Sunday, July 27, 2008

We Cook!

As far back as I can remember, I have loved Cookbooks. I haven't necessarily loved cooking, but I have loved cookbooks. I think it all started with The White House Cook Book. My mom had a copy of this wonderful book and I used to love to read the recipes and imagine what the food would taste like. It never dawned on me to try to make these recipes though. I'll have to ask her what ever happened to that cookbook, that would be quite a family heirloom.

I know that I did bake a few cakes and some cookies out of this cookbook, but it was always a basic chocolate cake and usually peanut butter cookies or oatmeal. We lived out in the country and couldn't just walk over to our neighborhood Apple Market to get ingredients.

When I married, I continued with my love of cookbooks by buying up as many as I could find at yard sales, used book stores, thrift stores and book stores. I must have at least 50 of them. And again, I would sit there with my kids playing on the floor in front of me and just look at all the different recipes and pictures and then go into the kitchen and make plain old hamburgers or Hamburger Helper meals. I had a few signature dishes when I was married that my ex husband used to really like, such as Meatloaf Pie, Oven baked baby back ribs, scalloped potatoes and ham, and I made the best homemade peach pie on the planet...the secret being tons of butter. Tons!

But after my divorce, when it was just me and the kids I kept up with the old basics and boxed up all my cookbooks. Well the cookbooks are still boxed up and I'll probably sell them at a yard sale in the spring, but they aren't really necessary anymore. Not because I'm not going to cook anymore, but because I have the "world at my fingertips"! Literally I have spent the whole day today reading cooking blogs and saving the best ones in my favorites file. Ok, just so my sister won't get mad...I also did my laundry and made myself a dinner of red bell pepper with dressing and elbow macaroni sopa...mmmm.

But anyway, now that I got the guilt of being a lazy good for nuthin all day out of my system, let me continue. I never imagined all the wonderful things that can be done with squash and spaghetti, with apricots and coffee flavored liqueurs! I'm in hog heaven!

One of the my favorite websites is The Pioneer Woman Cooks. She has so many wonderful recipes on her site and it's so entertaining to read and she usually takes photos step-by-step as she's cooking. I've spent many a lunch hour reading her recipes and dreaming of making one of them...someday.

Well along comes my sister Lisa, who isn't one to sit around reading cookbooks and wishing she could make some of them...Lisa is a Do'er! So we did. She and I made a recipe we found on the Pioneer Woman's site and here are the pictures and story to prove it!

PW (Pioneer Woman) calls her recipe Farfalle with Zucchini, we call it Bow tie Pasta with Squash, not as elegant a name, but just as good tasting. Now we did make some changes to the original all good cooks do. The main reason though is that neither Lisa and I cook with Wine, therefore the only wine we had available was Mango Wine Coolers and it's really not the same thing. PW's recipe also called for an ingredient Arrowroot which is a thickening agent (hah! how about that? I may not know how to cook, but I know technical terms. I didn't spend years watching Emeril and Bobby Flay for nuthin I tell ya!) Well Lisa and I both know flour is a great thickening agent so that's what we used and since we didn't use the wine, we used chicken broth as the liquid to combine with the flour for thickening. And one other thing we did differently, is PW says to use fresh basil, lemon thyme and chives. Fortunately, I did happen to have fresh basil as one of my co-workers had brought me a big batch of basil and another of rosemary. Being that my sis and I are of the Latino persuasion instead of lemon thyme we decided to use cilantro and we just forgot about the chives altogether, although after, during the taste test we both decided some small, chopped up green onion would have been great.

We chopped up 3 zucchini's by cutting them in half longways and then cutting each half in half again and then cutting small bite size pieces and we sauteed them in Olive Oil. Olive Oil being again a fancy-schmancy oil that I never used, but Lisa happened to have some for some reason. So we sauteed the zucchini with olive oil and some sea salt until it browned as you see below and then we removed it from the pan onto a plate as the next photo shows.

Using the same pan, and some more Olive Oil, we sauteed one small white onion and as we didn't have any fresh garlic we improvised by using garlic powder which worked just as well and didn't leave our fingers all garlicky smelling!

After the onion caramelized a bit (browned for those who don't know those professional technical cooking terms) we added the tomatoes. PW called for small grape tomatoes cut in half, but I prefer Roma tomatoes so we cut those into bite size pieces and added them to the onions in the pan. While that was sauteing, we mixed the flour with some chicken broth and then added that to the onions and tomatoes in the pan. Once that mixture thickened a bit, we poured the previously cooked zucchini back into the pan. Oh yes, PW also called at this point for some cream, but we didn't have cream and figured good ol 2% milk would work as well...and it did, so we poured that in too.

I forgot to mention previously that while Lisa was at Apple Market buying Zucchini and Onion and Mango Wine Coolers I was home doing dishes and I also got a jump start on the whole recipe by boiling the bow tie pasta. So that much was done ahead of time. In the next picture you see us adding the herbs, then basil and cilantro roughly chopped up. I will say here that I have cooked with basil before, but I have never just added it dry and raw to a dish and I loved it! Oh my goodness, what a great flavor. I went on and on about it to the co-worker that gave me some that she brought me a small plant from her garden that I'm trying NOT to kill in a planter on my patio.

Here is the finished product in the pan ready to be mixed in with the bow tie pasta. It looks good enough to me to be eaten as is.

Ok, here's my motivator in all this my sister Lisa. She's pouring the bow tie/herb mixture into a bigger bowl as we didn't estimate right the first time and we wouldn't have been able to stir in the old bowl. I actually chose the old bowl because it's pretty and one of my favorites, but we had to use this ugly old white plastic dime-a-dozen bowl! Can you tell it's not my fav bowl?

So here's Lisa, pouring the zucchini mixture into the bow tie pasta. She's such a great helper and it was so much more fun doing this with her. The only drawback was that I don't have a printer at home so we had to keep running back to the computer to check out PW's instructions.

A close up look of the zucchini on top of the bow tie pasta.

We had some shredded Monterey Jack Cheese and also some Cotija Cheese, that's a Mexican Parmesean Cheese. We sprinkled that on the top and mixed it in. The hot Zucchini mixture reheated up the bow tie pasta and melted the cheese, making it an ooey-gooey luscious mix. Oh, and that's my favorite bowl again in the picture, sorry you can't see the side, but I love this bowl.

Here it is, all served up on my Corelle Dishes that I've had ever since I was married. I swear you just can't break these things...and I've tried because I would love to have new dishes! But back to the doesn't look photographically as appealing as the one PW made, but then I'm not as good a photographer as she is; was pretty darn delicious!

And here's Lisa enjoying her first bite. We actually both had seconds and then she took some home to her husband who said, "Its OK." Men, what do they know of pasta? I took the rest to work and shared with my co-workers and they LOVED it. One has already been to the PW website and made her own version using my idea of the chicken broth. So there you have it. And we had a good time and I think we're going to do this again. I saw a recipe on a website today, it's kind of a dessert/breakfast thingy with apricot glaze on it. Hopefully I can get the motivator motivated to do this again!

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