Recipe: Lazy Cook Alfredo Sauce

As a university student I collected many simple, fast, and cheap versions of recipes. For most students the number one solution to hunger is pasta! Pasta is cheap, filling and easy. It is also a good basic source of protein and carbohydrates. All pasta of course requires a sauce – and a creamy Alfredo can never be a bad thing!

Ingredients
1/2 cup butter (softened)
1/4 cup whipping cream (at room temperature)
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Method
Cream butter (or margarine). Slowly beat in the cream to the butter a little at a time until well blended. If you add the cream all at once you will get a lumpy unappealing mess!
Now beat in the Parmesan cheese blending fully into the sauce. Leave at room temperature.

Cook up some pasta such as Fettucine (or egg-noodle nests!). When the pasta is done drain fully. Return to the pot (or to a proper serving dish!) and add the creamed mixture to the hot pasta. Toss until pasta is well coated. Season with salt and fresh ground pepper. Serve immediately!

To get your vegetables serve a green salad with the pasta!

Garden: Herbs – Chives

Allium schoenoprasum in NH 01.jpg
Allium schoenoprasum in NH 01” by Captain-tucker – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons.

When to Use:
Chives are best used fresh in recipes. Dried Chives may also be used will have a weaker flavour and less pleasing texture.

Best Compliments: eggs, fish, potatoes, salads, shellfish, sole, soups

Chives are normally snipped and sprinkled on food just before serving for seasoning.

Fresh chives may be kept in the refrigerator for up to one week. Chives freeze well, cut chives with scissors rinse in cool water and dry before placing in freezer bags.

Substitutions: 1 teaspoon chopped green onion tops = 1 tablespoon chopped chives

When to Plant
In early spring as soon as ground is workable. Chives are perennials so once planted will normally come back on their own in the spring.

How to Grow
Chives grow best in full sun or semi-shade. A reasonably fertile soil is required. Chives do fairly well indoors in pots or planters in bright windows. Plant seeds 1/4 inch (6 mm) apart and 1/4 inch (6 mm) deep. Thin when seedlings are 3 inches (8 cm) high to be about 12 inches (30 cm) apart. Chives will spread into clumps if allowed to grow over the years. Chives transplant well.

Harvesting
Chives are perennials and can be harvested as soon as stems appear.

Home and Garden Tips
If you allow chives to go to flower (large purple flowers) the plant will seed itself quite happily! To prevent over-spreading pick off the flowers before they go to seed. The flowers can be eaten in same way as the green stems – and have a similar flavour. You can also rinse the chive flowers in a cool water bath (to remove bugs and dirt!) then shake dry and stuff into a jar. Heat white vinegar until bathwater warm (but not hot – we don’t want to scald the flowers) and pour the vinegar over the flowers. Place plastic wrap over the jar mouth before sealing with the lid. Now place the jar in cool dark spot for 2 weeks or so and forget about it! When you remember the jar strain the vinegar into a clean glass jar. The vinegar should have a lovely light chive flavour, and a delicate purplish tinge. Use in place of ordinary vinegar when making salads.

Garden: Herbs – Basil

“Basil-Basilico-Ocimum basilicum-albahaca” by Castielli – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Basil-Basilico-Ocimum_basilicum-albahaca.jpg#/media/File:Basil-Basilico-Ocimum_basilicum-albahaca.jpg

When to Use:
Basil is best used fresh in recipes. Dried Basil may be used but it does have a weaker flavour.

Best Compliments: cheese, chicken, duck, eggplant, eggs, fish, lamb, liver, olive oil, onions, pasta, pesto, pizza, pork, potatoes, rabbit, salads, shellfish, soups, sweet peppers, tomatoes, veal, vegetables, vinegars, zucchini, tomato sauce

In general, it should be added at the last moment, as cooking will destroy the flavour.

The fresh basil can be kept for a short time in plastic bags in the refrigerator, or for a longer period in the freezer. To store in the freezer blanch the herb quickly in boiling water, remove excess water by gently shaking and patting with a clean dish towel.

Substitutions: 1 teaspoon dried basil = 1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil = 1 tablespoon chopped fresh summer savory;
1 teaspoon dried basil = replace with 1/2 teaspoon dried marjoram, oregano, thyme or tarragon (adding more if necessary)

When to Plant
After all danger of frost. Generally mid-May to early June

How to Grow
Basil grows in full sun or semi-shade. A moderately fertile soil is all that is required. Basil does well in pots or planters and so can be started indoors before being moved outside. Plant seeds 1/2 inch (12 mm) apart and 1/4 inch (6 mm) deep. After seedlings emerge and get first leaves, thin to about 6-8 inches apart (15-20 cm).

Harvesting
Basil can be harvested as soon as leaves appear – start with the young plants from thinning, then pinch leaves as required. Basil does well at new growth on plants.

Home and Garden Tips
To dry basil (or other herbs). When blossoms begin to open, take cuttings during the early morning. Rinse leaves under cool water and discard any damaged leaves. Tie the cuttings with string and hang upside down in the kitchen (or another indoor spot) in an area that is cool and dry and out of sunlight. If you have the room you can also create a drying screen and place in a well-ventilated cool, dry and dark area of your home.
Once dry remove the thicker stems and store the leaves in airtight bottles for later use.

Recipe: Simple Rhubarb Custard Pie

Growing up in the country on a small farm always gave me access to fresh produce. Winter was a time of recreation and socializing, but as soon as the snow melted it was time to get busy (well busier really – it is always busy on a farm be it for work or pleasure!)

One of the early signs that spring is well underway is the fresh growth of rhubarb – and lots of it! Over the years that small patch of rhubarb grew into a large patch if infinite Rhubarb stalks. And we managed to eat tons of it in every way possible. But for me this Rhubarb Custard pie is the best way to enjoy the first bounty of spring!

Ingredients
Filling
3 cups fresh sliced rhubarb stalks (cut into 1/2 inch slices)
1 cup sugar
3 tablespoons flour
pinch of salt
2 eggs (beaten)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons milk
1 tablespoon butter

Directions
Pie Crust:
I often just use a pre-made frozen pie-crust (9-inch) as this is usually going to a pot-luck. That way I don’t have to worry about leaving the pie-plate behind!

You can use my pie crust recipe from here: Pie Crust
or use the butter pie crust from my Sour Cream Apple Pie:

Crust
1/2 cup butter (softened)
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt (omit salt if you use salted butter)
Cut butter into flour and salt. Press the dough into a 9-inch pie plate.

 Prepare Filling:
Slice rhubarb stalks into a bowl; sprinkle with sugar and mix well. Let stand for a few minutes. Add in the flour, salt and vanilla stirring well. Mix the beaten eggs with the milk. Add the egg mixture to the rhubarb, and mix well. Turn the rhubarb into the prepared pie plate.

Dot the pie with butter.

OPTIONAL: You can also add a crumble to top the pie – the crumble is noted later!

This pie requires baking at different temperatures. We start at 450 degrees F. Pre-heat the oven and place the pie on the middle rack for 10 minutes. NOTE this pie does tend to overflow so placing pie on cookie sheet may help, and since the pie is not “firm” it is easier to remove from the oven if on a cookie sheet.

Once the initial 10 minutes are up we turn the heat down to 350 degrees F and set the timer for another 35 minutes. Pie is done when the custard filling seems set and the rhubarb top is slightly golden brown. The filling doesn’t set “solid” while cooking so it may appear to wiggle. If extra time is needed you may want to loosely cover the pie with aluminium foil to avoid over-browning the top.

OPTIONAL Crumble Directions
Set the timer to only 25 minutes if you want to add a crumble topping! While the pie is baking prepare the crumble as follows:

Topping
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup flour
1/4 cup butter

Topping:
Combine the sugar, flour and butter until crumbly.

When the timer goes for the 25-minute bake – pull out the pie and set oven to 400 degrees F.
Spread crumble evenly over pie and place pie back in oven for 10-15 minutes (until crumble is golden brown)

Recipe: Sour Apple and Sour Cream Pie

I posted my Fresh Peach and Sour Cream pie recipe a few posts back – and in digging through the boxes I found an additional scrap of paper that seemed orphaned. A partial list of ingredients and directions – as if it was missing half of itself!

I placed it aside hoping that my weary old brain cells would find the memory attached to the paper. And this morning it cam back to me! It was part of old dinner club – and a variation on the Peach and Sour Cream Pie recipe. Kat (and Martin) were hosting the event and or assigned “dessert” host was unable attend that evening in late January because of a winter storm.

The few of us that lived near enough to Kat’s apartment slogged through the wind and snow to enjoy the meal Kat had planned for our club. It was a simple meal of oven-baked Hungarian sausage, cheesy scalloped potatoes, broccoli and mushroom salad. The wine was a delightful white from Pelee Island (in Canada) – I don’t remember the specific white but would suspect one of their late harvest varieties for the sweetness.

Since we had no dessert Kat asked if I would create something. She flashed her sweet smile at me said, “You can use my oven in any way you wish!”
No man on earth could resist that request! She asked if I could make the Peach and Sour Cream Pie and then realized she only had canned peaches. I spotted a bag of Granny Smith Apples and said, “Let’s see if we can make “Sour Cream Apple Pie”.

***

So about that pie. Here are the ingredients

Ingredients
Filling
3-4 Granny Smith Apples (or other “tart” apples; peeled, cored¬† and sliced. Should be at least 3 cups)
1 cup sugar, divided into 3/4 cup and 1/4 portions

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 pinch nutmeg
2 tablespoons flour
1 egg
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup sour cream

Crust
1/2 cup butter (softened)
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt (omit salt if you use salted butter)

Topping
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup flour
3 tablespoons butter
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Directions
Crust:
Cut butter into flour and salt. Press the dough into a 9-inch deep dish pie plate.

Filling:
Slice apples into a bowl; sprinkle with 1/4 sugar, cinnamon and pinch of nutmeg. Let stand while you prepare the rest of the filling. Combine 3/4 cup sugar with the flour, egg, salt and vanilla until well blended. Fold in the sour cream. Stir in the apples. Pour the apple filling into the prepared crust.

This pie requires baking at two different temperatures. We start at 400 degrees F. Pre-heat the oven and place the pie on the middle rack for 15 minutes.

*****
So back to my memory. Grab a coffee or a tea while the pie bakes for 15 minutes – oh remember to set that timer!

Kat helped me in the kitchen while her partner entertained the other guests (Corrine and Laurel) in the living room. Now if you have followed my blog – or even browsed it a bit you know that apples and I have an uncomfortable relationship. See my post Fear of Apples to fully understand…

Harder apples like Granny Smith Apples are the worst for me! The sound and texture of any apple will just sends waves of “chalk-board on nails” shivers up my back. A Granny Smith triples the effect. The hairs on the back of my neck were standing straight like porcupine quills. By the third apple I was sweating.

Kat noticed my discomfort and made me sit down. She said I looked like I was about to faint. I told her of my “reaction” to apples and she punched me in the arm, “You ass – why the hell would you do that?” I sheepishly shrugged and admitted I just couldn’t say “No” to her request. “…after all how often do I get to fire up your oven and use it as I want?”

She laughed at me, and then took the apples, “Well then master Chef, sit back and allow me to peel my apples for you!”

Then we heard an “Ahem…” from the door as Corrine stood there with a quizzical look. “Ahhh – is this foreplay or cooking?” Kat laughed saying, “Oh Corrine – it is both! Come on in and join our orgy of cooking – but you’ll have to clean-up after we are done.”

Corrine smiled and replied, “Oh you know me Kat – always eager to please and waiting to be told what to do!” I should explain that Corrine at the time was the co-ordinator of a Womyn’s Resource Centre. Doing as she was told was not her nature! This of course made us laugh until we were all almost crying.

Dinner as always was a delightful evening of good company and laughter. And the pie? Oh yes it turned out very well!

***
Okay back to the pie here – the initial 15 minutes are up and so we turn the heat down to 350 degrees F and set the timer for another 25 minutes. Now is a good time to get the topping ready!

Directions

Topping:
Combine the cinnamon, sugar, flour and butter until crumbly.
Whew that wasn’t too hard was it?

Once the 25 minutes up – now pull out the pie and sprinkle the crumble over the top. Set the oven to 375 degrees F again and bake for 15 minutes more (until the topping is golden and crisp). The crust may need foil on the edges to keep from over-browning.
Let the pie cool and then be prepared to enjoy the best sour cream apple pie you will ever taste!