Browsing Tag

five ingredients or less

book review, recipe

Behind Her Eyes + Spaghetti Carbonara

Every November, my Good Reads & Good Eats book club reads a spooky book. Since we meet on the first Tuesday of each month, this allows us to read it during October and our meeting usually ends up being right around Halloween. This year’s selection was Sarah Pinborough’s novel Behind Her Eyes. The thriller was released in January but it made for an excellent read this month, just creepy enough throughout with a twist at the end I didn’t see coming.

Thanks to the success of Gone Girl, the oft-called domestic thriller has become more and more popular, and generally, I try to avoid them. Gone Girl was so well-written and its twist both genuinely surprising and believable (which is harder to achieve than it may seem) that I’m usually disappointed in those that follow.

That being said, Behind Her Eyes was an intriguing read. I did get caught up in the story and it kept me wondering what exactly was going on and who to be skeptical of, but the devices it used (particularly toward the end) seemed over-the-top and unbelievable. Overall, Sarah Dickinson does a great job summing up how I feel on her blog, but beware of spoilers if you haven’t read the book and still want to.

Pinborough’s novel begins in the middle of David and Adele’s troubled marriage. After a recent move to London, David almost immediately begins an affair with Louise, who turns out to be his new receptionist. It’s not clear how Adele discovers his transgression, but she makes it a point to befriend Louise and tension begins to build. As more about Adele’s backstory is revealed, more questions arise. In the present day narrative, we’re left wondering who we can trust. I’ll stop here to avoid spoilers, but I think it achieved what it needed to for our book club in that it was mostly riveting and twisty and will certainly make for interesting discussion. I’m looking forward to hearing what everyone has to say about it.

In an attempt to create some domestic bliss (or at least throw David off her scent), Adele continues to make impressive home-cooked meals almost every evening. On one such evening, she whips up the deceptively easy Spaghetti Carbonara and serves it with a simple arugula salad. I grabbed a recipe from one of my favorite blogs, Damn Delicious, for the pasta and found one for the salad from Everyday Maven. The whole meal took about twenty minutes and only requires a minimum number of ingredients for one so impressive; it makes a perfect weeknight meal.

First, I set a large pot of water to bowl and then prepped the salad. I chopped a half cup of cherry tomatoes in half and tossed them in a large bowl with arugula and the lemon zest. I love Trader Joe’s arugula because it’s the perfect amount for a dinner salad and it’s already pre-washed. In a separate small bowl, I combined the ingredients for the dressing – olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and salt and pepper. With the salad mostly set, I turned to the pasta.

Once the water was boiling, I salted it and added the spaghetti to the pot. In a small bowl, I whisked together the eggs and Parmesan and set it aside. I added my diced pancetta (or bacon, if that’s what you’re using) to a heated skillet and allowed it to crisp up for several minutes, before adding my minced garlic.

You’re going to want to make sure your pasta is cooked and drained before you add the garlic. Here is where you need to begin working quickly. Even though this recipe is easy, the eggs leave some room for error. You don’t want them to scramble; they should become a part of the creamy sauce, indistinguishable from the pasta itself. 

To my pancetta and garlic, I added my pasta and the egg-Parmesan mixture, using a pair of tongs to toss and combine everything. I seasoned with salt and pepper, before adding a bit of pasta water, tossing and checking the consistency.

With that all set, I re-whisked my dressing, poured it on the arugula and tossed my salad. Best dishes are both served immediately.

Spaghetti Carbonara

  • Servings: 4
  • Print

Ingredients

  • 8 ounces spaghetti
  • 2 large eggs
  • ½ cup freshly grated Parmesan
  • 4 slices bacon, diced [or diced pancetta, about 4 ounces]
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves (optional)

Directions

  1. In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook pasta according to package instructions; reserve 1/2 cup water and drain well.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together eggs and Parmesan; set aside.
  3. Heat a large skillet over medium high heat. Add bacon and cook until brown and crispy, about 6-8 minutes; reserve excess fat.
  4. Stir in garlic until fragrant, about 1 minute. Reduce heat to low.
  5. Working quickly, stir in pasta and egg mixture, and gently toss to combine; season with salt and pepper, to taste. Add reserved pasta water, one tablespoon at a time, until desired consistency is reached.
  6. Serve immediately, garnished with parsley, if desired.


From: Damn Delicious

Arugula Salad with Lemon Balsamic Dressing

  • Servings: 4
  • Print

Ingredients

  • ½ pound arugula
  • ½ cup grape or cherry tomatoes, washed and halved
  • zest of a whole medium lemon
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 5 to 6 turns freshly ground black pepper

Directions

  1. In a large salad or mixing bowl, combine arugula, halved grape tomatoes and the zest of an entire medium lemon.
  2. In a separate bowl, whisk olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper together until well mixed.
  3. When ready to serve, pour dressing over salad, toss until well coated. Serve and Enjoy!


book review, recipe

Kitchens of the Great Midwest + Peanut Butter Bars

Based on the title alone, Kitchens of the Great Midwest seemed like a book I, lover of food, resident of the Midwest, would thoroughly enjoy. The Goodreads description also seemed promising: “When Lars Thorvald’s wife, Cynthia, falls in love with wine–and a dashing sommelier–he’s left to raise their baby, Eva, on his own. He’s determined to pass on his love of food to his daughter–starting with puréed pork shoulder. As Eva grows, she finds her solace and salvation in the flavors of her native Minnesota…Each chapter in J. Ryan Stradal’s startlingly original debut tells the story of a single dish and character, at once capturing the zeitgeist of the Midwest, the rise of foodie culture, and delving into the ways food creates community and a sense of identity. By turns quirky, hilarious, and vividly sensory, Kitchens of the Great Midwest is an unexpected mother-daughter story about the bittersweet nature of life–its missed opportunities and its joyful surprises.” I tracked it down, dug right in and…

If you don’t already know where I’m going with this, I’m sorry to say, I didn’t thoroughly enjoy it, or really like it all. I think it’s one thing if a story doesn’t live up to the hype – in this case, I’d heard good things and it had almost a 4.0 on Goodreads – but it’s another thing entirely if the blurb is completely mismatched with the story that’s actually told.

In the end, one of the chapters I enjoyed the most was the one featuring Pat Prager, a very Midwestern mom who enjoys cooking for a crowd and does so from the heart. I also thought this chapter provided a stark contrast between the world Eva now cooked in and the world of everyday Midwestern food. In Kitchens, Pat is locally famous for her wonderful, award-winning peanut butter bars that sounded amazing even on the page. I knew I had to make them too.

Though they were very central to the story, no recipe was included, so I found a 5-ingredient recipe from Chef Savvy that was no fuss and no bake – perfect for the warm weather we’re somehow still having in October. True to Pat’s tendencies, I also made them for a crowd; I brought them to work for a coworkers birthday. (And, yes, they were a hit!)

I started by melting the 2 sticks of butter the recipe requires in a large bowl.

While that melted in the microwave, I got some aggression out by crumbling up 2 cups worth of graham crackers (this was about 12 crackers, or half a box). You can do this however you prefer – a food processor will provide the most consistently-sized and likely finest chunks – but I opted to toss them in a plastic Ziploc bag and crush them with my hands. (You could also use a rolling pin.) My chunks weren’t consistent, but I liked the way it added texture to the finished product.

To the same bowl where I’d melted the butter, I added the crushed graham crackers, a cup of peanut butter and 1½ cups of powdered sugar.

I combined them all well with a large spatula and spread the mixture into my prepared 9×13 pin. Then, in a smaller bowl, I added the other half cup of peanut butter and 1½ cups of semi-sweet chocolate chips. These too went in the microwave to melt.

Once the chocolate was melted and combined with the peanut butter, I poured that mixture over the peanut butter mixture already spread in the pan. I smoothed it with a spatula and set it in the fridge to set.

After a few hours, I took the peanut butter bars out of the fridge to taste-test before bringing them to work the next day. (You can’t bring a birthday dessert to work without first knowing that it’s worth bringing.) This was a bit hard to slice right out of the fridge – you’ll want to use a sharp knife, and make sure you have a good grip on the pan.

As I said before, these were an absolute hit at work, and luckily they were easy enough that I could bring them again! Keep this recipe in your back pocket – it’s great for family get-togethers, potlucks or book clubs.

Peanut Butter Chocolate Bars

  • Servings: 12-18
  • Print

Ingredients

  • 2 sticks butter (1 cup), melted
  • 1½ cups powdered sugar
  • 1 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 2 cups graham crackers, crushed
  • ½ cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1½ cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

Directions

  1. Spray a 9 x 13 pan with cooking spray. Set aside.
  2. Add butter, powdered sugar, 1 cup of peanut butter and crushed graham crackers in a large bowl. Mix to combine and layer into the prepared pan.
  3. Put the ½ cup of peanut butter and chocolate chips into a small bowl. Microwave in 15 second intervals until fully melted, stirring to combine as you go.
  4. Pour the chocolate peanut butter mixture on top of the layer in the pan and smooth with a rubber spatula.
  5. Place in the refrigerator to firm up for an hour.
  6. When ready to serve, cut into squares and enjoy!


book review, recipe

1984 + Artisan Dinner Rolls

I never read George Orwell’s 1984 in high school. I also never read Animal Farm until my boss recommended it to me as an adult, and while it was fine, I wasn’t particularly moved to seek out other Orwellian novels. But, like many Americans, once Trump was elected and “alternative facts” became a thing, I got interested. Suddenly, it was selling out everywhere – even Amazon – and I had to backorder my copy.

31besGg4t3L._SX311_BO1,204,203,200_

For those of you who don’t know, 1984 is a dystopian novel that imagines a world where Big Brother watches over your every move, the Thought Police have jurisdiction and the news is altered on a regular basis to better correspond to reality and/or change the past. It was written 35 years prior to 1984, and now, another almost 35 years later, it is more relevant than ever.

In the bleak world Orwell paints, the main character Winston Smith is a member of the Outer Party, and since he actively participates in spreading propaganda and revising history, he lives a decently comfortable life – even if it’s under constant scrutiny. While we primarily follow his journey for the truth, I found the “Proles” to be the most interesting, and Winston too, thinks of them as the best chance to overthrow the ruling Inner Party. Though they are roughly 85% of the population, they exist only to supply labor and grow the population.

I’m not sure I would’ve fully understood this book, let alone appreciated it had I read it in high school. It’s not a book that I like even now, as alarming as it was, but it certainly respect its message. I think everyone should read it once, and it was certainly worth it for me.

I could’ve made something decadent to represent the Inner Party, who always seem to be enjoying chocolate and wine while the rest of the country is told there’s a shortage, but I felt like a rustic bread was more representative of those who struggle beneath them – the Outer Party and the Proles. Outside of culinary school, I haven’t attempted bread, so I found a recipe for Unbelievably Easy Artisan Rolls and set to work.

As promised, the rolls were unbelievably easy to make. Just before going to bed one night, I whisked together the flour, salt and yeast before adding 2 cups of room temperature water. I mixed it all together with a rubber spatula, covered it with plastic wrap and set the bowl on the stove to hang out while I slept.

IMG_2636

In the morning, I removed the plastic wrap to see how much the dough had risen. It wasn’t a crazy amount, but it definitely had expanded and there were bubbles on top.

IMG_2650

With the oven coming up to 425-degrees F, I began coating the large ball of dough with flour and then used a bench scraper to divide it into a dozen smaller pieces. With each well-coated with more flour, I formed them into balls and placed them on the parchment paper with the pinched side down (to make a smooth top). They rested for another 20 minutes before going in the oven.

I baked them for 15 minutes, rotated the pan, and baked for an additional 5 minutes. Mine probably could’ve spent another few minutes in the oven to get some more color, but I pulled them and allowed them to cool at that point – mostly because I’m impatient and they looked done enough to me.

IMG_2663

More importantly, they tasted delicious! They were great alongside soup, salad and pasta – all of our meals for the rest of the week. With rolls this easy, I probably don’t have any excuse for not making my own ever again.

Artisan Rolls

  • Servings: 10-16
  • Print

Ingredients

  • 4 cups bread flour, plus extra for shaping [I used all-purpose flour because it’s what I had at home and the rolls still tasted delightful.]
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon dry yeast
  • 2 cups room temperature tap water

Directions

  1. In a medium-large bowl, whisk together the bread flour, salt, and yeast. Make a well in the center and add the water. Mix with a sturdy rubber spatula until all flour is incorporated. Don’t worry, the dough will be wet and sticky, that’s how it should be. Cover bowl with a plastic wrap and leave to rise at room temperature overnight or for up to 12 hours.
  2. The following morning (or after 8-12 hours), the dough will have risen, but it may still look shaggy and it’s surface will be covered with bubbles.
  3. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper*. Preheat the oven to 425ºF.
  4. Spread a generous ¼ cup of flour on a work surface. Dump the dough out onto the floured surface and turn it several times to coat with flour. I like to use a bench scraper for this.
  5. Divide the dough into 12-16 equal portions, turning each piece in the flour to coat. (The bench scraper is also great for cutting the dough). Shape each piece into a ball, pulling edges under and pinching together to make a smooth top. Invert balls and place on prepared pan, pinched side up. This will give you craggy, rustic textured rolls. If the dough is sticky as you’re shaping, just roll the piece in more of the flour. Let shaped rolls rise for 20 minutes.
  6. Transfer pan to the oven. Bake 15 minutes. Rotate pan. Bake 5 minutes more or until nicely golden. Transfer rolls to cooling rack to cool completely.
  7. If making in advance, remove from oven when pale golden brown (about 3-4 minutes less). Cool completely, then freeze on a baking sheet. Once frozen, transfer rolls to a large zip lock bag and store in the freezer. To serve, allow rolls to thaw, then heat for 8-10 minutes at 350˚F.