Food is Love, Love is Food.

A blog devoted to the connection between meals, memories and the special moments in our lives.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Sending Comfort, Remembering Dolly: Linguini Carbonara

My sister Betsy has been a dog person all her life.  As a young child, she pined for a dog.  The closest she came to having one was a scruffy stuffed dog named Murphy. My Uncle Jimmy even made an oil painting of that dog, and Betsy hung the painting above her bed.  So when she got her first dog, a black lab, she named him after that first furry friend. Murphy went everywhere with Betsy, including on the 21 hour trip from her home in Alaska to visit us in Connecticut. When Murphy was hit by a car and killed, Betsy was devastated.  Shortly after Betsy and her husband Mike were married, the first thing they did was get a dog, a black lab that Mike trained to hunt with him.  Dolly was such a friendly dog, that even my mother, an avowed dog-avoider, would take her on long walks with her when she visited Betsy and her family.  We were in Alaska a little over a year ago, and got to know Dolly very well.  Though her graying face told us of her age, she was energetic enough to jump into the Grand Central River when we stopped the car on the side of the road on our day trip out to Salmon Lake. Her tail would whip as you walked by, a little friendly greeting, and she loved nothing more than to be outside with the kids.  She was a faithful friend and a wonderful companion.

In my own family, we are fortunate enough to have two wonderful, if sometimes a little barky, dogs.  Before Chilidog came to live with us, I liked dogs, but because I had never had one, never really understood how beloved they could become.  Now, I cannot even imagine living in a home without a dog.  They are always happy to see you, never argue or talk back, and only ask for a little food and an occasional walk in return for their good and true friendship. 

So I am feeling for my sister and her family today.  Yesterday, they said goodbye to Dolly, the dog that had been part of their family for 13 years, and who had been a part of John and Sarah's entire childhood.  While my children talk about the time before Chili and Daisy came to be part of our family, John and Sarah do not ever remember a world that did not include their sweet Dolly.  If my sister lived closer, I would go to her house and make this meal tonight.  It is warm, creamy, salty, and comforting, and while it will not take one's sorrows away, it certainly makes them more bearable. With one of our favorite pasta dishes, we will toast Dolly tonight, the sweetest black lab we ever knew.

Linguini Carbonara:
4 eggs & 2 egg yolks, at room temperature
generous 1/2 cup of grated pecorino romano cheese, plus more for serving
4 oz. pancetta, sliced (regular bacon will work too, but pancetta is better)
cracked black pepper
1 clove garlic, finely minced.

Put the 6 eggs in a dish of warm water for about 15 minutes - the goal is to raise the temperature of the eggs without cooking them.  Cut the pancetta into strips, and cook in a frying pan over medium high heat until crisp.  In the meantime, crack 4 whole eggs and 2 egg yolks in a large bowl.  Add the garlic, pepper and grated cheese, and whisk together.  Add about a tablespoon of the pancetta drippings to the egg and cheese mixture (shhh!  don't tell my mother that part), and whisk again. 

Cook the pasta in salted water until al dente.  Strain the pasta, and place immediately back into the hot cooking pan.  Little by little, add the egg and cheese mixture to the hot pasta, using tongs to move the linguini around quickly.  Keep tossing to coat the strands of pasta evenly.  By keeping the pasta in the hot pan, the heat is retained, and the eggs are heated through thoroughly.  Add the crispy pancetta, and toss.  Serve with a little more of the grated cheese.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Dessert Snacks: Pumpkin Pie Dip

I decided recently that I should always order appetizers when I go to restaurants.  It has nothing to do with smaller portion sizes, or eating healthier.  What it is really about is getting to try as many different kinds of food as possible.  So of course, I like parties where there are hors d'oeuvres.  I can sample everything and then go back for what I like best.  But why do savory foods have all the fun at parties?  Sometimes, I want a sweet bite or two as well.  Enter the pumpkin pie dip.  Perfect for this time of year, it tastes like pumpkin cheesecake with a ginger snap crust. It was a big hit at a recent meeting at work, and I have brought it to parties withgreat success as well.  Serve it in a small hollowed out pumpkin at a gathering, and you have a desserty hors d'oeuvre that is also a conversation piece. 

Pumpkin Pie Dip:
1 15 oz. can pumpkin puree
2 8 oz. packages of cream cheese
2 cups confectioners sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
   1/4 tsp allspice

   Ginger snaps for dipping

Cream the cream cheese in a stand mixer until smooth.  Add the sugar, and continue to mix thoroughly.  Add the pumpkin and spices, and mix well.  Scoop the seeds out of a small pumpkin, and fill the cavity with the pumpkin dip.  Serve with small ginger snap cookies for dipping. 

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Comfort Food: Pasta with Broccoli Rabe, Spinach and Feta

All the female members of my household have been sick recently.  My youngest daughter is just over strep throat, I have an annoying head cold, and my oldest daughter is suffering from a nasty sinus infection. There have been trips to the pediatrician, the pharmacy, and the grocery store, and each time, we are looking for something to soothe, comfort, and nourish.  We have picked up the saline spray and the antibiotics, the cranberry juice and the ginger ale, the cough drops and the humidifier.  But a good supper also does wonders to make everyone feel more comfortable, loved, taken care of, and pasta is just the thing in this household.  And to go along with the pasta, what could be healthier than some greens and lots of garlic.  This is one of our favorite pasta dishes, and just for tonight, we all curled up on the family room couch, with our steaming bowls of pasta, a blanket on our laps, comforted by the closeness of being together in our cozy house on this cold, rainy fall night.  We could almost feel the vitamins and minerals making us healthier and stronger, which is a good thing because the only one left to get sick is the man of the house, and ladies, we will need our strength for that!

Pasta with Broccoli Rabe, Spinach and Feta:
1 lb hot, cooked linguine
1 large bunch of broccoli rabe, trimmed and washed well
1 large bag of baby spinach
4 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
pinch of red pepper flake
3 tbsp olive oil
1/2- 3/4 cup chicken stock
1 generous cup crumbled feta cheese
1/2 cup shredded Romano cheese
8-12 oz. chopped tomatoes or canned chopped tomatoes

In a large pot of salted boiling water, blanch the broccoli rabe for 2-3 minutes (this softens the broccoli rabe and takes away some of the bitterness). Drain and run under very cold water to stop the cooking.  In the meantime, put the olive oil and the garlic in a large skillet, and simmer for about 15 minutes until the garlic has softened and mellowed. Add the red pepper flake, stir to mix.  Add the broccoli rabe and turn the heat up to medium low.  Add the chicken stock, and stir the broccoli rabe.  When the chicken stock is very warm, add the spinach and stir until wilted.  Add the tomatoes, and let cook together for 6-8 minuted to combine flavors.  Toss the greens and tomatoes with the hot pasta in a large bowl.  Add the feta cheese and toss to coat evenly.  Serve with grated Romano cheese on top.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Breaking the Breakfast Rut: Slow Cooker Oatmeal with Apples, Almonds, and Craisins

Girls cannot live by frozen waffles alone.  Believe me, it is true.  My girls have tried.  We seem to get into these breakfast ruts around my house.  Crazy school mornings when one teen and one preteen girl are having a hard time getting themselves out of bed due to the fact that they have stayed up past their bedtime talking to each other in the bedroom that they share lead to this over reliance upon quick convenience foods for breakfast.  There's nothing bad for them in these breakfast waffles; I buy the low fat ones, and spread with a little bit of low fat cream cheese and some 100% fruit jam.  It's just that there is nothing good  for them in these waffles either.  No grains, no real nutrients, and therefore, no staying power.  The kids are hungry by 10:00, and lunch is not until after noon.  Not a good scenario when kids are expected to have brains that are firing on all cylinders at school.  So I need to get us out of our breakfast rut, and I decided to employ the slow cooker.  My husband scoffed at this plan; steel cut oats and dairy sitting overnight in the warmth of the crock pot were a recipe for disaster, he thought.  I felt that if meat and broth could sit together in this little 'hot tub,' well then, why couldn't the grain and dairy do the same?  And if it worked out right, our breakfast would be waiting for us in the morning, all warm and bubbly, ready to stick to our ribs.  The fruit, cinnamon and brown sugar would make the house smell wonderful, helping the whole waking up process along.  Lastly, the kids would have a delicious breakfast, with some actual fiber and nutrition, and would be ready to focus on their schoolwork until lunchtime came around.  And what I found was this:  in addition to the aforementioned benefits, there was also another.  The morning chaos subsided because breakfast was already made, and just needed to be ladled out, sprinkled with the almonds and craisins, and a little milk.  And if I do say so myself, it was really good.  So much so that I packed some up for my lunch as well that day.

Slow Cooker Oatmeal:

for the oatmeal:
1 cup steel cut oats
4 1/2 cups milk
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
3 tbsp brown sugar
2 tbsp real maple syrup
2 tsp vanilla
1 large apple, grated

for the topping:
9 tbsp sliced almonds
6 tbsp craisins

Put all the ingredients for the oatmeal in the slow cooker and stir to mix.  Turn the slow cooker on low and let cook for up to 7 hours.  Serve in a large bowl, sprinkled with 1/2 tbsp almonds and 1 tbsp craisins per serving.  Add a little extra milk to desired consistence (makes six servings).