Guest Post: Orecchiette Carbonara, or a Procrastinator’s Tale

The final installment to this series of guest posts, comes from a very funny pastry chef, and by funny, I mean extremely humorous. I have known Jenni for a while now, and even though her focus is on pastries (and I keep begging her to delve into gluten-free versions of her goodies) that I can’t eat, I love her down to earth and hilarious posts. She does also feature more savory dishes on her blog, The Balanced Pastry Chef,especially her Sunday Suppers series.

I read a lot of diverse blogs, and for many reasons. Some I learn from, some help me stay up to date with longtime blogging friends, some are inspirational, and some are just downright FUN to read, and that’s Jenni’s blog. She is so very down to earth, and as a former teacher turned pastry chef, she is here to help people who want to cook learn the methods and techniques that arm the average person with the skill to cook amazing meals at home! So please check out her blog!

We have a lot in common – she also raises chickens, and cares about food waste in the world. She founded the Four Pounds of Cheese Project, which is now a facebook group that discusses tips and tricks for reducing food waste. So check that out too!

 

First off, I must say that I am very Excited to have been asked to write a post over here at Jenn’s place. I’ve known Jenn online since we were both miserable in Florida (apologies to any Florida lovers out there). Now, we’re both happy–me in North Carolina and her in Vermont. Which I’m a little jealous about, since I have always had a non-specific but real Desire to visit Vermont. At any rate, I am happy that these words, at least, are on a blog that originates from The Green Mountain State. Thanks for having me, Jenn, and hello to all of Jenn’s readers!

orecchiette carbonara with bell peppers

When Jenn asked me to write a guest post, I knew that I wanted to make something utilizing local ingredients. And that, of necessity, means that if you don’t live right around here, you can’t use exactly what I use. But that’s okay. It’s more than okay, actually. It’s the way it should be. Pricey gourmet shops have sprung up like mushrooms because the Fancy cook book or magazine recipe says that you have to use pollen from Peruvian llacon* or the leaves of the Malaysian pandan tree*. But cooking should be local. It should be about what is growing in your yard, or your neighborhood or your community.

So, if you live in Peru, go harvest some llacon pollen. If you’re Malaysian, by all means use pandan leaves. But if you can’t find those things, don’t let it limit you. Let it free you to do your own experimentation.

Let me just say now that I am not a homesteader. I don’t make my own kefir or yogurt. And I don’t own goats. I think it is the Height of Awesome that Jenn is living her dream, but I know my limitations. I am limited by a Procrastination Gene that prohibits me from working too hard. Being a procrastinator does not mesh well with being a homesteader. We do keep chickens, but only for eggs. And God forbid we try to have goats. I hear they can’t wait until I finish Lounging to be milked. So, we try to buy happy meat or no meat at all. Happy meat, by the way, is my short-hand way of saying “naturally raised, antibiotic-free, hormone-free, romping-in-pastures, eating a natural diet, allowed-to-have-sex animals who lived carefree lives. Until they were slaughtered in as humane a way as possible. So we can eat them.” But that takes a long time to say, let alone type, so I normally just go with Happy Meat.

I’m happy to buy what I don’t have the time –or want to take the time–to make, and I try to strike a balance between local/organic and cost-effective. It’s not always easy, but I feel like we generally do a good job. And we eat pretty well, if I do say so myself.

As a matter of fact, sometimes my tendency to procrastinate results in a Surprisingly Yummy Meal. Take, for instance, last night’s meal. I knew that my husband and I had to attend a class at our chiropractor’s office at 6:30. I knew it all day long. Until I finally stopped knowing and started realizing, at about 5:45, that I should probably make something to eat because we’d have to be Out The Door by 6:20 to get there on time. And once I am committed to action, there is no stopping me.

Here’s what went on in my brain:

Okay, pasta is fast. It’ll take about 6 minutes for the water to boil and another 10-11 for the pasta to cook. In that amount of time, I can have a reasonable meal on the table. What to do…what to do. Oh, there’s a lovely pepper from Roberta’s garden (next door neighbor)! And we have marinated feta from Prodigal Farm. Onions…half&half…olive oil. Oh, eggs! I’ll beat an egg and add it in with the sauce to make a kind of carbonara-type deal.

Heat a pan…chop some onions…add some olive oil. A lot of olive oil. Toss in the onions to sweat…cut the pepper into strips but reserve them so they stay crisp. Turn the heat down and melt in some of the feta. Wow, that doesn’t melt too, well. Oh, well, it’ll taste Amazing and should mix in well with the half&half and egg…

I won’t subject you to any more of my crazed stream of consciousness mental cooking chatter. Suffice to say that the meal was Quite Good. It was a bit rich, but the barely-cooked peppers added a nice green counterpoint to all the dairy goodness. And if you’re gluten-free, you can absolutely sub rice pasta for the wheat pasta. I’ve had a lovely rice penne from Trader Joe’s, and penne would work really well in this recipe.

Prodigal Farms Marinated FetaSo, are you going to be able to use Roberta’s peppers or Prodigal Farm marinated feta? Probably not. But you will be able find some sort of vegetables. (Asparagus would be perfect for this. Now I have to wait for spring…) And you will be able to scare up some cheese and some milk (or cream or half&half) and an egg. Use whatever short, fat pasta you have on hand, and prepare to Wow your family. You don’t need to wait until the last minute to make this, but I find that victory is so much sweeter when you have to rush a little!

Procrastinators’ Delight: Orecchiette Carbonara
Carbonara usually contains bacon, and you can certainly add it here. I left it out because it was one extra step between me and dinner and being on time. This served 2 generous portions. Scale accordingly to serve 4, 6 or even 8.

  • 2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup chopped onion
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • hot pepper flake, to taste
  • about 1/4 cup marinated feta
  • 1/4 cup half&half
  • 1 small bell pepper, cut into strips
  • 8 ounces orecchiette, or other short, fat pasta shape
  • 1 egg, beaten with about 1 tablespoon half&half

Put on a large pot of water and let it come to a boil.

Meanwhile, heat a skillet over medium heat and then add the olive oil, garlic, onion, salt and pepper.

Sweat the vegetables until soft–you might need to turn down the heat a bit as you don’t really want anything to brown.

Turn the heat down to medium-low, and add the hot pepper flake and the marinated feta. Mash the feta so it sort of melts into the oil. It will look a bit grainy. Don’t worry, that’s how feta looks melted.

If your water is boiling, salt it so it tastes like the ocean, and add the pasta. Mine took about 11 minutes to cook.

Add the half&half to the skillet and bring the heat back up to medium. Cook for about 5 minutes, and then add the vegetables. You want them warm but still crisp, so how long you let them cook will depend on what vegetables you choose. If you’re using spinach, it’ll only need a minute or two. I let the pepper strips cook for about 5 minutes over medium heat.

When the pasta is ready, reserve about 2 tablespoons of pasta liquid and drain the rest.

orecchiette carbonara sauceWith the skillet off the heat, whisk in the egg mixture and the reserved cooking water until well blended. Add the drained pasta and toss everything together over medium-low heat until the pasta is nicely coated. Do this fairly quickly and keep everything moving so you don’t end up with scrambled eggs.

And that’s really it. Pair this with a nice green salad, and you’ve got a lovely meal. If you’re me, plop some on a plate, be grateful and then inhale it so you’re not late to the chiropractor’s office.

And, whether or not you are Plagued by the Procrastination Gene, it’s nice to know that you can have this meal on the table in about 20 minutes.
orecchiette carbonara with bell peppers

 

 

Guest Post: Pasteli

 

I hope you all are enjoying this series of guest posts by some of my favorite food bloggers! I know I am.

This next edition is written by a great friend of mine, and one of the few blogging friends I have been able to actually meet in person – Peter Georgakopoulos from Souvlaki for the Soul. Isn’t that the coolest blog name? Not only is the blog name so inventive, but the recipes he posts are absolutely mouthwatering. Greek is one of my favorite cuisines, and Peter, although born and raised in Sydney, Australia, is of Greek descent, and this shows in his delicious food! He uses simple, fresh and delicious ingredients to their fullest potential, and more often than not, they include the flavors of Greece, including old favorites. Not only is the food divine, but the photography and food styling really bring his recipes to life.

I just love Peter, and really can’t say enough about what he offers on his blog, so if you haven’t already been to Peter’s blog, you need to get on over there! So now, I will let Peter take it away! THANK YOU PETER!

First off, let me begin by saying that I am very honoured and proud to be a guest blogger here at the Leftover Queen. I’ve “known” Jenn and Roberto from the blogging world and have actually met them in real life too. Their food philosophies and passion for everything about it is infectious. They are truly a great example of people who believe and follow their dreams.

When Jenn asked me if I was keen to do a guest post I said “yes” straight away. My mind went to cooking up something Greek (of course) plus I wanted it to be healthy. I thought about all those hours they put in to running their farm-from herding the goats, looking after the chooks, planting vegetables and making cheese. This is serious hardcore work that requires some energy! So I came up with the idea of creating some natural “energy bars” known as pasteli.

Pasteli is Greece’s version of the sesame bar. Traditionally it is made with sesame seeds and honey and sometimes has nuts mixed through it. Once it sets, it becomes this chewy, irresistible, almost addictive snack. When I was growing up, I always looked forward to the “care packages” we got from Greece and they almost always had pasteli included in them. I must admit, I had a love/hate relationship with this all natural energy bar. I loved it’s taste (cause I adore sesame seeds) but hated the way it sort of got stuck in your teeth! Nevertheless, I still munched on them with great abandon.

For today’s recipe (which I adapted from Elly’s blog here ) I played around with this concept by adding some black sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds and pistachios. If you can get hold of some Greek thyme honey it would make this recipe just about perfect, if not any honey will do. It’s as simple as toasting the seeds in a hot pan, adding in your warmed honey, letting it cook for a few minutes and voila! You have nature’s perfect marriage. Feel free to add any kind of nuts you like as well. I’ve made my pasteli a little thicker as I wanted them to look like energy bars but traditionally it is much thinner. If you want them thinner use a larger baking pan. Also, if you prefer a “crisper” i.e.”jaw breaking” pasteli you may wish to add some sugar ( I wouldn’t add more than 50 grams).

Munch on these during the day as a healthy snack between meals, pop them in your kids lunch boxes or serve them up with a cup of Greek coffee. Whatever you do just make these! Thank you Jenn-hope you guys like these.

Guest Post: Delicious and Healthy Avocados

So, just as I promised, here is the first post in a series of guest posts for this blog, featuring some of my favorite blog authors! We are kicking things off with a post from my good friend and longtime blog buddy Ben Herrera of What’s Cooking Mexico.

Ben and I started blogging around the same time, and I have always loved his unique and delicious recipes featuring REAL Mexican food. Just like many other food cultures, real Mexican food features fresh and local ingredients, and uses them to the fullest.

I have also really enjoyed watching his food photography and styling skills skyrocket over the years! Ben lives in Mexico City and offers insider peeks of all the delicious markets and fresh food that Mexico City has to offer. Today he shares a post about a staple food to Mexican cuisine- the delicious and nutritious Avocado, and shares his recipe for guacamole with an unexpected ingredient! So here is Ben! THANK YOU, BEN!

Who hasn’t tried guacamole at a Mexican restaurant or watching a football game with friends? Avocado is the main ingredient for that delicious dip that has become very popular in the US. I love avocados. I can eat them in many different ways, from slices in salads and tacos to sauces and as one of the ingredients for bread. Their buttery texture and flavor makes them what my dad calls nature’s butter.

But avocados are not only delicious. They’re also a great source of healthy nutrients.  Avocados promote heart health because they contain oleic acid, a monounsaturated fat that may help to lower cholesterol. They are also a good source of potassium, a mineral that helps regulate blood pressure, and folate, a nutrient important for heart health.

Furthermore, they promote optimal health because they are a concentrated dietary source of the carotenoid lutein. It also contains measurable amounts of related carotenoids (zeaxanthin, alpha-carotene and beta-carotene) plus significant quantities of tocopherols (vitamin E). Avocados also increase your absorption of carotenoids from vegetables and recent studies show that they help to combat oral cancer, a form of cancer more deadly than breast, skin and cervical cancer.

Next time you’re at the grocery store look for this healthy fruit. I’m sure you’ll find a delicious way to eat them. If you have never bought avocados before you might want to keep in mind these simple tips:

  • A ripe and ready to eat avocado should be soft when you squeeze it, but it should not have dark sunken spots or cracks.
  • If you are not planning to eat avocados right away select the ones that are harder when you squeeze them. Avocados ripen in a few days outside the refrigerator, but if you are not planning to eat a ripe avocado, put it in the fridge and that will slow the ripening process.
  • The flesh of the avocado starts turning black the moment it comes in contact with air. Lime juice slows this process. If you are storing an open avocado wrap it in plastic to prevent contact with air.

Two of my favorite ways to eat avocados are in guacamole and salads. Making guacamole is very easy. However, I like to twist it a little bit adding mango. It gives the guacamole a very special and sweet flavor.This is how you prepare it:

The ingredients:

  • 2 large avocados
  • 1 mango
  • 1/2 red onion, chopped
  • handful of cilantro, chopped
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • salt and pepper to taste

The how-to:

  • Cut avocados and mango and put them in a bowl.
  • Smash with a fork and add the rest of the ingredients.
  • Mix well until they form a smooth salsa.
  • Enjoy!

To make a healthy avocado and tuna salad, just cut one avocado in half and dice it. Mix one can of tuna, one can of mixed vegetables, one TBSP of low fat mayonnaise and the avocado and serve. It’s easy enough for a quick lunch.

I hope you like these simple ideas to eat avocado, one of nature’s most delicious fruits.

Buen provecho!

Sources:

More avocado ideas from Ben’s blog – Avocado Corn Muffins

Deviled Eggs

 

So I lied, here is one more post for all of you before I take my September blogging break. Like I said in my last post, don’t worry, I have some great guest posts lining up for you from some of my favorite bloggers, so these pages will remain active and full of delicious, simple, whole food recipes while at the same time exploring the wealth of the food blogging community!

But today I wish to wax a little poetic about eggs. Some days, I get a little emotional about the beauty of the natural world, and how some foods are just perfect acts of nature. To me, eggs really are the perfect food. They are well balanced in terms of protein and fat, a great way to start your day, or give you a boost of energy when you need it. As most of my readers know, we raise heritage chickens for eggs. So eggs are an important part of our diet – the cornerstone really. We eat at least one egg a day, and usually two or more. Each day somewhere between 5-8 miracles happen out in our chicken coop in the form of a beautiful highly nutritious food, right in its own perfect little package.

Now not all eggs are created equal, and I have discussed that on this blog many times before, so I am not going to go into it again. Just to remind you that there is nothing like the perfect food that is a farm fresh egg that comes from chickens who spend as much time as they like outside, eat bugs and grass, and are fed healthy, organic kitchen scraps. If you want to read more about eggs and their nutritional qualities, please check out this post.

So today I want to talk about Deviled Eggs. Deviled eggs are the perfect summer picnic food and so for Labor Day, which is on Monday, here in the USA, I thought sharing my take on deviled eggs would be fun! Deviled eggs, according the The Secret Life of….TV show on The Foodnetwork, originated in ancient Rome. The term “deviled” comes from the 18th and 19th century and usually refers to foods with a lot of spices, or “hot spiced” foods.

I treat deviled eggs just like any other dish in my kitchen; I rarely make them the same way twice. I like to make them the classic way, with paprika sprinkled on top. But also I enjoy spicing it up in different ways, a new twist on an old classic. I have made curried deviled eggs, deviled eggs with lobster (actually my dad made these, but I was the sous chef), deviled eggs with fermented pickles, roasted red peppers, sun dried tomatoes, capers, olives, etc. mixed in. However, I always add homemade mayonnaise to the filling, usually Dijon mustard, and sometimes hot sauce. I have even substituted homemade yogurt for the mayo when I was in a pinch. I also like using some kind of fresh herbs when available, chives and cilantro are some favorites.
So whip up a batch of your own creatively flavored deviled eggs and challenge yourself by using what you  have on hand, to celebrate this weekend and be sure to thank your feathered friends for their contributions!