Saturday, August 31, 2013

Boredom pie (without eggs and butter)

The full real name would be something like "Simple vanilla flavored pie without eggs and without butter". But it's clearly too long so we just call it Boredom Pie :D



The reason behind that nickname is that the pie was the result of a very boring afternoon, when I couldn't find anything better to do... so I decided to bake something! And since the baking wasn't planned beforehand, there weren't eggs or butter at home, or any yummy ingredients for that matter.


Gathering my courage, I baked anyway with what I could find and this is the result: a soft, simple, delicate vanilla flavored pie, perfect with your coffee or a cup of tea.

HINT: I like the pie as it is, but you can make it more rich by slicing it in half and filling it with jam (apple jam in the pictures), Nutella or adding lemon zest to the dough.
I'm using an instant baking yeast, very popular in Italy, that can be added directly to the dough. Feel free to substitute it with the yeast commonly used in your Country!



Ingredients:
  • 270 gr all-purpose flour
  • 150 gr sugar
  • 1 small bag of dried instant baking yeast
  • 300 ml milk
  • 4 tablespoons of vegetable oil (e.g. canola oil)
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • powdered sugar

Directions:
In a bowl mix sifted flour and sugar. Pour 3/4 of the milk slowly and then the oil and vanilla extract, always mixing. Mix the yeast with the remaining milk and add that too to the mixture.
Grease a pie plate with some butter and spread some flour on it. Pour the mixture in the plate and bake in pre-heated oven at 180º C (356º F) for about 30 minutes. Check by inserting a toothpick in the middle, if it comes out clean, then the pie is ready.
Let it cool down and decorate with powdered sugar.


Thursday, August 29, 2013

Spaghetti alla carbonara

This is probably one of the most famous Italian pasta dishes! And one of the most loved too, because it is indeed very yummy :)


It's really easy to prepare a good pasta carbonara as it needs only a couple of ingredients (bacon and eggs) but they have to be fresh and of good quality. And please do not add any cream to it! That's just blasphemy :P


HINT: If you like garlic you can add 1 clove of minced garlic and saute it in a tablespoon of oil before frying the bacon.
HINT: Spaghetti are always the best choice for carbonara sauce, but you can try it out also with short pasta like fusilli or maccheroni.

Ingredients (serves 3):
  • 300 gr spaghetti
  • 3 eggs
  • about 150 gr bacon, diced
  • grated parmesan cheese (or pecorino cheese)
  • salt
  • grounded black pepper

Directions:
In a bowl whisk the eggs with a pinch of salt (not too much because the bacon is already salty), pepper and a spoonful of parmesan. In a large skillet, cook the chopped bacon until slightly crisp then remove from the heat.
In a large pot of boiling salted water cook the pasta until al dente. Drain it well and move it into a large bowl, add bacon and the beaten egg mixture, tossing constantly with tongs or a large fork until the eggs are barely set (you don't want it become an omelet, do you?).
Serve immediately. Add more parmesan cheese and pepper if needed.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Crispy zucchini & eggplant medallions

This food is very loved Italy, and it's cooked quite often, especially in the South.
These veggie medallions are crisp outside and soft on the inside, simply delicious! ^^


They work perfectly as appetizer, as main course (secondo), as sides for your main dish or as a snack (for example for your picnic!). It's also a very handy recipe because you can easily use the vegetable leftovers you have in your fridge.



Ingredients (serves 3):
  • ½ eggplant
  • ½ zucchini
  • 2 eggs
  • breadcrumbs
  • vegetable oil (suitable for deep frying)
  • salt & pepper

Directions:
Wash the veggies and slice them into about 1 cm thick rings. Prepare a plate or bowl filled with breadcrumbs.
Whip the eggs in another bowl using a fork or a whisk, add 3 pinches of salt and a bit of pepper, mixing.
Dip the rings first in the beaten egg shaking off any excess and then coat them with breadcrumbs, on both sides, gently patting the crumbs onto the rings.
Heat oil in a heavy-based frying pan over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot fry the medallions until they look nicely golden colored on both sides. Transfer the rings to a plate lined with paper towels to remove excess oil.
Serve as side dish for your meat or as they are.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Ham, cheese & veggie muffins

Ok, I wasn't supposed to bake muffins ALSO this weekend, I swear it. It wasn't planned.
At all.

But this morning I noticed how many different leftovers I had in the fridge and I didn't feel like cooking an omelet to get rid of them.... so I made muffins instead :D

Here they are in their savoury beauty:


These muffins were reeeeeeeeeeeally good. I love bell pepper so I tend to use it in many of my dishes, and the same goes for zucchini. You can use vegetables and cheese of your choice too, for example smoky flavored cheese or cheddar, they would taste great.


These muffins are surprisingly light, so you can enjoy them for breakfast, as snack or even serve them with a soup.
HINT: I fried for few minutes the sliced zucchini on a nonstick pan without oil or butter, so they'd release most of their water. You can do the same with the bell pepper too if you want.

Ingredients (8 muffins):
  • 3 dl all-purpose flour
  • about 50 gr minced ham
  • ½ red bell pepper
  • ½ small zucchini
  • 1,5 dl milk
  • 1 egg
  • 1 dl emmental-mozzarella shredded cheese
  • ½ dl vegetable oil
  • 1 ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • a bit of black pepper, grounded
  • a bit of oregano


Directions:
Wash and slice zucchini and the bell pepper in small pieces. Fry for few minutes the zucchini on a nonstick pan at vivid flame without oil or butter, so they release most of their water. Let it cool down.
Preheat the oven at 200º C (392º F). In a bowl combine the dry ingredients: flour, salt and baking powder. Make a small hole in the middle.
Add all the wet ingredients to the mixture: egg, ham, cheese, veggies, oil, milk. Sprinkle with a bit of black pepper and oregano.
Spoon the mixture into prepared muffin cups, filling about 2/3 full. Bake at 200º C (392º F) for 15-20 minutes or until muffin tops just begin to brown. As usual, check if they are ready inserting a toothpick in the middle, if it comes out clean, then the muffins are cooked.
Remove from the oven and let them cool down before devouring them.



Friday, August 16, 2013

What is a Bento?

Do you know what is a bento?
If you don't, Wikipedia is always the best friend. But in short, bento is a packed lunch very popular in Japan. The main rule is that it must look cute and yummy :P

Japanese moms prepare bentos for their husbands and their children and the students bring bentos at school for lunch. You can also buy bentos from shops, as fast snack! As result, bentos are omnipresent in japanese animes and mangas.


 
A typical $10 (1000 Yen) Bento, bought from a bento store in Tokyo Terminal (source: Wikipedia)

Lately the bentomania has spread also to the western Countries and it became quite popular in the USA, where now you can find shops that sell bento boxes and accessories. In Europe not so much... yet. Hopefully the trend will grow also here!

To make a bento it's good to have some useful tools, such as:


cups, I also use muffin silicon cups


dividers (food, e.g. salad, can also work as divider)


small containers and bottles for sauces and liquids


colored picks


cutters

You don't HAVE to use these tools, but they make bento making much easier!

Internet is full of images of amazing artistic bentos that display anime characters and take 3 hours to prepare, they're not actually the real bentos... they're called charaben. And you don't have to make anything like this either! The main point is that bento is a balanced, tasty and nice looking meal.

There's no need to put asian food in your bento, you can put whatever you like (just remember that usually japanese bento boxes aren't suitable for microwave so fill them with food that can be eaten cold or at room temperature), even leftovers from the dinner. That's what I normally do :)
Another tip is to use veggies! They aren't just healthy, but they also bring colors and can be used as dividers e.g. baby carrots, bell peppers, cherry tomatoes.

The last advice I can give is not to stress too much over the bentos appearance. I love bento making because it relaxes me and I enjoy the process, that way I enjoy eating it later as well :)

In the future I will post on here some of my bentos, old and newer ones. Who knows, maybe you'll get hooked too and start bento making!

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Pollo alla Pizzaiola

Pollo alla Pizzaiola is a very well known dish in Italy. Takes its name, as you might guess, from the pizza because it's made with tomato sauce, mozzarella and basil :)

Everyone prepares it their own way: some people like to add garlic, others add capers... I use oregano and black olives.


This dish is a very good and healthy option when you want to cook chicken in a slightly different way and kids like it a lot too! It's also very easy and fast to prepare, so it's perfect if you don't have too much time to spend in the kitchen.



In this way you'll get from normal boring chicken breasts something a little more special :)

Ingredients (serves 2):
  • 400 gr of chicken breasts
  • 200 gr mozzarella cheese
  • 300-400 gr tomato sauce
  • rapeseed oil or olive oil
  • flour
  • salt
  • some fresh basil leaves
  • oregano
  • black olives

Directions:
Take the meat out from the fridge to room temperature about 20-30 minutes before cooking.
If the chicken breasts are too thick, slice them in 2 parts so they will cook better (and faster). Coat the chicken on both sides with the flour, tapping on their surface so the flour sticks onto it.
Warm up some oil in a nonstick pan, place the chicken and fry them until both sides get a nice golden color.
Add salt, oregano and basil. Pour the tomato sauce and olives, let it cook at low flame for 5 minutes so the sauce gets a bit thicker.
Slice the mozzarella into slices and put one slice on top of each chicken breast. Turn the flame off (or to minimum), cover the pan with a lid and wait until the mozzarella is a bit melted. Serve immediately.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Risotto alla Milanese with minced meat

Risotto is the heart of the North Italian kitchen.

Risotto alla Milanese is Milan's famous risotto, which is traditionally made sauteing in butter chopped onions and meat, then adding first Carnaroli rice and then white wine. Risotto is cooked slowly with beef stock, adding saffron half way and parmesan cheese and/or butter at the end before serving.

There are many different versions of it, for example with zucchini, salsiccia (Italian sausage), gorgonzola cheese, mushrooms, asparagus and frogs!

I'll share with you the version made with minced meat, which is not too difficult to prepare. I often add mushrooms to it, e.g. champignons.


My recipe differs from the traditional one also because I use oil instead of butter! :)


Making a good risotto is quite easy, but it's a slow process that requires time and attention. You cannot just simply go to watch TV and let the risotto cook alone, because that would come out a mess. Instead you have to keep stirring and stirring otherwise the rice sticks to the bottom of the pan and add stock little by little, having the patience to wait that the rice has absorbed all the liquid before adding more stock.

Ingredients (serves 2):
  • 200 gr risotto rice
  • 200-300 gr minced meat
  • 1 meat bouillon cube
  • ½-1 teaspoon saffron powder
  • 1 finely chopped onion
  • rapeseed oil or olive oil
  • grated parmesan cheese
  • salt & pepper

Directions:
Boil the water and drop in it the bouillon cube.
In a saucepan heat some oil over medium heat. Add finely chopped onion and saute until it gets soft. The add the meat, mashing it with a fork and stirring. Add salt and pepper. Simmer the onion and meat for about 5 minutes.
Add the rice and stir for a couple of minute, until lightly toasted (it will look translucent). Stir constantly so the rice will not stick and burn.
Add enough broth that it covers all the rice and stir. Pour the saffron powder in a bit of broth, mix with a teaspoon and add it to the risotto.
When the rice has absorbed almost all the broth, add a ladle of stock. Keep adding ladlefuls of broth, allowing each ladleful to be absorbed before adding the next, until the rice is cooked and has creamy texture. This takes about 20 minutes.
Check the taste, add salt and pepper up to taste. If you want you can add now a spoonful of parmesan and a spoonful of butter, always stirring.
When the rice is cooked, remove from the heat, cover and let sit for a couple of minutes (this way the risotto gets its fluffy texture). Serve with grated parmesan cheese.


Friday, August 9, 2013

Cheesy baked salmon fillets

Since we bought so much salmon at the local Market, I thought to share with you a wonderful salmon recipe. Salmon is by far my favorite fish! I love it!

I didn't really eat much salmon when I was in Italy because it was terribly expensive, and when I ate it, it was with pasta (lovely recipe that I will add soon!) or with a curl of butter on the bread at Christmas.

I hoped that in Finland it would be cheaper, as we're closer to Norway, but nope! ;___; It's still quite pricey. But luckily now we can manage to eat salmon almost every week. I usually cook it with pasta (smoked salmon) but in this case the fish goes in the oven! :)



Warning: this recipe isn't very dietetic and light since it contains cheese and cream. But  it's REALLY good!

Ingredients (serves 3):
  • 800 gr fresh salmon fillets
  • 2 dl cooking cream
  • 70 gr tomato paste
  • about 80 gr creamy flavorful cheese
  • 1 onion
  • salt & pepper


Directions:
Grease the oven plate with a little of butter and place the salmon pieces. Slice the onion in thin circles. Put onion and slices of cheese on top of the salmon. Mix the cream and tomato paste together and pour it over the fish. Add salt and pepper up to taste.
Bake in pre-heated oven at 200ºC (400 degrees F) for 30-40 minutes. Serve for example with mashed potatoes.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Banana muffins

I love muffins!
Muffins are the perfect treat for yourself and for your guests, because they're super easy to make, they taste good (unless you screw up badly) and they look cute! Muffins can also be made in so many different ways: with chocolate, yoghurt, jam, berries, fruits, nuts, carrots or even salty versions with cheese and ham!
Don't buy factory made muffins from the shop, they are greasy and often taste awful. Instead bake them yourself, they will be delicious :)

These are banana muffins or, as my bf called them, monkey muffins! :D They're one of my favorite muffins.


Before this, I made muffins only once in my life and it was a disaster (I accidentally put double amount of butter so they turned out quite greasy :P). But this time it was a YUMMY SURPRISE, these muffins were the most moist and tasty muffins I've ever eaten. You should really try these out.


I made a couple of muffins prettier with sugar decorations :)



HINT: Try to use nicely ripe bananas because those are softer and have stronger flavor.

Ingredients (12 muffins):
  • 4 ripe bananas (save few slices for decoration)
  • 3,5 dl flour
  • 1,20 dl sugar
  • 80 gr melted butter
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt

Directions:
Mash the bananas with a fork or in a mixer. Melt the butter at low heat and let it cool down. Beat the egg slightly with a fork.
Put the mashed bananas in a bowl with the egg, sugar and melted butter and mix well. In another bowl mix the dry ingredients: flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Mix wet and dry ingredients together and pour into muffins cups (fill them about 2/3).
If you want add on top the banana slices.
Bake in the oven at 180ºC (356ºF) for about 20 min.  Check by inserting a toothpick in the middle, if it comes out clean, then the muffins are ready. Let the muffins cool down before decorating and serving.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Tasty chicken soup

As Winter (unfortunately...) approaches and the days become darker and colder, a good warm soup for dinner is as precious as a pirate's treasure.

I learnt how to cook soups here in Finland. In Italy I never made one myself, and I only ate either minestrone or pastina (a tiny pasta cooked in broth).

This Chicken Soup was my very first attempt in the unknown Soup World. I didn't take the recipe from anywhere, I just added the ingredients in the pot up to my taste. I knew for a fact that chicken tasted good paired with bell pepper and sweet corn in a salad, so I put those ingredients in the soup as well. I added a bit of curry, some cheese and flour to ticken it up :)


In the photo below there're (almost) all the ingredients you need.


NOTE: In this recipe I use marinated chicken because here in Finland is so popular and it's much cheaper than the normal one! It also tastes good and gives a nice flavor to the soup.
HINT: Use a sifter when adding the flour to avoid the formation of flour clumps in the soup.

Ingredients (serves 2):
  • 5 dl water
  • about 200 gr marinated chicken breasts (or also non-marinated if you want)
  • 1 chicken bouillon cube
  • ½ red bell pepper
  • 2-3 tablespoons of sweet corn
  • ½ carrot
  • 1 or 2 melted cheese slices
  • 2 tablespoons of flour
  • curry powder

Directions:
Cut the chicken in small pieces. Slice carrot and bell pepper also in small pieces.
Put the water to boil, then add the buillon cube. Add the chicken, bell pepper and carrot in the pot and let it boil at medium heat until the meat is cooked. Then add corn, cheese (better cut it in pieces first) and curry up to taste.
Stir and let it boil at low heat for some minutes adding the flour bit by bit. Keep always stirring to melt the flour well, until the soup is ticken enough.
Serve with good rye bread slices.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Spring omelette

Omelette is my favorite food when it comes to empty the fridge from random leftovers.

It's really quick and easy to make, plus you can add to it whatever you want and it always comes out good! When I have in the fridge some leftovers, omelette is my first choice :)

This omelette came out pretty colorful and reminded me of Spring, so I named it "Spring omelette"!


This time in the fridge I found some basil leaves, parsley, one tomato, half bell pepper and ham slices. With the skin of the tomato I made this tomato rose as decoration :)



Ingredients:
  • 3 eggs
  • ½ red bell pepper
  • ½ onion
  • 1 tomato
  • some basil leaves
  • 2 ham slices
  • parsley
  • rapeseed oil or olive oil
  • salt & pepper

Directions:
Blend the egg yolks and whites with a fork in a bowl. Peel the tomato. Chop finely onion, bell pepper, tomato, basil and parsley and add them into the bowl. Add salt and pepper up to taste and mix well.
Warm up a nonstick pan greased with a bit of oil and pour the egg mixture, spreading it evenly. Wait that the bottom starts to set and carefully lift the border with a rubber spatula to detach it from the pan.
Now it's time to flip the omelette upside down, and for that I always use a plate (slide the omelette on the plate, hold it above the pan and quickly flip it down). Cook for another minute or so, but don't overcook or allow the egg to turn brown, place the ham slices on it and wrap it up with the spatula.
Serve immediately.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Cold pasta tricolore

Along with rice salad, cold pasta is one of the most common foods in Italy during the hot sweaty summer. As the name implies, it is a pasta that's meant to be enjoyed cold with the addition of few fresh ingredients. Everyone makes it their own way, this is how I always cook it: easy and light!


The main ingredients are really few: pasta (of course!), mozzarella, cherry tomatoes and basil.



Cold pasta can be stored in the fridge for 2-3 days without problems and in summer is handy to bring at work because it doesn't need to be warmed up. It's also perfect for picnics!

HINT: Since it's a cold pasta it doesn't require grated parmesan on top because it wouldn't melt! But feel free to add it too if you like it :)

Ingredients (serves 2):
  • 200 gr short pasta
  • 125 gr mozzarella balls (n. 15 balls)
  • 250 gr cherry tomatoes
  • fresh basil
  • oil (rapeseed or olive oil)
  • salt 

Directions:
Cook the pasta in boiling salty water. When it's al dente, drain it some under cold water and put into a large bowl. Add a little bit of oil, stir and let it cool down mixing every now and then (so it doesn't get sticky).
Wash and cut the tomatoes in half or into 4 parts. You can use the mozzarella balls as they are, I cut them in half.
Mix the ingredients together with the pasta. Add salt and oil up to taste and at the end chopped basil. Serve cold or at room temperature.


Mom's apple pie

The title doesn't mean that my mom invented this recipe or anything like that, because she probably got it from a colleague at work many years ago. But she gave it to me and she taught me how to prepare it... my first pie ever!
That's why this apple pie is so important to me, it holds a very special place in my heart. Especially now, that my mother lives far away and I can't bake this pie for her anymore. I can, however, eat it for her too :P


This apple pie is really easy to make and it tastes great. It's so true that "the simplest food is also the best".




It can be served as it is, or with vanilla ice-cream or with a delicious vanilla flavored whipped cream. Mmmm... not very healthy but so damn good! :D

You can find many measurement converter charts online, like here and here, as well as on the side colum of the blog.

HINT: Add two teaspoons of cinnamon powder to the dough and the pie will be even more delicious!
I'm using an instant baking yeast, very popular in Italy, that can be added directly to the dough. Feel free to substitute it with the yeast commonly used in your Country!

Ingredients:
  • 2-3 medium size sweet apples
  • 200 gr all-purpose flour
  • 150 gr sugar (the recipe wants 200 gr but I usually put less)
  • 100 gr butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 glass of milk
  • 1 small bag of dried instant baking yeast (about 10 g)

Directions:
Peel the apples, remove the seeds and cut them in thin slices. Melt the butter slowly on the stove at low heat. Put the flour in a bowl with eggs, sugar and mix well while pouring half glass of milk.
When the butter is melted add it to the mixture. Mix the dry yeast with the remaining milk with a teaspoon and pour that too in the bowl. Mix well until the mixture is even.
Grease a pie plate with some butter and spread some flour on it. Pour the mixture in the plate and add the apple slices on top. Bake in pre-heated oven at 200º C (392º F) for about 30 minutes. Check by inserting a toothpick in the middle, if it comes out clean, then the pie is ready.
Serve as it is or with vanilla whipped cream/ice-cream.



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