover the dough in plastic wrap and place in the fridge for 30 minutes to let it rest.
Add the pasta to a salted, boiling pot of water and cook until al dente.
(It will probably only take 5-7 minutes since the pasta is fresh)
Look for an upcoming post to see how I used the fresh linguine I made here to make Vegetarian Pasta Carbonara.
This past summer
We walked around the historical city centers, took in the cultural sights and hiked through the mountainous landscapes, but the thing that I was most excited about was, hands-down, the food! Whenever I get the chance to travel the first thing I do is look up what kind of food the place is known for. I have always thought that food is a great way to experience a new culture or location. By tasting the food, you can get a deeper understanding and appreciation for the people who live there.
When I got to the United Kingdom I excitedly tried every traditional dish possible; steak and kidney pie, fish and chips, bangers and mash you name it I tasted it, eagerly. So naturally, when we got to Scotland there was one thing on my mind...Haggis!
I had always been intrigued about haggis. I have to admit I was curious about how a stomach stuffed with the more "undesirable" cuts of meat would taste. My friends and I found this little pub in the middle of Edinburgh and I finally got my chance! I ordered chicken stuffed with haggis and smothered in this AMAZING black pepper gravy, and it did not disappoint. That meal was definitely the highlight of my time in the UK and I would have it again in a heart beat.
While I did not have these Blue Cheese Fritters during my time in Ireland or Scotland this recipe does bring back memories of my time there. The piping hot blue cheese fritters and the savory tomato sauce pair perfectly, and when I made these for my friends a while ago, we stood around the kitchen counter and devoured them in a matter of minutes.
Blue Cheese Fritters
2/3 cup of flour
7 Tbs. butter
3/4 cup of water
4 oz. crumbled blue cheese
1 tsp. Tabasco
1 tsp. Worcester sauce
Oil for frying
Melt the butter in a saucepan with the water and Worcester sauce.
Once the butter is completely melted, raise the heat and bring the liquid to a rolling boil.
Add the flour to the butter mixture and stir immediately.
Once the batter begins to roll away from the sides of the pan, remove from the heat.
Add the eggs a little at a time, until it is well combined and the batter has a glossy sheen.
Add the blue cheese and mix well until the cheese has melted completely.
In a deep saucepan heat the frying oil until a small cube of bread sizzles. immediately.
Using 2 spoons, drop even-sized globs of batter into the hot oil, turning them over as they fry.
Remove them once they are puffy and golden brown on both sides. It should only take a minute or so.
Place them on some paper towel to drain the remaining oil.
Continue to cook in batches until all the batter is gone. Serve hot with the tomato sauce to dip in.
1 Onion, diced
2 Tbs. Olive Oil
1 clove of garlic, diced
2 Sticks of Celery, peeled to remove the stings and thinly sliced
6 ripe tomatoes, halved, seeded and chopped
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. black pepper
1/2 pint vegetable stock
Fry the onions, celery and garlic in the oil for 4-5 minutes stirring occasionally.
Add the tomatoes, stock, salt and pepper.
Simmer the sauce on low heat for about 20 minutes.
Pour the sauce into a blender or use an immersion blender to blend the sauce until smooth.
For me, Zucchini Bread
There were several years where we had an obscene amount of zucchini squash. We would give some to family members or family friends and we would still have too much for ourselves! I remember my mom resorting to some creative measures in order to use it all. We had zucchini stir fried, roasted, baked, and even pickled! One of my favorite ways to enjoy zucchini is baked into bread.
This recipe in particular brings back many memories because it is my grandmother's recipe. She and my mom made it all the time and it was always best right out of the oven. Now that I'm older I can really appreciate the flavors and complexity this recipe has and have had the opportunity to tweak it here and there to my liking. The many spices like, fresh ginger and cinnamon add a special zing to the bread giving it warm and almost floral notes that make it very enjoyable. Typically, the recipe calls for walnuts which is absolutely delicious, but I added chocolate chips to this batch to add a decadent twist. I encourage anyone who tries this recipe to experiment with what they put inside to make it their own. Happy baking!
In a large mixing bowl combine the following ingredients:
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup apple sauce
2 cups raw grated zucchini
1 Tbs. vanilla
1 tsp. fresh ginger
In a separate bowl combine the following ingredients and mix together:
3 cups flour
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground clove
1/2 tsp. allspice
Add the dry mix to the wet ingredients and stir till just combined
Fold in 1 cup of chocolate chips or chopped walnuts
Pour into 2 greased 8" loaf pans (or muffin tins if desired)
Bake in a 350 degree oven for approximately 1 hour or when a knife comes out clean.
(Muffins bake for about 30 minutes)
Let cool in the pans for 10 minutes then remove and cool on a wrack.
For my first official post
This recipe for Arroz con Pollo and the story that accompanies it are the first in the cookbook. If you are interested in hearing more about my time in Peru and other Peruvian recipes feel free to contact me and I can hook you up. I hope you enjoy!
I have one note about ingredients. The recipe calls for Aji Amarillo which is a pepper native to Peru and may be difficult to find in the United States or elsewhere. I would recommend looking in your local Hispanic or South American food market. You can also look online for pepper purees or sauces that can be shipped to your home. If you have no other option any type of mild chili pepper, like a jalapeno or pablano, can work. It won't be authentically Peruvian, but it will still taste good!
Arroz con Pollo is one of those dishes that is practically synonymous with Peruvian cuisine. If you go to Peru, or any South American country for that matter, you will be hard pressed to find a place that doesn't sell some version of this classic chicken and rice dish.
A relatively simple dish consisting of seasoned rice and chicken, Arroz con Pollo is the perfect meal to begin your Peruvian culinary exploration. One of the most memorable times I encountered Arroz con Pollo was on my first night in Ayacucho. After my new host family picked me up from the bus station, we came back to their house and enjoyed Arroz con Pollo for dinner. The chicken was juicy and the skin, crisp and salty, while the seasoned rice added a bright flavor and a touch of spice that made my mouth water. Though I was just getting to know them, my new family seemed nice and open to having a strange kid from Indiana in their home. As we sat around the table eating chicken and rice, we talked about my home country and how life was different there compared to Peru.
After dinner I played games with my little brother and talked with my host mother about her childhood. This was a promising beginning to my next adventure in a new city, and a great way to start building relationships with my new family members.
Season the chicken pieces with salt, pepper, cumin & garlic. In a hot, oiled pot, sear the chicken on all sides until they are golden brown, then set to the side.
In the same pot begin to saute the onion, aji puree, and the bouillon. Puree the cilantro in a blender with 1 cup of water until smooth.
Once the onions are translucent, add the cilantro puree, chicken, aji pepper, peas, & carrots.
Let simmer for 20 minutes or until the chicken is cooked fully through and registers 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
Remove the chicken and add the remaining cup of water and the rice to the pot.
Cover and simmer over low heat until the rice is tender and the water has evaporated.
Serve each plate with one piece of chicken and a healthy portion of rice.
Just to give you a better idea of how much a foodie I am, let me share some facts about myself.
If that doesn't convince you I'm not sure what will! Anyway, back to business. Like I said before, the purpose of this blog is to share my passion for food and the adventures I have in the culinary world with anyone who will listen. I love to experiment in the kitchen and trying new flavor combinations and recipes I've never tried before excites me. Some experiments turn out better than others, but I always find joy in being in the kitchen.
As a chef at a local cafe/bakery, my passion for cooking has continued to grow and flourish into a lifestyle. While working there, I have developed new skills and an understanding of the science behind baking and cooking by working alongside some amazing people whose passion for good food has nurtured my own. I've grown to appreciate locally grown, organic produce and try to use the best whenever possible. I feel comfortable enough in the kitchen to throw any random combination of ingredients into a great meal. Ask my family and friends, they have been my guinea pigs for countless food experiments. (The majority of which have been successes)
I will be posting recipes and stories regularly on this site in the hopes that people not only read them, but maybe even try the dishes I make and grow to love food as much as I do. If you have suggestions of recipes you would like me to try, feel free to contact me. I would love to hear from you! My first official recipe post will be coming in the next couple days so stay tuned!
Let the adventures begin!!