Fideos with ham, shrimp and clams

Since the first day Adam and I became a couple, we committed to seeing each other as much as possible despite the fact that at the time, I was living in New York and he was living in Boston (we met in college and were friends for 5 years prior). We took weekly turns on the bus to/from New York/Boston to spend the weekends together (and I’m proud to say in nearly a year, we only missed 2 weekends because of work and school related travel!). For any of you that have been in long distance relationships, you know how hard it is to be apart during the week. Of course that also made the weekends that much more special. We took advantage of every minute together. It was like honeymooning every single week Smile

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Between Boston and New York, New York was decisively the cooler of the two, and I made sure to show Adam the best the city had to offer. We spent our days eating and drinking all over New York, enjoying perfectly pressed sandwiches oozing with goat cheese and plump tomatoes; feasting on ice cream, cookies and pastries while exploring new neighborhoods (ok the pastries part was all me Winking smile); and finishing our nights with indulgent dinners and cocktails at fancy restaurants. It is then that dining out became the core of our relationship. Good food really does bring people together (oh yeah, and love).

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Eventually I developed an interest in cooking, but our love for eating out never died – it remains to be our favorite past time. Unfortunately due to my lack of income at the moment, our eating out budget has been cut significantly (it has been the hardest part of our transition). To “ease the pain,” I’ve been trying to recreate memorable meals out at home. Open-mouthed smile

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This dish of fideos with ham, shrimp and clams (recipe here; I halved it and it still made about 8 servings!) was inspired by a dish I had in a (surprise, surprise!) New York restaurant, Casa Mono (<—Mario Batali’s Spanish tapas restaurant in Union Square). It was my first time trying fideos which are thin noodles, replacing rice in this paella-like dish (yes, I know paella actually refers to the pan – not the dish – but in my mind rice, seafood and meats all cooked together with safron and Spanish spices = paella, regardless of the vessel they are cooked in). We were so blown away by Casa Mono’s fideos with chorizo and clams – we ordered round 2!

When Kerstin, Shannon and I decided to make a Spanish inspired feast, instead of going out to eat, I was eager to try my hands at a fideos dish myself… and I have to say it came out absolutely perfect – as good, if not better, than the fideos dish at Casa Mono!! Side note: Kerstin made manchego stuffed meatballs and fantastic potatoes and Shannon made some crazy brown rice milk cupcakes with almond cream cheese frosting, and her boyfriends supplied some home brewed beer and hard cider – oh yeah, we ate well that night!).

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This dish is a little time consuming but it’s mostly inactive time. You can also make the ham hock broth ahead of time, and then the whole thing will come together leisurely in about 45 minutes. Easy peasy. It was my first time cooking with ham shanks/hocks (I found them in the frozen section at Whole Foods) – they lend an incredible smokiness to the whole dish since the noodles and seafood are cooked in the broth they produce. Oh and I also couldn’t find “fideos” so I bought angel hair pasta and broke it up into smaller pieces – it worked like a charm! This dish was hearty, smoky, briny (from the olives and clams) and buttery (from the shrimp) – I thought it was an incredibly impressive dish that is just perfect for company. Pair it with a simple salad or make a few other tapas, and your guests will be happy. I promise Open-mouthed smile

Have you ever had fideos? Do you like recreating meals out at home?

PS – If you haven’t yet, don’t forget to enter my giveaway!

Pantry staples quick pasta dish

Happy New Year!!! I have a very good feeling about 2012. It’s going to be a great one. For all of us. Open-mouthed smile

I know that January is a month of healthier resolutions. We’ve all used the excuse of the holidays to indulge in too many desserts, cheese and wine (You did, right? Don’t leave me here confessing to sins all on my own). The beginning of a new year is a good time to reassess what worked and didn’t the year before, to get a bit of a kick to recommit to old goals or start fresh with a “clean slate.” It’s like the ultimate “Monday.” I dig it.

And while I’m not really into New Year’s resolutions (at least not this year) in recent weeks my fire for healthy cooking and exercise has been reignited. And I’m hoping the newness of the year will keep it up. Even on days when “there is nothing in the fridge,” I keep at it. Last night the digging turned up a crazy delicious pasta dish, created from pantry staples and a few random bits in the fridge. I have an archive of recipes to share with you, but this one wins today. 

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Pantry staples (and a few random bits) pasta

Adopted from the Eating Well cookbook, serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 8oz dry whole wheat pasta
  • 4 slices bacon
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 cups spinach
  • 15-oz can of diced tomatoes with chiles
  • Two 15-oz cans cannellini beans, drained and rinsed.
  • 1/4 cup chopped kalamata olives
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil
  • 1 cup grape tomatoes
  • 2T finely shredded pecorino cheese

Directions:

  • Boil pasta according to instructions on package
  • Fry bacon and blot on paper towels (reserve bacon grease).
  • Heat 1T of reserved bacon grease on medium heat, add garlic.
  • When garlic is golden brown, add cannellini beans, basil, spinach, diced tomatoes, olives and grape tomatoes and stir.
  • When the spinach has wilted, add cooked pasta, crumbled bacon and pecorino cheese.
  • Taste for seasonings (a little more salt or pepper may be needed) and enjoy.

This was so quick and easy and the flavor blew us away. I love the smokiness of the bacon, the saltiness of the olives and the slight heat from the chiles in the tomatoes (if you just have diced tomatoes and want a bit of heat, add a sprinkle of hot pepper flakes). I’m adding the recipe to my favorites list!

Here is to keeping at it. Always. And eating delicious and healthy meals! Open-mouthed smile

What do you make on nearly bare-fridge days? You can say make a phone call for delivery Winking smile

Weeknight light mac & cheese

I’ve had 3 days without a full time job now. People keep telling me to have fun “doing nothing” all day, but if you know me at all, you know that’s just not how I roll.  For months (years?) I’ve had a million things I was hoping I’d have time or energy to do but never did. And now I feel like it’s my chance. I’ve been cleaning, scrubbing, planning, shopping, blogging, tweeting, facebook-ing (and apparently making up words)… and learning. I’m learning that there is a whole other world out there during the 9-5 time slot. A world where people move a lot slower, A LOT slower. Where housewives like telling you (a complete stranger!) all about how much money they spent decorating their house while trying to bargain with the sales clerk on the price of a picture frame (she didn’t budge). And where between traffic and “story telling” all of this results in your errands taking over 6 hours (!!) and that’s without a trip to the gym, a stop for lunch (some pretzels, an apple and an Ikea soft serve count as lunch, right?) or a minute of tv watching. Forget about your dreams of having an elaborate dinner ready for Adam every night when he gets home.

A recipe for a quick and light mac & cheese to the rescue!

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I wouldn’t have it any other way! Smile

Weeknight light mac & cheese

Largely based on Cook’s Illustratt ed The Best Light Recipe

Ingredients: (serves 4)

  • 8 oz dry macaroni
  • 12 oz can of reduced fat evaporated milk
  • 3/4 cup 2% milk
  • 1/4 teaspoon dry mustard
  • 1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
  • Pinch of cayenne pepper
  • 2 teaspoons of cornstarch
  • 8 oz 50% light cheddar cheese, such as Cabot – shredded
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 4 slices bacon (I used fresh bacon from Stillman’s which tasted more like pork tenderloin than smoky bacon… I think real cured bacon would be really nice here)

Instructions:

  • Cook macaroni according to package instructions.
  • Fry bacon, then pat dry between paper towels and dice. Discard bacon fat.
  • Bring a mixture of evaporated milk, 1/2 cup milk, dry mustard, garlic powder and cayenne to a boil, then reduce to simmer.
  • Add in frozen peas.
  • Whisk cornstarch with the remainder of milk. Add to the evaporated milk + peas mixture.
  • Continue whisking until the sauce is thickened. Take off heat.
  • Whisk in shredded cheddar cheese, then macaroni.
  • Let the mac & cheese rest for about 5 minutes so the sauce is absorbed into the macaroni.
  • Stir in bacon. Adjust for seasoning, if needed.
  • Enjoy! Open-mouthed smile

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I was impatient so my first serving was a bit runny but still creamy and definitely plenty cheesy. The sauce really thickened up overnight so the leftovers were spot on.

What are you latest favorite recipes for busy nights?

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