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

Kraft Macaroni & Cheese


Growing up, my all time favorite food was Kraft Macaroni & Cheese.

INTERESTINGLY, Wikipedia.org and About.com Inventors say that Kraft was introduced in the US and Canada in 1937 during World War II.  The rationing of milk and dairy products, in addition to an increased reliance on meatless dinners, created a great market for the product, which was considered a hearty meal for families.  Their advertising slogan was:”Make a meal for 4 in 9 minutes.”

By choice and absolute pleasure rather than war time hardships and food rationing, I pretty much lived off of Kraft Mac & Cheese for the large majority of my childhood and adolescence.  I loved all of the special pasta shapes, like pin wheels, spirals, and blue Blue’s Clues dogs, which tasted even better than the original elbows.  Unashamedly, I was able to gobble down an entire box myself, which is most likely why I was such a chunker. But who am I kidding? Kraft remained a staple food group in my life all through college as well.

Ty had never had boxed Macaroni & Cheese, which led me to believe that he had a sad and deprived childhood.  SO, when he came to visit me in the US, we had a Mac & Cheese eating marathon where we indulged in Kraft and two kinds of Annie’s. Luckily he liked boxed macaroni and cheese, which reaffirmed my love for him.

When I moved to South Africa, I began having intense night sweat-inducing withdrawal as the bright yellow, artificial, creamy, cheese left my system.  Luckily, my mom sent us an emergency package full of Kraft Macaroni & Cheese sachets.  Since we had a limited supply, we rationed ourselves to 1 packet per month (like during war times), which enabled us to effectively maintain our supply for nearly 1 year.  It was devastating when we finished our last sachet and were forced to go many months without it.  However, earlier this month, a sweet sweet girl named Ann organized one of her American friends to bring us a few boxes when she came to visit!  Ty and I were unable to control our urges and are down to one box again!  Luckily, my mom’s friends are coming to South Africa JUST IN THE NICK OF TIME to refill our supply!

Kraft Macaroni & Cheese

 

Ingredients (serves 2)

  • 1 box of Kraft Macaroni & Cheese (complete with pasta and sachet of cheese)
  • water for boiling the pasta
  • 2 heaped tbl butter
  • 1/2 milk

Directions

  1. add water to a pot and bring to a boil
  2. add the macaroni and cook on high
  3. strain the pasta when it is done cooking and pour it back into the pot
  4. place the pot on the warm burner and add the sachet of cheese, butter, and milk and stir vigorously.  Add more milk if you want the sauce to be thinner
  5. note: I am an extreme purist when it comes to Macaroni & Cheese so I would recommend adding NOTHING else

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

End-of-Block Foodie-Fiesta


The Public Health Master’s program at UCT accommodates working professionals by holding what is called “Block” scheduling, AKA HELL.  For each of your courses, you sit in lectures for 2.5 consecutive days and cover approximately 50% of the course material.  Although this dramatically reduces lecture time for the remainder of the semester and enables working professionals, like myself, to do an MPH while working full-time, it is incredibly non-conducive to learning and is an exhaustive exercise.

This year, Block was even more hellish than usual, because I had two courses back to back, which equated to an entire week of 8:30AM-4:00PM classes. So you can imagine that by Friday my brain was absolutely FRIED. To celebrate the end of Block, Ty and I had a garden party at our house and invited MPHers from my cohort and this year’s new cohort to unwind and get to know one another.

The party was a success – great people, great vibes, great drinks, and great food=the best way to spend a Saturday afternoon.  Everyone brought something to munch on and here are some of the highlights…

I am not such a big fan of cocktails but rather am more of a wine/beer girl, so when I say Whitney’s Pimm’s Cocktails were totally awesome, you know they are worth it.  But beware, they are deliciously deadly!

Ingredients

  • Pimm’s
  • Dry Gin
  • Fresh Lemonade (Which we couldn’t find but carbonated lemonade did the trick)
  • Cucumber
  • Lemon
  • Mint

Instructions

Mix together 1 part Pimm’s, 1 part Gin, and 3-4 parts Lemonade.  Add a few slices of cucumber and lemon, a few leaves of mint, and mash it all together to release the flavors.

Kirsty’s Chocolate Fudge Squares are a delicious traditional South African dessert with smooth chocolate and soft biscuits in every bite.

Ingredients

  • 250g butter
  • 1 packet (500g) icing sugar
  • 40g (100ml) cocoa
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 packets Marie biscuits

Instructions

Place the butter in a bowl and microwave for about 1 minute until melted.  Sift together the icing sugar and cocoa to remove the lumps and stir into the butter until fully blended.  Beat the eggs and stir into the chocolate mixture. Microwave the mixture, uncovered, for about 2 minutes and stir.  Break up the biscuits and stir into the mixture. Transfer to a small deep dish, smooth with spatula, and allow to cool. Then place the mixture in the fridge to harden and cut into squares.

Kirsty’s Bruschetta, adapted from Jamie Oliver, is a simple yet delicious hor d’oeuvre for a dinner party and was gobbled up within minutes.

Ingredients

  • 1 french loaf cut into slices
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Lots of chopped garlic
  • 2 finely chopped and seeded tomatoes
  • 1 cup of fresh finely chopped basil
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 packet of mozzarella thinly sliced

 Instructions

Preheat the oven to 200C.  Spread the sliced bread on a pan.  Mix together the garlic and olive oil and then spread onto the bread. Bake the bread in the oven for about 5 minutes.  Meanwhile, mix together the tomatoes, basil, salt, and pepper.  When the bread is getting crusty, remove from the oven, spread the tomato mix onto each slice, and top with a slice of mozzarella. Put the bruschetta back into the oven until the cheese has fully melted and serve while still warm.  If you are feeling lazy, you can substitute the tomato-mix for ready-made basil pesto or tomato tapenade.

For my contribution, I made a variety of home-made gourmet Pizzas throughout the evening.  At one point, I had 5 excited girls standing around me asking questions as I built my pizzas, which was a truly blissful moment for me.

I don’t remember where I got this full-proof Pizza Dough recipe but I am completely against buying pre-made bases because of how easy it is to make and the fun-factor of rolling it out to my desired thickness, depending on my mood.

Ingredients (yields 4 big pizzas)

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour (white, wheat, or a mixture)
  • 1 (.25 ounce) package active dry yeast
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 heaped tablespoon white sugar
  • 1 cup warm water (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)

Instructions

Combine flour, salt, sugar, and yeast in a large bowl. Add the oil and warm water, stir a bit, and then remove from the bowl and go wild kneading the dough with your hands.  No need to wait for the dough to rise.  Roll the dough out, place in a greased pizza pan, and add toppings.  Bake at 180C for about 25 minutes until desired brownness.

I found the Barbeque Chicken Pizza recipe on The Pioneer Woman’s blog, which was modeled from the California Pizza Kitchen version but even better.

Ingredients (for 1 pizza)

  • About 1 cup of rotisserie chicken cut into bite size pieces (or 2 raw chicken breasts)
  • About 1 cup of your favorite barbeque sauce
  • About 1 tbl of honey
  • 2 cups shredded mozzarella
  • 1 thinly sliced purple onion
  • 1/2 thinly julienned red pepper
  • a dash of dried basil
  • a dash of salt
  • a handful of chopped coriander

Instructions

Note: You can bake your own chicken directly in BBQ sauce but I used already cooked rotisserie chicken for convenience-sake.

Preheat the oven to about 180C.  In a bowl, mix together the BBQ sauce and honey.  In a separate bowl, mix together the chicken and half the sauce.  Lightly grease your pizza pan, roll out the dough to your desired thickness, and gently place the base in the pan.  Drizzle the remainder of the sauce all over the pizza base, then add a layer of mozzerella cheese, chicken, purple onion, red pepper, and a dash of salt.  Bake the pizza for about 25 minutes or until your desired brownness.  Remove the pizza from the oven and sprinkle a generous amount of fresh coriander all over the pizza and serve while still hot, or cold because nothin’s better than cold pizza for breakfast.

I also got a few ideas for Mushroom Garlic Pizza from Jamie Oliver and Rachel Ray but created a culmination of the two using my own personal pazazz.

Ingredients (for 1 pizza)

  • 3 tbl Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped garlic
  • a dash of red chili flakes
  • a dash of salt and pepper
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 250g assorted mushrooms
  • 1 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella
  • a handful of fresh rocket

Instructions

Preheat the oven to 180C.  In a pan, mix together the EVO, garlic, chili flakes, salt, and pepper and saute on medium heat for about 3 to release the flavors.  Add the mushrooms and paprika and cook until the mushrooms are brown and tender.  Lightly grease your pizza pan, roll out the dough to your desired thickness, and gently place the base in the pan.  Add a layer of mozzarella, mushrooms, and drizzle the remaining garlic sauce on top (but do not add too much oil or else the pizza will become oily).  Cook for about 25 minutes or until your desired brownness and top with rocket.

My dearest friend Renee introduced the Grape Pizza to me many years ago during University and it completely changed my perception that pizza is strictly a savory meal.  When I visited the US in August, Renee, Kate, and I had a reunion and of course made Grape Pizza and devoured every last piece.

The Grape Pizza Original with Renee and Kate

I wished to spread the love of Grape Pizza internationally, so made it for my garden party guests, and everyone was pleasantly surprised by the unique combination of sweet and  savory flavors that produced an almost dessert-like pizza.

Ingredients (for 1 pizza)

  • 1 cup halved purple seeded grapes
  • 1 small block of gorgonzola cheese
  • 1 small packet of fresh rosemary
  • honey to drizzle
  • A small handful of mozzarella (optional)

Instructions

Preheat the oven to 180C.  Lightly grease a baking sheet or pizza pan, roll out the dough to your desired thickness, and gently place the base in the pan.  Push the grapes gently into the dough facing downward and bake for about 10 minutes.  Pull the pizza out and sprinkle gorgonzola, mozzarella (optional), and rosemary all over the pizza. Lastly, lightly drizzle honey all over.  Place back in the oven for another 10-15 or until desired brownness.

Enjoy!

Ty’s Worms and Mince


From a very young age, Ty absolutely loved eating worms and his favorite type of worms were those slathered with mince and tomato sauce.  His second love was Portuguese Chicken Spice, a spicy blend of chilies, lemon, garlic, and paprika, which his dad taught him to put on everything.  So, when Ty became a teenager and started cooking dinner for his family, he inevitably made his famous Worms and Mince with Portuguese Chicken Spice every time.

Over the years, Ty became a Worms and Mince Masterchef and when he moved down to Cape Town, he effectively sustained himself by eating this ultimate comfort food for days on end.  On Sunday evenings he would pull out the largest pot in his kitchen, prepare 1200g of Worms and Mince, eat some for dinner, and store the rest in in as many tupperware containers as he could find. For the remainder of the week he would dig into his reserve and prepare solo Worms and Mince or carb-on-carb Worm Sandwiches for lunch and dinner.

When I met Ty he wooed me with his Worms and Mince, which no doubt worked because the only way to my heart is through my stomach.  He shared his Worms-cooking secrets with me but no matter how many times I cook it, I am never able to re-create the perfect blend of mince, tomatoes, and spices that Ty accomplishes with ease every single time.

As a food-venturist, I am always experimenting and changing up recipes with new ingredients, but If I ever attempt to deviate from Ty’s original recipe, he protests vehemently because “A Classic’s a Classic”.  However, over the years I have worn him down and sometimes he allows me to incorporate mushrooms, green peppers, or cabbage.

Ty’s Worms and Mince

A Ty Classic

Ingredients

  • 3 chopped garlic cloves or 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 chopped onion
  • 500g minced beef
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 tsp dried basil
  • 2 heaped tsp portuguese chicken spice
  • 1 can of tomatoes and onion mix
  • 300g pasta of your choice
Instructions
In a large pan, saute the garlic and onions in oil until lightly browned.  Add the mince and at this time you can also add any veggies you would like (although Ty would be disappointed by this). Next mix in the basil, portuguese chicken spice, salt, and pepper.  Once the meat is nearly finished cooking, add the tomato sauce and bring to a simmer.  At this point cook your pasta of choice, which is spaghetti for Ty because they resemble worms of course and penne for me because I enjoy spiking it with my fork and am convinced that the flavors are better retained due to its ridginess.  Once the pasta is ready, you can either do the Ty method which is to mix the pasta into your sauce or the Kim method which is to spoon large amounts of sauce directly over your pasta. And sometimes we even grate lots of cheese on top.  No matter which pasta you use or how you serve it up, nothin’ is better than coming home, falling on the couch, and not lifting a finger as your man cooks you Worms and Mince after a long day at work…