Rocket pesto pasta with salmon


Nothing uplifts me more than cooking. I spent Women’s day blowing my nose till rawness and working on my thesis instead of treating myself, so I decided to take a break and cook something special for Ty and I. Yesterday I received a delivery of Julie’s delicious fish, which motivated me to surf my favorite blog Pink Parsley for a salmon recipe.

I found a recipe for salmon pesto pasta, which was a perfect match for my latest Pesto princess addiction and the fresh Norwegian salmon in my fridge. I used the recipe as a guideline and added my own personal touch, which is my favorite part of cooking from recipes and also helps me experiment and grow as a cook.

Luckily, Ty came home with lots of medicine for me, so that by the time dinner was ready, my sinuses had clear and I could taste the flavors, which were light, fresh, and delicious. Unfortunately, my sinuses are clogging up again as I type, so I will have to unclog them tomorrow night before dinner.

Pesto pasta with salmon (serves 2 + leftovers)

Pesto pasta with salmonPesto pasta with salmonIngredients

  • 300g salmon
  • 1 lemon
  • olive oil
  • 1 chopped onion
  • about 2 cups cubed large cherry tomatoes
  • about 300g pasta
  • about 1/2 cup rocket pesto
  • a handful of fresh rocket
  • salt & pepper

Directions

  1. saute onions in oil on medium to low heat
  2. move the oven rack to the upper-middle rung and turn on the broiler
  3. place the salmon on a baking sheet covered with tinfoil
  4. rub olive oil on the fish, and season it with freshly squeezed lemon, salt, and cracked pepper
  5. broil the fish for 10-12 minutes until it begins to brown slightly around the edges
  6. while the fish is cooking, cook the pasta
  7. when the pasta is nearly done, add the tomatoes to the sauteeing onions and gently cook until warm and slightly softened
  8. strain the pasta, put it back in the pot, and mix in the onions, tomatoes, and pesto
  9. when the fish is done, remove it from the oven and flake it into bite sized pieces
  10. gently mix the salmon into the pasta
  11. serve with a garnish of fresh rocket on top

Chicken a la Queen


Every year, my stepmom makes turkey tetrazzini with the leftover turkey from Thanksgiving dinner, which is my absolute favorite meal not only because of its creamy, chicken-y, pasta goodness but also because it is special, in that I have to wait an entire year to enjoy it! When I first moved to South Africa in 2009, I cooked a giant Thanksgiving feast and of course made turkey tetrazzini with the leftovers to continue the tradition all the way in South Africa.

Salford Road Thanksgiving 2009

Ty absolutely loved it and from that moment on, I was determined to incorporate the comforting taste of home into our South African diet and embarked on a journey to create the perfect rendition of turkey tetrazzini.

As I was writing this post, it became evident that my experimentation occurred in phases:

  • Phase 1 – substituted chicken for turkey because it is much more convenient but just as delicious
  • Phase 2 – refined my sauce recipe to perfection
  • Phase 3 – mixed the sauce and pasta together and served immediately as opposed to baking it in the oven because it is quicker and dirties less dishes but is just as delicious
  • Phase 4 – experimented with vegetables to give a healthy flare
  • Phase 5 – learned (kind of) how to exhibit self-control in order to prevent oneself from going back for seconds, thirds, fourths, and fifths
  • the most delicious Chicken alla Queen recipe for any and all occasions – not just the day after Thanksgiving!

Chicken alla Queen

Ingredients (serves 2 + leftovers (incase you haven’t realized by now, we love our leftovers))

  • 1 heaped tbl butter
  • 1 chopped onion
  • 1 heaped tsp diced garlic
  • 500g shredded rotisserie chicken or homemade boneless skinless herbed chicken breasts
  • 250g sliced brown mushrooms
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 tbl maizena (corn starch)
  • 1/2 cup shredded cheese of your liking (Ty’s favorite is gouda (on everything))
  • 250-300g pasta with ridges (I prefer penne)
  • salt & pepper to taste

Directions

  1. melt the butter in the pan and saute the onions and garlic until lightly brown
  2. add the chicken (raw or cooked) and mushrooms and stir in the spices
  3. when the mushrooms have softened, add the stock, milk, and cheese
  4. at this point, cook the pasta
  5. once the sauce starts to boil, turn the heat down to medium
  6. create a maizena paste and slowly mix it into the sauce
  7. let simmer for 5 minutes while stirring periodically
  8. if the sauce is not thick enough to your liking, add a bit more maizena paste
  9. once the pasta is done, mix the pasta into the sauce and serve
  10. top with a dash of salt and pepper to taste

Chewy Thug Bars


At 11:00PM I got a slowly creeping then suddenly spiking craving for something sweet, which bolstered my motivation to bake for Ty’s last day of work before his final year of Architecture begins.  However, the challenge was to bake something yummy yet not so labor intensive, and with whatever ingredients I could find in the house, which was not much.

So, I perused through my recipes and remembered one from a work colleague called Ian’s Thug Crunchies (strange, I know), which I had most of the necessary ingredients to make. The first time I made these I followed the unhealthy recipe plus added even more unhealthy ingredients and they came out super sweet, crumbly, delicious, and unashamedly unhealthy.  However, this time around I decided to go the slightly healthier route and experimented with the recipe, which produced a more soft, subtle, seedy bar that satisfied Ty and his colleagues’ sweet tooths without overdoing it. The fun thing about this recipe is that it is quick, simple, and forgiving.  I completely encourage experimentation; you can make flour substitutions, sugar substitutions, saturated fat substitutions, and add all sorts of nuts, seeds, dried fruit, and chocolate.

Chewy Thug Bars

Ingredients

  • 200g margarine
  • 1 tbl golden syrup or honey
  • 1 tbl vanilla
  • 1 heaped tsp baking powder
  • 2 cups rolled oats
  • 3/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup mixed seeds (linseed, sesame, sunflower, pumpkin)
  • 1/2 cup dried coconut and/or fig
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • (1 bar roughly chopped dark chocolate – optional)


Directions

Preheat the oven to 180C (356F).  In a pot, melt the margarine on low heat and add the syrup and vanilla.  Add the baking powder, which will foam up, so remove from the heat and mix.  In a large bowl, mix together the oats, salt, sugar, cinnamon, seeds, and dried fruit.  Pour the liquid mixture into the dry ingredients and mix until fully coated.  Mix in the flour (and chocolate). Press the mixture firmly into a deepdish ungreased pan and bake for 25 minutes.  Cut into rectangles while still warm and eat when cooled oooor, if you are impatient and too excited like me, you can eat a bar right away and risk burning your tongue, which may be a worthwhile trade-off to please your tastebuds.

Zingy Asian Salad


Asian food has always been one of my favorite food genres.  Growing up we went to the same Chinese restaurant every week.  We were like part of the family and they always knew what we were going to order – which was Moo Shoo Chicken with hoisin sauce wrapped in tortilla-like pancakes for me.  Although I have had to convince Ty of its awesomeness over the years, the pivotal moment for our kitchen was when Ty fell in love with sushi and wholeheartedly began endorsing experimentation with Asian flavors at home.

Sometime last year we decided to have steak for dinner and I was determined to try out something new.  When I first began cooking, Epicurious.com was my gateway website to experimenting with ingredients, cooking gourmet, and following food blogs. So, I consulted Epicurious for a recipe and found a great one that included all of my favorite Asian flavors.  It turned out to be really excellent, which was confirmed by Ty, who claims that he does not like soy sauce, although I put it in my dishes all the time and he continues to love my cooking.

This afternoon I was craving something cold, fresh, and zingy, so I adapted the original recipe to make an Asian salad that was super delicious.

Zingy Asian Salad

Ingredients

For the dressing

  • 1 1/2 tbl soy sauce
  • 2 tsp rice vinegar
  • 1 tbl lemon
  • 1 chopped garlic clove
  • 1 heaping tsp chopped ginger
  • 1 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 1 1/2 tbl water
  • a dash of red chili flakes
  • salt and pepper to taste
For the salad
  • 2 stalks chopped spring onion
  • 1 cup cabbage
  • 1 grated carrot
  • 1 grated zuchinni
  • 1/2 julienned red or yellow pepper
  • a handful of mange tout
  • 1 tbl sesame seeds
  • a handful of chopped fresh coriander

In separate bowls, mix together the dressing ingredients and the salad ingredients.  Pour the dressing over the salad and toss until nicely coated.

Jonesin’ Chicken Enchiladas


While visiting the States for my sister’s wedding, I went to my favorite Taqueria (Spanish for Taco Shop), Taqueria Las Comadres II, to order a jumbo mouth-watering burrito.  As my burrito passed down an assembly line of little old Mexican ladies, I chose spicy grilled chicken, cheese, lettuce, pinto beans, sour cream, guacamole, and jalapenos from an array of fillings.  The last woman in line folded my burrito with perfection and handed it to her salivating customer.  My favorite part of the burrito eating experience is taking numerous trips to the salsa bar to fill small plastic containers with salsas of every kind (from pineapple to classic pico de gallo), diced jalapenos, and loads of coriander.  I always drown my burrito to create a hodgepodge sauce and a unique flavor for every bite.

Me eating a super burrito with my mom at Taqueria Las Comadres II before flying back to South Africa - And you can bet I ate the entire thing!

When I first arrived in South Africa to study abroad in 2008, I naively ordered “nachos” at Spur (mistake number 1), which to my dismay, were doritos chips (mistake number 2) covered with tomatoes, corn, beans that were not black nor pinto  (mistake number 3), feta cheese (mistake number 4), no jalapenos (mistake number 5), and subpar guacamole (mistake number 6).  This introduction to South African Mexican food was not happy making and after my Spur experience, I pretty much wrote it off.  However,  I have since tried and enjoyed the gourmet style Mexican food at El Burro and the tex-mex at Fat Cactus, but have yet to try San Julian, which apparently is as authentic as it comes in South Africa.

I got the jonesin’ for some good home-made Mexican food and came across a fabulous chicken enchilada recipe in Pink-Parsley, my favorite food blog by Josie, which was previously adapted from Tide and Thyme, and which I have adapted yet again to appeal to my tastebuds and cooking style.  This recipe has become one of my all time forever favorites that I constantly rave about and recommend to friends and family.

Jonesin’ Chicken Enchiladas (serves 4)

Ingredients

For the enchiladas

  • 1 onion chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves chopped
  • 1-2 jalapenos seeded and chopped
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tbl chili powder
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 3 tsp sugar
  • 2 tsp paprika
  • 1 can tomato puree
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1-2 tomatoes chopped
  • 4 pieces boneless chicken breast chopped into bite size pieces
  • 1/2 julienned red pepper
  • 1/2 julienned yellow pepper
  • 1 cup white chedder
  • 1 cup gouda
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh coriander
  • 6-8 medium flour tortillas
  • salt and pepper to taste

For the guacamole

  • 2 ripe avocados
  • 1/2 squeezed lemon
  • 1-2 jalapenos seeded and chopped
  • 1 small purple onion
  • 2 tomatoes diced
  • a small handful of coriander chopped
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp portuguese chicken spice
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

Preheat the oven to 218C (425F).  Saute the onions, jalapenos, and salt until softened and lightly brown.  Add the garlic, cumin, sugar, chili powder, paprika and stir for about 30 seconds until fragrant.  Next add the tomato sauce, water, and chopped tomatoes.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat to simmer, and let thicken for about 5 minutes.  Stir in the chicken and peppers and let cook for about 15 minutes.  In a bowl, stir together half the cheese and half the coriander.  Using a slatted spoon, carefully spoon out the chicken and onions and mix together with the cheese and coriander.  Spice the remaining sauce with a few dashes of salt and pepper and set aside.  Microwave the tortillas for approximately 20 seconds so that they are pliable.  Lightly grease a large deep pan.  One at a time, flatten the tortillas on a cutting board, spoon a line-full of the filling down the center of the tortilla, fold into a flute, carefully turn upside down, and gently place in the pan.  Bake in the oven for 10 minutes or until the tortillas turn slightly golden.  Remove the enchiladas from the oven, pour the sauce all over them, and top with lots of cheese.  Put back in the oven and cook for another 20 minutes.  You do not need to serve them with anything because they are incredibly awesome all on their own, but if you want you can add fresh coriander, gaucamole, sour cream, and salsa.

Kristen made scrumptious guacamole to accompany the enchiladas.  In a bowl, she mixed together the avos, lemon juice, jalapenos, onion, tomatoes, coriander, salt and pepper until blended but still a bit chunky.  Also, to jazz up the guac, I sometimes add cumin, portuguese chicken spice, and paprika.

Ty, Kristen, and Thomas gettin' ready to chow down on my enchiladas