Posted in Quick Dinners, Recipes, The Market

My Mean Tomato Cream

This month’s issue of Bon Appetit was the Winter Survival Issue for 2014 and provided me with some delicious dishes to serve up while trying to keep warm. Yesterday, I threw together my own rendition of warming comfort food for a quickly assembled Sunday night dinner.

There are a few things I’ve been meaning to make this winter that I haven’t gotten to yet: French Onion Soup & my own homemade Tomato Sauce. I still had some Turkey Tortilla Soup left in the freezer that I defrosted for the week, so I decided to spend yesterday making sauce and baking some Bacon Oatmeal Raisin cookies (recipe here) which I saw in Bon Appetit some time ago – that recipe needs some tweaking because my cookies came out hard as rocks and I don’t know if it’s my fault or the recipes, I’ll have to check with the experts (Mom, Grandma & Aunty Jen). My sauce recipe isn’t anything crazy special, but it caters to my desired taste & I really look forward to eating it once it’s simmering on the stove. For my own purposes, I only make about a quart at a time – I usually end up freezing half of it, too, since at this point in my life it’s really only me eating it – so you can double or triple this recipe if you please! I almost always make at least one of the meals with it as tomato cream sauce because it’s easily one of the most delicious things you can do with tomato sauce. It’s similar to a vodka sauce but easier to make! (I’ll add the steps for making the tomato cream at the end.)

The Food Snob’s Tomato Sauce

Ingredients:

1/4 c. sweet or white onion, finely chopped

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1 can (your choice, I use Del Monte’s Italian Recipe) stewed tomatoes

1 small can tomato paste (I use Hunt’s, no salt added)

2-3 very ripe on-the-vine tomatoes, or any others you need to use up (I usually clean at least the seeds out)

2-3 TBSP olive oil

salt, pepper, sugar, basil (for flavor!)

Method/Preparation:

First, start with any ripened tomatoes you have lying around that you need to use up or some soft, bright red ones you might find hanging out with the vine-ripes at the market. I always start my sauce with fresh tomatoes to give it a little added sweetness and chunkier texture (I like lumps in my sauce, but nothing crazy). Start by heating the olive oil – I use half Canola, half EVOO so the flavor isn’t overpowering – in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat, use just enough to coat the bottom so that your garlic and onion don’t burn. Once it’s up to temp, add your garlic and onions and stir them in to coat them in the oil. Add salt and pepper to flavor both ingredients. Once the onions are translucent and soft, add all your tomatoes, along with salt & pepper to season them, and bring the heat down to a simmer. Cover this mixture and let it ‘sweat’ for about an hour, the tomatoes will start to break down. Once the tomatoes start to look like a puree, you can add your canned tomatoes. Bring the heat up to medium and fill the can from the tomatoes about 1/3 of the way with water, swirl it around so you get all the rest of that good stuff and then pour it in the pot. Sprinkle about 2 tsp of sugar over the top and add the tomato paste. Return heat to a simmer and cover. Cook about 2-3 hours, stirring occasionally, or until all tomatoes are tender. I sometimes use a potato masher to make sure none of the tomato pieces are too big.

Once the sauce is put together, making the tomato cream is the easiest thing in the world. I also like to make my own garlic bread (yesterday I got lazy and bought some frozen) to dunk in the sauce because I’m gluttonous about my pasta, with no shame. For a green yesterday I reheated some leftover broccoli rabe, but almost anything goes with this including a small portion of salad.

For the Tomato Cream Sauce: Heat 1 parts heavy cream to 2 parts Tomato Sauce over medium-low heat in a medium pot/large sauce pan, stirring occasionally. Meanwhile, boil pasta in a separate pot (I used Rigatoni yesterday) to just before al dente. Add a small amount of the pasta water into your sauce before draining – this will help the sauce and pasta come together better. Once drained, add pasta into sauce and turn heat up to medium. Stir occasionally until sauce bubbles and thickens, then remove from heat and add about 1/8 c. grated cheese. Stir until cheese melts into the sauce and serve immediately. Enjoy!

For Garlic Bread: Finely chop some garlic early in the day, like when you’re making your sauce, and store it in just enough Canola oil in a small cup in the fridge. Before you put the sauce and pasta on the stove, use a kitchen brush or the back of a small spoon to spread some of the garlic oil onto both sides of slices of Italian bread. Set the oven to BROIL. Let bread stand for a few minutes so the oil soaks in. Broil about 4-6 minutes on a baking sheet in the oven or until golden brown. Sprinkle immediately with grated cheese and fresh finely chopped parsley if desired. Serve with your pasta.

I couldn’t have been more pleased with this meal last night! As I said, the cookie recipe that I was juggling while I was making the sauce needs some tweaking, but otherwise I was pleasantly full by the time I went to bed and warmed to the core! I hope this brings as big a smile to your face.

— Until the next,

❤ Food Snob

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Posted in Food & Travel, Quick Dinners, Recipes, Restaurant Experiences, The Market

Food Snob Returns: It’s 2014.

I am really bad at remembering to post on here and that this exists. I love writing and cooking, but that doesn’t mean that I have my shit together, unfortunately.

This Fall, Thanksgiving and Christmas were awesome – ending in the devastating beating my Broncos took in Superbowl XLVIII Sunday night – and 2014 has been fantastic so far. My brief hiatus was due to the fact that I started the MFA program in Creative Writing at Emerson College in September and I will be enrolled until May 2015, the earliest. However, that doesn’t mean I haven’t had time to try some new recipes or go out and sample some new eats. My goals in 2014 are to take more yoga classes and utilize my blog the way that I intended to, which is good news to anyone who likes the type of food I like.

I have the privilege of owning Giada’s new book, Feel Good Food, which I received as a Christmas gift. (I also subscribe to Giada’s digital weekly magazine on my iPhone via Newsstand, and it is fabulous.) I have also been racking my brain for a recap of any restaurant bites I may have enjoyed (or not enjoyed) recently and I hope I can provide at least a few – it’s tough to go out to eat at this time of the year when it’s better to cook and be in sweatpants all day. I have a pretty healthy to-do list, though, for new places to try and will be traveling to West Yarmouth, MA (Cape Cod) for a one-night Valentine’s getaway next week, which will hopefully include another discovery!

Recipes for this post: Meatless Mexican Rice Bowl,  ‘My Favorite Things’ Salad

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The ‘My Favorite Things’ Salad
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One of my favorite wintertime snacks: ruby red grapefruit sprinkled with just a little bit of sugar.

I had to include a picture of one of the beautiful ruby reds I have been getting at Trader Joe’s because they’re one of my favorite things in the entire world. They’re in season right now, so they’ve been especially delicious and perfect for snacking between meals on something sweet without the guilt.

The ‘My Favorite Things’ Salad was comprised mostly of leftovers and inspired by the arugula salad they’re serving up at Providence Coal Fired Pizza – I would highly recommend it, along with the broccoli rabe & sausage pizza. For this salad, I tossed some baby arugula with shaved fennel, leftover roasted sweet potatoes, halved grape tomatoes and shaved proscuitto (I prefer Proscuitto di Parma, but any will do) with a balsamic vinaigrette to which I added lemon juice for a nice, fresh flavor. This salad was a good serving size for lunch OR dinner: I would say I used a couple handfuls of arugula and about 1/4 cup of each of the other ingredients, with the exception of the fennel which was only a few tablespoons. This one was not the scientific or measured recipe because it was one of those ‘What do I have in the fridge?’ recipes that I sort of flung together without taking notes.

Meatless Mexican Rice Bowl

I’m always craving this delicious mixture of Fiesta Sides Spanish Rice, chopped up hot dogs and melted cheese that Mike’s mom makes from time to time, so I tried a bunch of combinations of things to make a (somewhat) healthier version of it until I found one that worked. This recipe makes just enough for a big lunch or moderate dinner portion.

Ingredients:

1/3 c. jasmine rice

1/4 c. canned (sweet) corn

1/4 c. canned black beans (no salt added preferably)

2-3 tbsp. halved grape tomatoes or quartered cherry tomatoes

1-2 tsp. cumin

1-2 tsp. chili powder

1 tsp. ground chipotle pepper

2 tbsp. Mexican-blend shredded cheese

Preparation:

Boil rice with 1 tsp. each of cumin & chili powder according to package directions. Just before rice is done with heat still on low/simmer, stir in the rest of the spices, corn, black beans and tomatoes. (Add more spice to taste, I like it spicy!) Cover until tomatoes are soft and begin to create a reddish color in the rice. Stir until tomatoes have broken down completely, then sprinkle cheese over the top and cover to melt. Serve with chucks or slices of avocado on top.

 

I wish I had a photo of that rice bowl because I was so thrilled when the recipe turned out the results I had been looking for, but I don’t. I’ll try to provide photos with my recipes whenever possible in the future. I don’t have ANY photos, unfortunately, of the delicious bites I’ve had recently either, but I will share a couple.

The Italian Corner, East Providence: Absolutely 100% authentic Italian deli serving up some of the best sandwiches I’ve ever had the privilege of tasting. They’re house dressing is the most delicious basil-pesto-y concoction I’ve ever had in my life to date. Of course I had a caprese sandwich (tomato, mozzarella, fresh basil) with some added Proscuitto di Parma, but I can’t wait to go back and explore the  menu more.

Corner Bakery Cafe, Warwick & Cranston: This place is a chain, I know, but I’ve been waiting for it to be built in Garden City Center and now there is also one on Route 2. I loved it from my first visit because everything is made FRESH to order! (Unlike Panera, blegh.) I had a delicious chicken tortilla soup here (which inspired me to try making my own tortilla soup – recipe coming soon!) paired with a club sandwich of turkey, bacon, avocado, lettuce, tomato & mayo. YUM! There’s also table service for your food so you don’t have to carry a big heavy buzzer with you and get up to go get your food off of a counter where there is a crowd of people waiting and worry about leaving all your personal belongings unattended. It’s great!

The Mooring, Newport: I enjoyed a lovely dinner with my mom and grandma on a snowy Saturday night in Newport before attending Christmas at the Breakers. I was not 100% satisfied with my choice of entree, which was mostly my own fault, but the crab cakes I had as an appetizer were outrageous. There were a few options on the menu that I would return to test before making a decision based on that one menu selection (it was sort of a take on a Monte Cristo but was way more than any person can handle in one sandwich).

I can’t wait to have some more new bites in the upcoming months and try out some more recipes that I can share with you. I’ve been trying to eat the most balanced diet possible and include as many greens as my appetite will allow. I’m also excited about juicing and trying some of Giada’s mixtures as well as others in order to get that delicious kind of raw flavor I’m always looking for in the shakes/juices I buy at the market. I’ll be sure to include my successes and failures in upcoming posts.

Until next time,

❤ The Food Snob

Posted in Quick Dinners, Recipes, The Market

The Problem With My Diet Is…

It’s time I come to terms with this. I have a tendency to eat the same ingredients in different forms/combinations at least once a day. So, as I sit here and watch tonight’s episode of “The Voice,” I am going to share the meal that I made tonight, my weekly shopping trip to Trader Joe’s (I mean, have I posted yet without mentioning TJ’s?), some more Whole Foods Woes and also the hilarity that is my dietary tendencies.

First and foremost, I should have gone to yoga. I was supposed to go to a 6pm class, but my grandmother – who is a licensed yoga teacher!! – was tied up, and this should have resulted in my attending the 4:15 therapeutic yoga class, but I chose to be lazy. That being said, I finally pulled myself away from the re-runs of Friends that air from 3:30 – 5:30 every afternoon (it’s a problem that I know that off the top of my head) and travelled to Trader Joe’s. I sat in some serious traffic on the way there as a result of a car accident – yet another reminder to myself that I should have gone to yoga first, then I would have been driving a different route to Trader Joe’s. As usual, I am amazed by the prices — today I was able to fill my largest reusable shopping bag for just under $30. I bought ingredients for tonight’s dinner, along with some snacks and some soy creamer. I will continue to marvel at this since last night’s trip to Whole Foods with the same shopping bag rang up at $65+ for dinner and a few different things my boyfriend and I needed. Go figure.

Before I begin to describe what I put together for tonight’s “quick meal,” I have to explain myself. I am addicted to any combination of the following ingredients: tomatoes, mozzarella cheese, basil with some form of bread/carb and sometimes the addition of proscuitto. I cannot stop myself. When I can’t think of something to make, these ingredients always end up in my shopping bag by the time I leave the market. I have had them in a caprese salad, I have had them in pasta, on a sandwich, and – like tonight – on pizza.

The contents of my shopping bag.
Most of the contents of my shopping bag.

When I got home, I arranged all of my ingredients on the kitchen counter and prepped while I let the pizza dough get to room temperature. In addition to pizza, I made a quick Greek-style salad with some tomatoes, cucumbers, feta cheese and baby spinach. Instead of dressing the whole salad, I decided that I would dress each portion due to the fact that the spinach can get very soggy. This salad is one of my favorites and requires hardly any prep, which is perfect for the weeknights. Once the salad was made, I started to get my pizza toppings prepped and ready to be added to the crust.

I set the oven to 425, used my hands to work the pizza dough into a rectangular shape and then took some previously chopped garlic from the refrigerator to spread around the top of the crust. (Storing chopped cloves of garlic in canola or vegetable oil in the fridge is sometimes helpful – garlic is then already chopped ahead of time and oil takes on the flavor of the garlic, making the flavor more prominent.) I took some of the oil and just a little bit of the garlic and made sure to go all the way to the edge of the dough, giving the ends a little bit of flavor. I popped the crust into the oven to crisp up while I prepared the rest of the toppings – about 5 minutes. I had already thinly sliced the tomatoes and tossed them with some more garlic, oil, salt and pepper (next time I might also toss the fresh mozzarella with these seasonings) and the fresh mozzarella came pre-sliced, so I only had to spread them evenly around the pizza and put it back in the oven to bake. The heat can go down to 400 or 375 once the cheese has started to bubble and slightly brown, just to make sure the crust gets nice and crispy.

Once the pizza was cooked to my personal desired coloring, I took it out and added the proscuitto and basil. The proscuitto I just tore into smaller pieces with my hands – the Trader Joe’s proscuitto was nice and soft and sticky, the only way I like it – and the basil I cut into small slivers with scissors. I then let the pizza sit for about 5 minutes before cutting it, this way the proscuitto could melt into the mozzarella a bit and I would not burn myself trying to cut it too soon. After cutting it into squares and devouring 3 pieces in addition to the small salad that I had while the pizza was in the oven, I can officially say that I am now completely stuffed and yet looking forward to having the leftovers for lunch tomorrow.

The finished product.
The finished product.

So, in the meantime I will try not to have this combination of deliciousness too many more times this week. I will also be better about sharing my dining OUT experiences, since I have not been. Tuesday is date night, so hopefully I will have something wonderful to share come Wednesday. But for now, food snob signing off.

Posted in Quick Dinners, The Market

A Mixed Bag, and ‘Boston Strong’.

It always feels as though the spring season is overly busy. I haven’t really done anything over the past few weeks that would serve as a valid excuse for not posting more often, but it feels as though I have been prevented from posting each time I decided it was time. Sometimes it feels like some outer force is calling for me to focus my energy elsewhere, and I must save my creativity for later. Sigh.

As I considered what to discuss in this post, I realized that there have been many occurrences since I last posted, both food-related and not. I had a wonderful Easter – as I hope you all did – I tried a few new bites around Rhode Island, and I witnessed the development of one of the most frightening tragedies that has happened in my world to date.

On Marathon Monday – yes, I live in Rhode Island, but I have lived in Boston, and to me, it has become Marathon Monday – I woke up, excited for my day off, and started to go about my usual routine. I normally tidy up, maybe do some yoga, have breakfast and watch some tv. This particular Monday was also a special occasion for me because a boloco just opened less than 5 miles from my house on Route 2 in Warwick. It seemed appropriate and comforting to go and get myself some lunch, come home and finish watching the Red Sox game. These activities, though it sounds silly, helped me feel as though I was still close enough to the city to enjoy such a beautiful day and such a great day of city-wide pride for Boston. Little did I know, this pleasant tribute that I felt I was paying to the city would be destroyed before I could finish my lunch, and I would spend the rest of the day on the couch, unable to move.

In the days that have passed, I have found every possible way to contribute to the healing of a city, a second home, that is less than an hour away from where I currently live. I have bought a ‘Boston Strong’ t-shirt from fellow students of Emerson College, I have visited boloco multiple times (food is my favorite form of appreciation), I have checked in with friends, family and classmates who were lockdown or relocated, I have felt intense love and devotion during each and every Bruins, Red Sox and Celtics game I have watched and I have done what we all must do: I have tried to free my mind and move forward.

In the wake of these types of tragedies, there are little things that bring me joy. Yesterday, I had dinner at Twin Oaks, a Cranston staple for any local, and did not get to have my first choice item, but spent the evening people-watching and laughing with my boyfriend. This afternoon, the warm weather invigorated my spirits and I took a trip to my favorite place: Trader Joe’s. There were no grocery items I “needed”, until I walked in. There is a certain something about a warm, sunny day that draws me to the market for fresh food. It adds to the fresh, happy feeling of the weather. Today, I was able to fill one of my larger Trader Joe’s bags for $16.81; this part of the shopping trip always feels so rewarding.

And so, tonight I will attend a yoga class and then throw together some quinoa I got at Trader Joe’s, with some shrimp and call it a day. I apologize that this post was not really centered on food, but I can promise that I will make a point to post more often in the coming weeks. I am in the midst of a slight job change and currently sitting in limbo on the Wait List for Emerson College‘s Creative Writing M.F.A. program. So, my fingers are crossed and my hopes are high that the next few months will be an improvement and a time of increased positivity.

Posted in Quick Dinners, The Market

Quick/Easy Meals & Whole Foods Woes

(I have decided to update my Header photo monthly, in order to reflect the season, my mood, something really yummy-looking, whatever. I’ve changed it to a photo of the corned beef & cabbage that I served at Culinary Affair this past weekend. A little late for a photo to represent March, but what can you do. I will also try to include photos of anything I prepare.)

Yesterday afternoon was incredibly interesting and stressful for me, so it was quite a relief when I came home to discover that the meal I was putting together was simple and delicious. I was perfectly thrilled to end the day so pleasantly.

The first mistake I made yesterday was the decision to go to Whole Foods. I love Whole Foods, everything looks delicious and they have just as many appealing options of deliciousness as Trader Joe’s. The problem: Whole Foods is not as cost efficient as Trader Joe’s. Every time I shop at Whole Foods, I forget why I convinced myself that there was something specific I needed that could only come from there. I could have easily found the items I purchased yesterday at either Trader Joe’s or Stop & Shop. But, for whatever reason, I found myself wandering the many aisles of Whole Foods.

So, upon entering the market, I knew that I was going to make the White Cheddar & Shells macaroni and cheese that I had bought at Trader Joe’s last week and that I wanted a meat and vegetable to go along with it. After wandering around for what seemed like a lifetime, I finally was able to check out and head home to assess what I bought and figure out a meal. Even though I was confused and a little unsure of what I felt like eating, my subconscious struck gold by magically creating two nights of easy meals all on its own.

For last night’s meal, I made roasted asparagus and chicken sausage (not just any chicken sausage – but roasted red pepper and garlic chicken sausage!) to go along with my white cheddar and shells. Now, I am not going to describe my boxed, all-natural mac & cheese in detail, but I will tell you that it kicks the crap out of Kraft mac & cheese without a doubt. It was absolutely delicious and it required the eye of a seasoned chef who knows that a real cheese sauce must be cooked a bit in order for it to become thick and creamy. Needless to say, I was a happy gal.

For the chicken sausage and asparagus, I was concerned with ease and simplicity. Thus, I trimmed the asparagus, sliced the chicken sausage fairly thin and preheat the oven to 375 degrees. I chopped up two medium cloves of garlic, quite finely, and then put everything on a sheet pan together. I sprinkled a little canola oil – olive oil is just more expensive – and some salt, and cracked some black pepper over everything and then tossed it all together in order to make sure it was seasoned evenly. Before I placed it in the oven, it looked a little something like this:

Asparagus and sausage, before baking in the oven.
Asparagus and sausage, before baking in the oven.

I spread everything out so that it would roast evenly, and put it onto a rack in the middle of the oven.

While that was baking, I cleaned up a bit and went to work on my mac & cheese, which took only about 15 minutes to prepare. Within about 15-20 minutes, after shifting the asparagus occasionally to check for tenderness, the pan full of deliciousness was ready to come out of the oven. I pulled out the pan, let everything cool a bit and turned up the heat on my mac & cheese to create a creamy texture for my white cheddar sauce. That scene looked a little something like this:

Thickening up that delicious mac & cheese!
Thickening up that delicious mac & cheese!

Now, I’d say this was a pretty simple meal, and I was pretty surprised by how delicious it was. I had the leftovers for lunch this afternoon. So yummy. And yet, my amazement at my subconscious self is not yet over.

The next thing I wondered, naturally, was: But what will I eat tomorrow night? I ate all of the leftovers from this meal, and I – again – don’t feel like delving into something too intense or difficult. Aha! I also bought bacon yesterday while I was at Whole Foods. The all-natural 365 bacon, one of my favorite things in the entire world – I mean who doesn’t love bacon? I can throw it in the oven, bake it up in about 15 minutes and then I can throw together a BLT and have it with none other than the all-natural tater tots that I picked up at Trader Joe‘s last week. Pretty. Darn. Amazing.

Now, although I would much prefer to be going out to dinner on one of my nights off, the boyfriend has karate on Thursdays. But today, I accept this sacrifice to stay home and eat bacon and tater tots for dinner. I’ll even get to watch the beginning of the Bruins game without having to deal with someone routing against them. It’s a win-win.

Posted in The Market

My Love for Trader Joe’s

Today was the first day of 2013 in which my car thermometer reached 60 degrees. It eventually dropped to 53 after I started driving, but it’s the small things.

I left work this afternoon and decided that this blessing of sunshine called for a delicious dinner of “little bites”. This is a regular practice of mine in which I find a bunch of tasty morsels at Trader Joe’s and turn them into a meal. However, sometimes when I walk into the market, my stomach starts to take charge over my brain, and an argument begins. Thus, my shopping cart looked a little something like this:

  • Boneless, Skinless Chicken Tenders
  • Green Beans
  • 2 lb. bag Jasmine Rice
  • TJ’s General Tsao’s Cooking Sauce
  • TJ’s Triple Ginger Snap Cookies
  • Ridge-Cut Sweet Potato Chips
  • TJ’s World’s Puffiest White Cheddar Bites
  • Frozen, Breaded Fish Sticks
  • Frozen, Chicken Taquitos
  • Frozen, TJ’s Potato Tots
  • TJ’s Organic Shells & White Cheddar
  • Organic Mac & Cheese
  • 3 Fruit & Nut Bars

My stomach and brain, clearly, could not reach a compromise. My love of green beans and my desire for a balanced meal overpowered my idea for a meal of “little bites”. In the end, though, I ended up with snacks and/or lunches that are quick, easy and long-lasting in the freezer and I was able to put together one of my favorite types of dinners: chicken with vegetables and a carb (usually potato or rice).

When I got home, I cleaned my chicken and divided it into two batches. I always freeze half of the chicken so that I can make it another time, and can also use it as a back-up meal. I marinated the chicken in a little bit of the General Tsao’s Cooking Sauce – not too much because upon smelling it I found that it was a little strong. (The bottle suggested stir-frying any type of protein and/or vegetables and then adding the sauce at the end.) I only let the tenders sit in the sauce for as long as it took for me to finish putting away my groceries and to wash the knife and cutting board I used. I pan-fried the chicken and then set it aside to cool for a few minutes while I finished throwing together the rest of the meal.

With the green beans, I blanched them and then tossed them with garlic, a little bit of canola oil, salt and pepper in a small saute pan. And, finally, I took a reasonable serving size of tater tots – I say reasonable because I could probably eat half of the one-pound bag in one sitting – and followed the heating instructions on the outside of the box. Typically with these types of foods, I prefer to heat them in the oven, or toaster oven, as opposed to deep-frying or pan-frying in oil as I do not like them to be greasy.

So, at the end of the day, all I can do is adore Trader Joe’s. And the best part? The total for that purchase was $39.86, and most of the items will last me at least a month.

It’s amazing what warm weather, a good trip to the market and a delicious meal can do.