Cooking the Internet: Feta Pasta

A Finnish recipe went viral on TikTok and supposedly caused a shortage of the Greek cheese in the country. I started following my a video on TikTok and then decided to take some things from my pantry and get creative! I’ll be sharing the results with you today. This simple pasta has a lot of potential for customizing flavors, so feel free to share your recommendations.

Ingredients:

  • Fresh cherry or grape tomatoes, 1 or 2 containers
  • Feta cheese (1 block, but a container of crumbled will work just fine)
  • Olive oil
  • Tuscan dried herbs (about 1-2 Tbsp)
  • Tri-color rotini pasta
  • Salt and pepper

*Note: There are tons of Tuscan herb mixes out there. Make your own or buy some from the store. Mine included dried oregano, rosemary, garlic powder, cayenne, and fennel.

Instructions:

  1. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Wash your tomatoes, dry, and place in a glass baking pan. Drizzle olive oil over the tomatoes. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and mix. There should be plenty of olive oil to coat the tomatoes.
  3. Make a space in the center of the tomatoes for the feta. Drizzle the feta with more olive oil and sprinkle with pepper.
  4. Bake in the oven for 35 minutes.
  5. While the tomatoes and feta bake, cook your tricolor pasta to al dente. Strain when done cooking.
  6. When the tomatoes are done, remove from the oven. Break up the cheese and stir. Be careful of the tomatoes! They might pop and spray hot tomato juice!
  7. Add Tuscan herbs to the baking pan. Mix again.
  8. Add the pasta. Stir one last time and serve!

Sweet Potato Toast

Toast seems to be undergoing a makeover recently. Everyone is going crazy about avocado toast, unicorn toast, Ezekial bread toast… but one toast trend caught my eye. Instead of using bread, you can make toast with sweet potatoes! These can be made in the oven, a toaster-oven, or in a toaster. If you’re looking for oven instructions, take a look at this website. I’ll be using a toaster.

Ingredients:

  • 2 slices sweet potato, cut lengthwise (For one person, you should really only need one sweet potato)
  • Toppings: nut butters, whipped butter, fruit jam, bananas, berries

The toppings are where it gets interesting! Here are some of the combos I’ve seen:

  • Peanut Butter + Banana Slices + Bacon
  • Nut Butter + Cinnamon + Blueberries
  • Fried Egg + Salt + Pepper
  • Apple Butter
  • Cream Cheese + Jam
  • Cinnamon + Syrup or Honey
  • Sliced or Mashed Avocado + Lox + Capers

Try any combination you want or make up your own! Feel free to share your combos in the comments!

Instructions:

1. Slice the sweet potato. Stand it on a cutting board so you can cut slices about 1/4 in. thick.

Please be careful! It was particularly difficult for me to cut through the thickest parts.

2. Toast slices for 10-15 min. on high. Flip every 4-5 minutes until browned and fork-tender in the center.

I don’t actually own a toaster oven, so I used a regular toast instead. Turn the heat to a high setting. You might need to toast them a few times. (If the slice falls through, retrieve with tongs when the toaster is OFF.)

3. Put on the toppings!

One I covered with plain butter and some brown sugar. Another I spread with peanut butter. Add fruit or anything you’d like for breakfast.


Final Thoughts: I didn’t particularly care for sweet potatoes eaten this plain, but maybe it’s an issue of toppings. I really enjoy the idea of a healthy breakfast that is easy to make and easy to play around with. I might also try peeling them. Do you guys have a favorite topping for your sweet potato toast?

What to Eat When You’re Exhausted

Everyone reaches a point when feeding yourself seems an insurmountable task. With my mental health, this can often occur more frequently than I’d like. I also know, however, it is important to eat even if I’m too depressed to cook dinner. Exhausted, lazy, depressed, for whatever reason, here are some quick and simple ideas for meals.

EASY

  • Fast Food: It isn’t the cheapest or the healthiest option, but it’s better than nothing. Get it on the way home or order online.
  • Microwavable Meals: One of my favorite easy meals is to microwave frozen lentil noodles and add pre-cooked chicken. Canned soups can also be quickly heated in the microwave.
  • Cereal: Again, perhaps not the healthiest choice, but at least you’re eating. Bonus points if you can add protein powder and/or fruit for more calories and a balance with the carbohydrates.

MEDIUM

  • Ramen or Other Noodles: This earns a medium difficulty because you have to boil water. Top with pre-made sauce or butter with salt and pepper. You can add rotisserie chicken/ pre-cooked chicken as well!
  • Sandwiches: As long as you have peanut butter and bread in the house, you can make a sandwich. Peanut butter with honey or jelly is the simplest. If you have deli meats and cheeses in the house, you can slap those on some bread with or without condiments.
  • Tomato Soup with Pasta: Pour canned tomato soup in a pot of cooked pasta. Add some cheese (goat cheese is my favorite) if you want. I like a little pepper as well.

HARD

  1. Overnight Oats: This takes some planning. If you know there’s going to be a rough day ahead, prep these for your fridge the night before so you can come home and just eat.
  2. “Pizza” Pasta: All you need is cooked pasta, a jar of pasta sauce or marinara, some pepperoni, and balls of mozzarella. The hard part here is having the ingredients on hand, but it’s a good habit
  3. Egg Salad: Boil some eggs, peel, and mash with some mayonnaise, mustard, salt and pepper. My favorite egg salad also uses onion and curry powder.

I hope these relatively simple, cheap meals help you when you need them.

Homemade Snickers Bars

For those of you with a sweet-tooth (like me), Halloween is the perfect holiday to indulge! A few years ago, I went out dressed as Medusa and snacked on candies from all over the world. While still living with my dad, I handed out candy to the neighborhood kids. Last year I hosted a party!

I really enjoy finding new ways to celebrate holidays, especially since I’ve learned to cook. A few years ago I thought I’d make my own Halloween candy! Pinterest always has a ton of copycat recipes, but I chose this recipe for homemade snickers!

Ingredients:

  • 2 cup semisweet chocolate chips, divided
  • 6 Tbsp creamy peanut butter, divided
  • 1 (7 oz.) jar marshmallow fluff
  • 1/4 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 cup peanuts
  • 11 ounces caramels, unwrapped
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream

Notes About the Ingredients: Since the bars aren’t baked, you can use organic peanut butter without affecting the integrity of the candy.

Instructions:

1) Line an 11X7-inch baking pan with parchment paper or aluminum foil. (I used my 8×11 pan.)

2) Place 1 cup of chocolate chips and 3 Tbsp of peanut butter in a heatproof bowl. Microwave for 60 seconds and stir until smooth and combined. Microwave for few more seconds if needed.

3) Pour melted chocolate peanut butter mixture evenly into prepared pan. Place in the freezer for 2-3 minutes or until hardened.

4) Meanwhile, combine marshmallow fluff, 1/4 cup peanut butter and powdered sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on medium speed until a soft nougat forms. 

5) Remove nougat from bowl and press evenly over chocolate layer. Sprinkle peanuts on top, and press them gently into the nougat.

6) In a small saucepan combine the caramels and heavy cream over medium heat. Cook, stirring constantly, until melted and smooth. Pour caramel over peanuts, spreading evenly with the back of a spoon. Refrigerate for about 5 minutes, or until set. 

 

 

Technically you can make your own caramel but this is much easier. It takes some time to break down the caramels. Don’t crank the heat too high or it could burn. Stirring constantly will allow the heat to better distribute, melting the caramels faster. (This is called convection!)

7) In a heatproof bowl, melt remaining 1 cup chocolate chips and 3 tablespoons peanut butter in the microwave. Pour over caramel layer, spreading evenly.

8. Refrigerate for 10 minutes, or until chocolate is set. Use a sharp knife to cut into bars. 

Final Thoughts: These were so yummy! They’re fairly easy to make since there’s no baking involved. I should warn you, however, that clean up is very sticky. Hardened chocolate, caramel, and nougat are no fun to clean up. The bars may stick to the paper, but you should be able to peel the paper right off! Happy Halloween everyone!

PS Here’s my “Spoopy” Playlist to play while you’re making your bars!

  • Thriller- Michael Jackson
  • Earth, Wind, Fire & Air- Moon Sisters (Remember this from the Hex Girls in the Scooby Doo Movie?)
  • Ghostbusters- Ray Parker Jr.
  • Monster Mash- Bobby “Boris” Pickett
  • Disturbia- Rhianna
  • I Put a Spell On You- Screamin’ Jay Hawkins (or Bette Midler for you Hocus Pocus fans!)
  • Witchy Woman- The Hollies
  • Thriller/Heads Will Roll Mashup- Glee Cast
  • Love Potion No. 9- The Clovers
  • The Nightmare Before Christmas Album
  • Hex Girl- Moon Sisters

Paleo Cookie Dough Truffles

Last year, I had a coworker and friend who needed a pick-me-up following a stressful exam. She wanted something sweet, but was making changes to lose weight and stay healthy. She told me she loved cookie dough more than anything, so I found a recipe for Paleo Cookie Dough Truffles. They’re made without any raw egg, so they’re safer to eat! (I shouldn’t really talk because the “danger” of salmonella has never stopped me from eating raw cookie dough).

These are no-bake, easy treats. You can barely taste the change in ingredients. Whether your New Year’s Resolutions have started early or you have dietary restrictions, these treats are delicious!

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups almond flour
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1/2 cup melted coconut oil
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 1 Tbsp vanilla
  • 1 1/4 cup chocolate, melted

A note about the ingredients: For people who stick to the paleo diet hard-core, you’ll need a dairy-free dark chocolate. This is also true for anyone with allergies. I highly recommend the Enjoy Life brand. It’s made allergen-free and doesn’t taste any different from regular chocolate. I used dark chocolate Ghirardelli chips.

Instructions:

1) Mix together the almond flour and sea salt.

2) Whisk the melted coconut oil, maple syrup, and vanilla together.

3) Mix the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients.

Honestly I usually skip Step 2 and just directly mixed in the wet ingredients.

4) Roll into 1″ balls. Place on a lined baking sheet.

5) Place in the freezer for 15 minutes to set.

6) Melt 1 1/4 cup chocolate. Dip the truffles into the chocolate and place back on the baking sheet. Freeze again.

For melting chocolate, you can use a double-boiler method. I just got a microwave-proof bowl, poured the chocolate in, and melted it in the microwave in 30 second intervals. Mix after each 30 second interval in the microwave.

Final Thoughts: I think the key to enjoying these is keeping them frozen. Almond flour has a very different texture, so freezing them kept the truffles held together enough to avoid a dramatic difference between a normal truffle and these paleo substitutes.

Triple Chocolate Cake Donuts

Doughnuts are one of my favorite treats. I have tried doughnuts from all over the Valley and chosen a favorite based on textures, flavors, and creativity. I asked for doughnut pans last Christmas so I could try my hand at baking some. I’m still not over my fear of frying so for now baked cake doughnuts will have to do.

Ingredients:

  • 2/3 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/4 cups light brown sugar
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp espresso powder, optional
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1 cup chocolate chips
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 tsp vinegar, white or cider
  • 1/2 cup (8 Tbsp) melted butter or 1/3 cup vegetable oil

Optional Chocolate Icing: 1 cup chocolate chips and 4 Tbsp milk or half & half.

Instructions:

1) Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease two doughnut pans.

2) In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the cocoa, flour, sugar, baking powder, espresso powder, baking soda, salt, and chocolate chips. Set aside.

3) In a large measuring cup or medium-sized mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, vanilla, and vinegar.

4) Add the wet ingredients with the melted butter (or vegetable oil) to the dry ingredients, stirring to blend.

5) Spoon the batter into the greased pans, filling them between 3/4 and full.

6) Bake the doughnuts for 12 to 15 minutes.

7) Remove the doughnuts from the oven, and after 30 seconds or so, loosen their edges and turn the pan upside down over a rack. Gently let the doughnuts fall onto a cooling rack.

8) For sugar-coated doughnuts, immediately shake the doughnuts in 1 tablespoon granulated sugar; add 1/2 teaspoon cocoa powder to the sugar.

OR

For iced doughnuts let the doughnuts cool completely. To make the icing, combine the chocolate chips and milk (or half & half) in a microwave-safe bowl or measuring cup. Remove from the microwave, and stir until the chips have melted and the icing is smooth. Dip the top of each doughnut in the icing; or spread icing on the doughnuts.

Final Thoughts: These are chocolately, chocolately, chocolately! I highly recommend eating them with a glass of milk because they are rich. I still find I don’t particularly care for cake doughnuts over fried, yeasted doughnuts. I think I’d rather just have cake.

Try it yourself and let me know what you think!

Project Pantry: Homemade Strawberry Jam

Project Pantry is something I’ve been thinking about for quite some time. If I could ever stick to a New Year’s resolution, this one would be at the top of the list. The idea is that I stop buying things like pickles, jam, bread, condiments, etc. and make them all myself. Unfortunately, I don’t have as much time as I’d like to work toward that goal.

With the Independence Day holiday, I found a little time to experiment with the large amount of fresh strawberries, perfectly in season for the summer. I thought about plenty of strawberry recipes – strawberry shortcakes, muffins, pie, maybe even a galette. While purusing the recipes, I noticed that several recommended strawberry jam as an ingredient. Why not make jam to use in another recipe later on? Don’t worry you’ll see the strawberry streusel coffee cake I made with them jam too.

It is important with canning and preserving to avoid contamination with bacteria. This is why you should avoid canned foods that have expanded. Botulinum toxin causes botulism poisoning when ingested- potentially very serious. Use glass jars with no chips or cracks and tight-fitting lids. Please take the time to sterilize your materials. I’ve changed the order of the instructions to prioritize this.

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups hulled and quartered strawberries*
  • 2 1/4 cups granulated sugar
  • pinch salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp cold, unsalted butter

*This is about 2 containers of strawberries.

Instructions:

1) Put a small plate in the freezer.

2) To sterilize, wash both the jars and lids thoroughly with hot, soapy water. Arrange the jars (lids open sides up), without touching, on a baking sheet and put them in a 175° F oven for 30 minutes.

3) Put metal lids, rubber seals, and additional equipment in a bowl, pour boiling water over them to cover and let them soak for a few minutes.

4) Combine the strawberries, sugar, salt and lemon juice in a medium, heavy saucepan. Set the pan over low heat and cook, stirring frequently, until the sugar dissolves and the mixture starts to bubble.

5) Cook over low heat for about 30 minutes, until a bit of the jam sets on the plate you’ve been keeping in the freezer (when you tip the plate, the jam should run only very slowly).

6) Turn off the heat and stir the butter into the jam.

7) Spoon the hot jam carefully into hot sterilized jars and either process the jars or seal and keep refrigerated. If refrigerating, use the jam within a week or two.

Final Thoughts: Mostly I was worried about poisoning myself. Still, I found myself immensely satisfied enjoying toast made with my very own jam. It has a very natural sweetness, unlike store-bought jams with artificial sweeteners and flavoring. If you’re up for the challenge, all it takes is strawberries and time.

Low Carb Philly Cheesesteak Meal Prep

Meal prep is pretty important when my attending doesn’t set aside any time for lunch. He built up the ability to skip meals for prolonged periods while working as an intern and resident. I haven’t had that experience, so I still experience human urges such as hunger. My Attending books patients during our half-hour lunch slot, so I usually need something quick and filling. Most of my meal preps follow a pattern of meat, vegetable, and grain. In this case I chose to leave out the grain. For meal prep more interested than rice, meat, and roasted veggie, I turn to mealpreponfleek.com.

Though it sounds fancy, low carb philly cheesesteak is really just all of the insides of the sandwich without the bread.

Ingredients:

  • 12 ounces steak, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 tbs olive oil
  • 1 medium bell pepper sliced
  • 1 medium onion sliced
  • 6 ounces portobello mushrooms sliced*
  • 2 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 3 slices provolone cheese
  • salt & pepper

*I left these out because Boyfriend doesn’t like mushrooms, but I would keep them in if it was just for me.

Instructions:

1) Heat oil over medium heat. Add meat and cook for about 2 min. per side.

2) Add in onions and peppers and cook for about 3 minutes.

3) Add sliced mushroom, Worcestershire sauce, salt, and pepper. Cook for about 3 more minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed.

4) Add provolone on top and cover the pan until the cheese melts.

I turned off the heat and covered the pan, which melted the cheese just fine without overcooking the meat.

Final Thoughts: I think the best part about this is the cheese. You get really flavorful meat and peppers, then that bit of creaminess from the melted provolone. What’s even better is that you really don’t need to pay much mind to the cooking times in the instructions. Brown the meat, soften the veggies, and melt the cheese. If you’ve cooked before, you can do it by eye and it only takes minutes. The best meal prep is the meal prep that doesn’t make me work hard.

Cajun Fries

I never understood the idea of buying certain spice mixes from a store. I have a perfectly good spice rack (with an extra cabinet full of other spices). A spice mix is just that – a mix of spices. The other night I made a Cajun spice mix to spice up some alfredo sauce. We’ve used the leftover spice mix on several other dishes. Boyfriend and I made French fries to go with some bratwurst. As big fans of Five Guys’ Cajun fries, we wanted to try and make our own.

Ingredients:

Instructions:

1) Mix together the spices.

IMG_1620

2) Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

3) Cut the potatoes in half lengthwise. Slice thinly. Stack the slices on top of each other. Cut in half again lengthwise.

IMG_1619

Check out this video for a demonstration.

4) Prepare a baking sheet covered with aluminum foil, or a baking pain with a cooling rack.

5) Toss the fries with olive oil.

6) Spread the fries onto the baking sheet or aluminum foil. From a height, sprinkle the Cajun spice mix over the fries.

7) Bake for 15 minutes. Flip halfway through the cooking time with a pair of tongs or a spatula.

8) Remove from the oven and let cool. Salt if desired.

IMG_1622

These were definitely spicy, but I’m not sure I liked baked fries as much as fried fries. The way they were cut may have contributed to a lack of crispiness, or perhaps I used too much oil. Regardless, keep the Cajun seasoning around to add a kick to any dish.

 

 

Red Wine Spaghetti

Buzzfeed is full of links to tasty recipes, lists of foods to try, and now Buzzfeed Tasty even gives us their own recipes. I’ve been on a wine kick, so I bought some red wines and got cooking. I’m surprised I never really thought about it, but you can boil spaghetti in wine! It’s a liquid so that makes sense right? Like when you boil rice in chicken broth to add extra flavor. I tend to drink sparkling wines, roses, and whites, but I’ll never turn down a good Malbec or red blend. Beware wine lovers, you’ll be using a whole bottle for this!

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups water
  • 1 bottle red wine
  • 1 lb. spaghetti
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 1 cup Parmesan
  • 1/2 cup parsley (optional)

Instructions:

1) Measure 1/4 cup wine and set aside.

2) Combine water and the rest of the wine in a large pot. Bring to a boil.

3) Once boiling, add the spaghetti. Cook, stirring frequently, for about 7 minutes.

Be careful! When you add the spaghetti it will bubble up!

4) Reserve 1/4 cup cooking liquid and drain the spaghetti.

5) In a large skillet, heat oil on medium heat. Add garlic and pepper flakes. Cook for about 2 minutes.

6) Add reserved cooking liquid and the 1/4 cup of wine. Bring to a simmer. Add the pasta and toss.

7) Add the butter, salt, pepper, Parmesan, and parsley.

Final Thoughts: I’m not sure if I’m impressed with this or not. The idea is really interesting, and it is not much more difficult than making pasta normally. There’s a subtle hint of flavor that might be better with a stronger wine, because it seems like a waste to use a whole bottle of wine for just a little flavor. I also didn’t quite care for the texture of the Parmesan with the noodles. The noodles seemed drier and with the addition of the parmesan and olive oil, seemed to get oily quite quickly. Maybe I just need a different recipe? Have you guys tried this?