Creamy Mushroom Risotto (Vegetarian Friendly)

In Ohio, everything is better with corn.

Hi, friends! So sorry for not posting much this week, I’ve been visiting family up in Ohio before I go back to school. Anyways, I am finally posting something that is vegetarian-friendly and can be vegan-friendly too! Risotto is an Italian rice dish. Risotto is actually the way of cooking the rice, not the name of the rice. It is very simple and, even though it is very creamy, no cream is necessary. As I’ve said previously, almost all Italian dishes don’t require cream. This risotto actually doesn’t even need butter or cheese, but butter and cheese are delicious.

Ingredients:

  • Arborio Rice (or another short grain rice)
  • Chicken or Vegetable Broth
  • Mushrooms
  • Shallots
  • Butter
  • Mascarpone Cheese
  • Parmesan Cheese
  • Kale (optional)
  • White Wine

While I don’t measure much, I do measure the amount of rice used in this. Last night we had about 16 people for dinner, and I made 3 cups. 1 cup of rice will expand to 3 cups when cooked.

In a large, wide bottomed pot, add olive oil, chopped shallots, mushrooms, and a bit of butter. Let that all cook down before adding your desired amount of rice. Continue stirring until the rice has absorbed oil and is slightly toasted.

Once the rice is toasted and almost dry, pour enough wine in to deglaze the bottom of the pot. Deglaze means to remove the browned bits from the pan. Let the wine absorb and cook down. Then, add a small amount of broth to the rice until is about covered. Continue to stir until the rice absorbs all of the broth. At this point, just keep repeating this step of adding small amounts of broth. The most important step is to keep stirring.

The great thing about risotto is that you can flavor it almost any way that you want to. When the risotto is almost cooked all the way through, add a bit of mascarpone cheese, a generous amount of parmesan cheese, and a bit of kale. Don’t add the kale until the very last minute, so that it does not get soggy. Add enough salt and pepper until the flavor meets your preference. If you happen to have any truffle oil laying around, add a very small amount to enhance the mushroom flavor.

If you want to make this into a vegan meal, either bypass all of the cheese (add a lot of salt to make up for it) or, replace the butter and cheese with vegan replacements. Risotto is a creamy dish without cream, so excluding butter and cheese should not be too hard.

Risotto is a favorite dish of mine! Aside from the 30 minutes of constant stirring, it’s a very simple recipe that can be altered easily.

Apologies again for my lack of posts recently. Hopefully, I will be able to pick back up when I’m all moved in!

Hope you enjoy this recipe! Thanks for reading, be sure to subscribe and share!

Emily 🙂

Authentic Spaghetti Carbonara

Spaghetti Carbonara is, hands down, my favorite pasta dish. But, a lot of people are confused about what it is. If you’ve ever had this dish at an Olive Garden or another chain Italian restaurant, you make think that Carbonara consists of some form of Alfredo sauce with bacon. While this definitely doesn’t taste bad (who doesn’t like cheesy sauce and bacon?), it is so wrong.

Italian food often gets a bad reputation for being unhealthy, but that is a misconception. Often, American versions of Italian food are very unhealthy. Italians rarely use cream in their dishes. Which means that, yes, Fettuccini Alfredo is 100% an American pasta dish.  Cream is delicious and it is fine if you prefer it that way. Just know, it is not authentic.

I’ve seen dishes labeled as Spaghetti Carbonara that have any assortment of bacon, Alfredo, spinach, olives, peas, and tomatoes. However, real Spaghetti Carbonara consists of only eggs, pancetta, a small amount of olive oil, parmesan, and black pepper. Nearly every bowl of Carbonara will taste different, depending on the chef’s preference. I personally like mine to be heavier on the egg. Some people prefer much less egg and much more cheese. There’s no right or wrong when it comes to ratio of egg to cheese, so alter this according to your preference.

Ingredients

The ingredients I’ve used in this dish are so simple, I don’t feel that a picture is necessary.

For the pasta I used my Homemade Fresh Pasta, but boxed is absolutely fine. I usually opt for a thin spaghetti, but regular spaghetti is traditional. Bucatini is also a really good option for Carbonara.

Aside from that, I used pancetta. Pancetta is a salt cured pork, similar to prosciutto. Ask your deli to cut it thick so it can be diced. Bacon can be used as a substitute. Then, eggs, parmagianno-reggiano, salt, black pepper, olive oil, and a little bit of white pepper. White pepper is not traditional, but it gives it an extra pepper-y flavor.

The Recipe

The key to perfect Spaghetti Carbonara is all about timing. If you’re using regular boxed pasta, you’re going to want to start heating up the water right away. While that is boiling, put a bit of olive oil in a hot pan, then add your diced pancetta.

Let the pancetta bits brown on a medium-low heat, moving them around occasionally. While waiting for this and waiting for your pasta to boil, start on your egg sauce.

I typically like to stick to a ratio of 2 egg yolks to 1 whole egg, to keep the richness and to add the bright, yellow color. I make mine in a mug, just because its easy to mix and pour from, but a measuring cup would probably work better. Whisk your eggs together with a fork until they are smooth. Then add salt, cracked black pepper, and parmesan cheese. Then add a small amount of white pepper. Keep in mind that the pancetta and the parmesan are very salty ingredients, so don’t add too much salt to your dish until you taste it.

At this point, your boxed pasta should be almost done. If you’re using fresh pasta, add it in now. When it is done, strain it but save some of the pasta water. Toss the pasta in the pancetta pan with the heat turned off. It will sizzle a bit, add some pasta water if the pan is too hot. Get the oil from the pancetta to coat the pasta entirely.

Now, you can add the egg mixture to the pan. You want the pan to be hot enough that the eggs will render but not scramble. Pour it in but keep the pasta moving around the pan so the eggs don’t get too hard.

The eggs will turn slightly lighter in color, this is how you know you’re not eating raw eggs. Now, add salt, pepper, and cheese as needed.

Done!

I love this recipe because it is so simple. After having authentic Spaghetti Carbonara, you’ll have a hard time accepting the knockoff kind. If you love bacon (pancetta) & eggs, and you love pasta, you’ll love this dish!

Delicious And Easy Steak Without A Grill!

If you’re anything like me, you know there are few things better on this Earth than a really perfect steak-ribeye preferably. Coated with butter, thyme, and garlic, medium-rare, and a good sear. The best part about these steaks is that they are locally farmed, preservative free, and DELICIOUS. I got these from my local farmer’s market from a company called Solo Verdi. If you’re local, definitely check them out!

Ingredients:

Ribeye (or whatever your favorite steak is), Ghee-which is clarified butter that I use for the cooking oil. Feel free to use Vegetable or Canola or anything with a high smoking point*, One Garlic clove (smashed), a few sprigs of Thyme, and Salted Butter.

*A high smoking point in an oil means that it can reach a high temperature before it burns. This is important with steak because it needs a really high temperature for a good sear. Examples of oils with high smoking points include Canola Oil, Coconut Oil (refined), Ghee, and Extra Light Olive Oil. 

You will also need a pan that can generate a high amount of heat. My suggestion would be a good Cast Iron Skillet or a good Stainless Steel pan. If you only have a nonstick, you can still do this. You may have a harder time getting a really good sear, and you’ll probably need to get your pan a bit hotter. I also really recommend a digital meat thermometer, not the kind that is meant for roasting. You want one that you simply insert, and it will automatically tell you the exact temperature.

Cooking Your Steak

About 45 minutes before cooking, take your steaks out of the fridge and let them get to room temperature. Season them with coarse salt, to pull out all the moisture and pat them dry with a paper towel when they’re ready. Just before cooking, re-season with coarse salt and cracked black pepper. I also like to rub a smashed garlic clove and some thyme on the steak before cooking.

Heat your pan over medium heat until it is hot enough that if you put a drop of water in, it won’t bubble and steam out. It should just move around the pan in a ball.

Then, add your desired cooking oil to the pan and let that heat up for a moment.

Place the steak down and then don’t touch it for about four minutes or so. With tongs, flip the steak over. It should have a really nice color and crust, but if it doesn’t, that’s okay. Once you flip it, add a small piece of the salted butter and let that melt. If you didn’t have a nice sear already, the butter will help it for the next flip. Also, rub some more of the garlic and thyme on the steak if you like those flavors.

Once each side has cooked for about 4-5 minutes, flip it again. Continue the flip and butter process a few times. Make sure you are checking the temperature constantly. Be sure to check the temperature in the middle of the thickest point of the meat. I like to stop my steak around 110-120 degrees Fahrenheit, with the intention that it will keep cooking a bit while it rests. Here’s a good chart to help you know when to stop cooking your steak. 

When your steak is at your desired temperature (remember to take it off slightly before it reaches your desired temperature), let it rest on a room temperature surface, such as a cutting board, for about 5-10 minutes. This will help keep all the juices inside the meat. If you cut into it immediately, it will become dry.

When I let my meat rest, I put even more butter on it right when it gets off the stove. I then set a small thyme sprig in the melting butter to enhance the flavor. Just before serving, I sprinkle some more of the coarse sea salt on top of my finished steak. 

That’s it! I’ve found that butter + ribeye steak is the best combination, so don’t be afraid to use more butter than you think normal! For one steak I would use at least one tablespoon of butter.

I hope this helps you to be able to enjoy a great steak whenever you want! Grills are hard to use, and a lot of people don’t have them. This is how I always cook a steak and it’s actually how I prefer it now!

Thanks for reading, subscribe if you haven’t already!

Emily 🙂

How To Plan The Perfect Trip To NYC!

NYC is, by far, my favorite place in the country, and maybe even the world that I’ve seen thus far. There really is just something about that city; there’s nothing else like it. Any given street could have a totally different setting. NYC breeds inspiration, with so many of the residents working to make their dreams become a reality. It is the ultimate melting pot and the epitome of the American Dream.

Planning a trip to NYC can seem like a very daunting task. It is seriously impossible to experience the city in its entirety in a short period of time. And every trip can be wildly different. So, here is my guide on how to plan the perfect trip to the Big Apple.

 Plan Ahead

I am a huge fan of planning, in general. I love to write things down in my large, hour-by-hour daily planner. But when it comes to planning a trip to NYC, start way early. I mean like months in advance.

For example, I am currently planning a trip to NYC for October, but I wish I had started even a bit earlier. Deciding on a time frame for visiting New York is another obstacle. New York is like a different city every season. You may have more free time in the summer or the winter, but you’ll be battling very hot and very cold weather. NYC in the winter is a sight. Amongst the snow, you’ll see brightly lit and decorated window designs. You can also see the Christmas Tree and go ice skating at Rockefeller Center. NYC in the summer is very hot and is probably not my favorite time to go. However, you’ll still be able to have a great time. In my opinion, spring or fall would be the best times to visit.

At this point, you’ll want to figure out what you want to focus on during your trip. Do you want to see all of the typical sightseeing spots? Spend more time at museums? Focus on nice restaurants and foodie spots? Or do you want to see an award-winning Broadway show, like Hamilton, that you’ll need to buy way in advance? Regardless, to get the most out of your trip, you’ll want to start very much ahead of time. Start about two to three months ahead- more if you want good seats for Hamilton that aren’t a million dollars.

Tourist attractions for first timers

The Statue of Liberty-

The Statue of Liberty is a must see for anyone traveling to NYC. However, it’s kind of a one time sight for me. You have to take a boat out to see it, so it’s a bit of a hassle. If you’re lucky, and you plan very well, you can actually go inside of the Statue. When I was in the 5th grade, I got to walk to the top of the pedestal with the group I was traveling with. It’s a pretty cool thing, but going all the way to the crown is hard to get access to and requires climbing some very steep and narrow stairs.

Times Square-

Oh, Times Square. Constantly bustling with people of all kinds.. and selfie sticks galore. What I once thought was the coolest place, is now somewhere I actually try to avoid. Don’t get me wrong, if you’ve never been, I absolutely recommend it. It is absolutely a sight to see, but after you’ve experienced it a time or two, you get a bit tired of the mobs of people. Still very cool though! And great if you love M&M’s!!

Central Park-

Central Park is great and requires no planning ahead! I haven’t been able to really explore of Central Park yet, but it is a great place to get away from the loud and hectic city. Especially great for people and dog watching. Central Park has two famous restaurants; Tavern on The Green, and the Loeb Boathouse. Tavern on The Green is great; I was able to get into this restaurant for a very early dinner (about 5pm). Getting a reservation at prime time is pretty hard though.

Live Shows-

NYC has tons of live tapings of TV shows that you can see for free! One of the most popular is The Today Show. All you have to do is register online and get up very early to get a good spot. It’s a lot of standing around and it’s super early, but it’s such a cool experience! The Today Show always has some kind of guest; I got to see Martha Stewart! There are other tapings as well, like Saturday Night Live(extremely hard to get tickets for), The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, Late Night with Seth Meyers(very funny, definitely recommend), and tons more! Most of them are free, so plan early and reserve your tickets as soon as possible.

Top of The Buildings-
Beautiful view even on a rainy evening

Top of The Rock, Empire State Building, One World Observatory. These are just some of the options you have for a prime view of NYC. Top of The Rock is one that I liked a lot because you get a view with the Empire State Building in view.

Rockettes-

The Rockettes was a show that I was not particularly thrilled to see, but I was SO impressed! They have a summer and a winter/Christmas show, and I preferred the summer, but they were both great!

Broadway

Jesse Tyler Ferguson in Fully Committed!

There are SO many great shows in New York all the time! I can honestly say that you will not be disappointed with any of the classics like The Lion King, Kinky Boots, or one of my favorites, Wicked. Some newer shows that are very good are Hamilton- of course, and The Book of Mormon, and Cats, which is old but just came back! Also, look for some smaller productions. I once saw a great one-man show starring Jesse Tyler Ferguson (Mitchell from Modern Family) in a tiny theater, and it was only on Broadway for a few months. Plan tickets in advanced for some more popular shows, but go day-of to the TKTS booth in Times Square for some of the cheapest options. Just beware of scammers!

Museums

I haven’t nearly done the amount of museums as I’d like to, but NYC is home to so many renowned ones! There’s the famous Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art, American Museum of Natural History, The 9/11 Museum, and tons more! Museums do take up a lot of time though, so plan accordingly if you want to focus on those.

Food

If you want to make the most out of your dining experience and eat your way through the city, start by figuring out what kind of restaurants you want to go to. Would you rather go to a few Michelin-starred restaurants or do you want to check out the trendy foodie spots? If you want to go to fancy restaurants, you’re going to need to make a reservation at least a month in advance. Check out the reservation policies of the places you want to eat. Check out my post about some of the Best Places I’ve Eaten for a few recommendations.

Now that you’ve figured out what you want to focus your trip on, I suggest making a chart. I chose to use the table in a Word document. I’m focusing my trip around food, so I had the top row labeled with each day of the week and the left column with lunch and dinner labels. I then went through the hours and days that each restaurant is open and fit them in accordingly.

**Some things have been covered up for privacy reasons**

 

Budget

If you’ve made it this far, you should hopefully have the beginnings of a well-planned trip. Now, you need to plan how much it’ll cost. Yay! (not actually yay). If you are the kind of person who doesn’t need a budget, go ahead and skip this part and swipe your plastic freely!

Although budgeting isn’t my favorite word, I’m not bad at making one (sticking to the budget is the real issue). To be realistic, NYC is very expensive. The shows are expensive, the restaurants are expensive, and the shops are expensive. That’s not to say that you can’t do New York without breaking the bank though. Figure out the cost of the tickets, look up menu prices of the restaurants you’re going to, look up hotel rates, look up air fare, and estimate how much you’ll spend on transportation. Then add $100-$200 to that. It’s always better to have more than you plan to use. In NYC, where anything can happen, it’s very good to have some extra money accessible.

The cheapest way to go about it is to save money on hotel and transportation. Find a hotel that is located near most of the things you want to do, so then you can save on transportation by walking. Or choose a cheap hotel near a subway station. Choose the worst airplane seats. Buy resale tickets for the shows. Go to the free shows. Spending less in these areas will make the actual aspects of your trip so much better.

Once everything is planned all you have left to do is book, pack, and go! Search the web for deals and use airline or hotel points when booking.

Hopefully, by now you have a well-planned trip! If not, I hope this post has inspired you to start planning your trip to The Big Apple. I hope this post will allow you all to enjoy and love NYC the way that I do. Comment if you have any questions, share, and subscribe!

Happy Planning!

Emily 🙂

Lowcountry Boil Pasta – A Twist On A Local Favorite

Lowcountry Boil, Frogmore Stew, Beaufort Boil. This dish goes by many names, but all consists of a stew of fresh shrimp, corn, sausage, potatoes, old bay, and lots of butter. This classic Lowcountry recipe is one that is easy to make and relatively cheap, considering our abundance of good quality shrimp. Native to Beaufort, I felt that I had to make some version of this dish.

I’ve chosen to make a different version of this by adding pasta with a creamy sauce. It’s pretty simple overall, and it adds another delicious dimension to the Lowcountry boil. As a fan of my hometown as well as my love for pasta, this dish was a no-brainer!

Ingredients:

If you aren’t lucky enough to live where you can easily get fresh local shrimp, try to opt for a higher quality shrimp from a fish market or the fish section of your grocery store. Using that, as opposed to frozen shrimp, will make the dish taste much fresher.

Shrimp

Once you have all of your ingredients, start prepping them. Start boiling a pot of water (for your shrimp) with a quartered lemon and a bag of crab boil. As this is boiling, start peeling and deveining your shrimp. Use this Shrimp Peeler & Deveiner Device to easily and quickly peel and devein. (It’s only $2!!). When the water is boiling, drop your shrimp in and let them cook until they turn pink. Take them out of the water just slightly before they are done, so that they can finish in the sauce.

Sausage

For the sausage, I chose a mild pork sausage, but andouille sausage or any other kind will work as well. Slice it into small pieces and sauté the pieces in a bit of olive oil. That’s about it for the sausage.

Potatoes

I boiled the potatoes in the same pot as the shrimp. Cut them into small pieces and boil until they are fork tender. Some of you may be wondering, “How can you put potatoes with pasta?” My answer to you is that this is a southern dish, and southerners don’t really care about having too many starches. Actually, we don’t think it’s possible to have too many starches. If you’re a bit more health conscious, feel free to ditch the potatoes.

The Sauce

For the sauce, I started with 4 table spoons of melted butter. I then added heavy cream in small increments. By the end, I had used almost the entire pint-sized box. I added one clove of minced garlic and let that cook down in the sauce. While continuing to add heavy cream, I added salt, pepper, and however much Old Bay you like. I also added about one ladle worth of salted pasta water (I was boiling the water for my pasta while making the sauce). Once you have the sauce to the flavor and consistency you want, add your sausage, shrimp, potatoes, and about half of the can of corn kernels. Let these heat up in the sauce, and crush the potatoes with your fork so that they can absorb some of the flavors.

When you’re at the point of reheating the items in the sauce is when you should add your pasta and let that cook. When the pasta is done, strain it and add it to the sauce. Add any extra salt, pepper, or Old Bay as needed. Mix it all together, and you’re done!

This Lowcountry Boil Pasta dish is a great way to eat a filling dinner that still very much resembles the classic Lowcountry boil. I can’t wait to remake this when I’m at school and feeling homesick! And, of course, I got the approval from the official taste tester: Bailey.

Overall, this dish is a relatively simple way to have a different take on a classic Lowcountry boil. And it turned out delicious! Just ask Bailey. Please subscribe if you enjoyed this post! Let me know how this turns out for you in the comments.

Emily 🙂

Five Easy Hors D’oeurves To Make For Your Next Party!

Hors D’oeurves are some of the most creative and fun little foods to eat and to make! Often confused with being synonymous of appetizers, hors d’oeurves are designed to be eaten in one bite. Typically you’ll see these as little “finger foods” served at a party. As opposed to appetizers which can be much larger than these.

I’m sharing with you not one, but five of my favorite hors d’oeurves recipes! These are all pretty easy, some requiring more work than others. But delicious all the same! Use one (or all) of these to bring to the next party you attend or host and impress everyone!

Caprese Salad Skewers

These skewers are the easiest of all the hors d’oeurves on this list. The only ingredients are Grape or Cherry Tomatoes, Small Fresh Basil Leaves, Snack Size Fresh Mozzarella Balls (or cut cubes from a large mozzarella ball), and Balsamic Vinegar!

Simple stack the basil leaf on top of the tomato, and the mozzarella ball/cube on top of that. Drizzle a bit of balsamic, stick a toothpick through the center and enjoy! If you want them to stand up on a plate, cut a small amount off of the bottom of the tomato to make it flat.

So simple and so yummy! Perfect for a summertime soiree!

Mini Meatballs in Marinara

These miniature meatballs are delicious but they require a bit more work than the previous.

I chose to make my own marinara sauce, but it’s absolutely fine to use store bought. If you’re using store bought marinara, you won’t need the Garlic, White Onion, and Tomatoes.

If you are making your own, go ahead and chop those ingredients up and start sautéing them in a pan with a white wine to help them reduce. Once they’re aromatic and seem to be cooked down a bit, put them in a blender or a food processor and puree, but leave it slightly thick. When you’re done with that, you can pour it back into the pan and let the excess water simmer out. I added tomato paste to my sauce for the color; mine turned out more orange without it.

Now, mix the ground beef with the egg and a decent amount of breadcrumbs. Then add your salt, pepper, seasonings, splash of Worcestershire, and splash of milk. Add  breadcrumbs until the consistency is less “wet.” Roll the meat into small meatballs and place in the sauce to simmer. Once the bottom has cooked, turn the meatballs over to cook the other side.

When they’re done cooking, plate them with sauce and a toothpick. Top with parmesan cheese and chopped parsley.

 

Two hors d’oeurves down, three to go!

Miniature salmon lox bagel Boats

These were a bit of a struggle for me because I could not find miniature bagels anywhere in the whole grocery store! So, I bought regular sized everything bagels and chopped them. I went to the fish section and got some Lox Smoked Salmon. Also, some plain cream cheese and some fresh dill.

Remove the inside of the bagel, so it is hollowed out. Toast it in a pan with some butter to get crispy edges. Then fill with the cream cheese and dill mixture, followed by smoked salmon.

Cut the filled bagel into small pieces, and top with a small dollop of dill cream cheese

 

 

Peach, honey, goat cheese Crostini

For this, I used a few slices of one of those skinny baguettes from the bakery, one ripe peach, some goat cheese, basil leaves, and honey.

I rubbed the bread pieces with unsalted butter and toasted them in the oven until they started to brown. Then I spread goat cheese on each one and put them back in the oven to melt a bit. Once melted, simply assemble the peach slices, small basil leaves atop the peaches, and a drizzle of honey on top of all of that.

My picky eater past came out when I made these- goat cheese usually disgusts me. But, I made myself try it, and they really were good. I was pleasantly surprised, so don’t knock these just because of the goat cheese. If you still can’t stand it, try ricotta cheese instead.

Arancini- fried risotto balls

Y’all. 

These are SO good.

They take a good deal of more effort than the others, but they are amazing. If you’ve never had risotto, the best way I can describe it is a really creamy and delicious Italian rice dish- but with no cream. For this recipe, I used leftover risotto from the night prior to making these. I’ll be posting my mushroom risotto recipe soon; so you can use that (or look up a different one). Or, you could simply buy risotto that comes in a box and cooks much quicker. Put it in the fridge for a few hours to let it stiffen up, and you’ll be good to go!

Once you have your leftover risotto, form them into small balls. I tried to put little mozzarella pearls on the inside of them, but that was pretty tricky. Feel free to try it though! Once they’re balled up, Start heating vegetable or canola oil and set up your “dredging station.”

From left to right: all purpose flour, whisked eggs, and seasoned panko breadcrumbs. Dip each ball in each spot until they’re fully breaded. Make sure you have a wet and a dry hand so that you don’t bread your fingers.

Drop them into the fryer until they float and turn golden brown!

Top with a sprinkle of salt, parsley, and some parmesan cheese.

These are a lot more work than the other recipes but They. Are. So. Good.

Next time you host a ~fancy~ dinner party, you’ll have some awesome finger foods up your sleeve! Thanks for reading! If you liked this post, add your email to my subscribers list in the side bar!

Emily 🙂

Ten Of My Must-Have Items In The Kitchen

Hello!

Today I am not writing about a recipe or a place that I’ve been. Rather, I’m going to share with you the ten items I *need* in a kitchen!

Cooking while in college is hard. If you decide not to just heat up noodles every night for dinner (don’t get me wrong, I won’t turn down a bowl of Ramen), it can be hard to find the right tools, have good equipment, and afford good food. Living in a dorm, it’s pretty unlikely that you’ll have any access to good cooking utilities. If you have a college apartment, you likely have a low-quality stove/oven, etc. These places are designed for college students who eat Easy Mac, not people who actually enjoy cooking.

To combat the lacking of good kitchen utilities, these are the things I must have in the kitchen. Some tools, and some simple ingredients that I always have on hand.

Please note that some of the links below are affiliate links and I will earn a commission if you purchase through those links. I have used all of the products listed below and recommend them because they are helpful and are companies that I trust.
1. Stainless Steel Frying Pan

I’ve already talked about how important I think this is, but I’m putting it on the top of this list because it’s that important to me. Stainless Steel pans are a different way of cooking. They need a little bit more care and attention than a nonstick pan does. I do still use nonstick pans for certain things though! When cooking with a stainless pan, you need the patience to wait for the pan to heat up before you add the oil. Then, wait for the oil to heat up before you add the food. But this pan will give you the best sear on fish and meat and will brown butter so much quicker than a nonstick pan can. Be careful if you have an electric stove, heat control is a lot harder. I almost never cook with my pan higher than medium heat, because it retains the heat so well. So, pay special attention with electric stoves.

Here’s mine: Le Creuset Tri-Ply Stainless Steel Fry Pan, 12-Inch

Here’s a cheaper (but still good quality) one: Emeril Lagasse 62951 Stainless Steel Fry Pan, 8″, Silver

2.  Microplane/Zester

My Microplane is one of the kitchen tools I use most often. It’s great for finely grating anything from cheese to citrus to garlic or ginger! This is super easy to find at a grocery store and may be labeled as just a zester. Now that I have this, I very rarely use a box grater anymore. This tool is seriously a no-brainer, I love it!

3. Kosher Salt

This one, I learned from my Grandmother. 90% of the time you see her, she’ll have a little bowl of kosher salt with her. This undoubtedly instilled my (slightly unhealthy) “salt-tooth.” Since I’ve been using this kind of coarse salt, I’ve grown to dislike table salt almost completely! This is a very minor thing, but this salt is so much better for seasoning meats before searing, and for salting pasta water. It also is much easier to measure. We’ve all started shaking a salt shaker, only for it to pour out into our soup. Now our soup is ruined and tastes like the ocean. With this kosher salt in a small bowl, I’ll just grab a small pinch and sprinkle it wherever I want it. This makes the term, “a pinch of salt” much easier to measure!

4. Good Cutting Boards

One of the things that I can’t stand is cutting on one of those flimsy, flexible, plastic cutting board “mats” that are always bent. Don’t buy these. My favorite kind of cutting board is a sturdy plastic one like This Plastic Cutting Board. I’m also not a huge fan of wood cutting boards. While they’re much prettier, they are not good for cutting meat and they’re harder to wash. Now that you have some good cutting boards, you’ll need..

  5.  A Few Good Knives

You definitely don’t need the worlds most expensive knife block, but a few really decent ones are a must. I like to have at least a few steak knives on hand for steak and some other things. In addition to that, I have two large knives, one with a straight edge and one with a serrated edge. I use the serrated edge one more, but the straight edge is sharp and is great for cutting delicate things like herbs or raw fish. Here is a good 15-piece set for only $22 –Knife Set With Wooden Block – 15 Piece Set 

6. A Well-Organized Pantry and Fridge

This one you can’t go out and buy, and it takes some work depending on how messy you are. I recently organized both of these and it makes a world of difference! I was amazed at the amount of stuff we had that had far surpassed its expiration date. Here’s the before and after of the pantry:

This pantry took me about one day. I don’t have a before picture from the fridge, but here is the after picture:

It is so nice knowing that everything has a place. In the fridge, there’s a specific spot for dairy, leftovers, deli meats and cheeses, and the vegetables and fruits are stored in their proper humidity drawers. Doing this will make your kitchen feel so much cleaner, and will eliminate time spent searching for things. The fridge took me about an hour or two.

7. Garlic Olive Oil

I cook with a lot of garlic, and I spent a lot of time mincing garlic and tossing it into olive oil. Then, I discovered garlic infused olive oil and I’m never going back. I got mine at a local olive oil store, but here’s one you can order: Roasted Garlic Extra Virgin Olive Oil. This is so worth it!

8. Garlic, Shallot, Onion, etc.

If you choose not to invest in Garlic Olive Oil, it’s always good to keep a few garlic cloves on hand. They don’t go bad easily, so you can keep them without worrying if you’ll use them soon enough. I also like to keep shallots and onions on hand, as well as any of simple ingredient that I use often and won’t go bad easily.

9. Fresh Herbs

A lot of my recipes call for fresh herbs like parsley and basil (these I use most often). I find that it is the easiest and the freshest when I have a basil plant and a parsley plant right in my kitchen! Just simply keep them watered and near a source of sunlight, then cut off the perfect amount you need for your recipe. It is so simple and lasts longer if taken care of. The taste of fresh herbs is also much better than that of dried herbs.

10.  A Mandoline

A mandoline is a tool used to cut things very thinly and uniformly. It’s not completely necessary; you can definitely live without one. However, it is so much easier and quicker and more precise than using a knife. I use it to slice cucumbers and zucchini, french fries, potato chips, carrots, etc. You can easily change the setting and you can slice a whole cucumber paper-thin in less than a minute. I use this one: Mandoline Slicer,  and I have a smaller, hand-held one that is just for slicing: HandHeld Mandoline Slicer.

Thanks for reading! I hope you find this helpful! Let me know what some of your kitchen must-haves are in the comments!

Emily 🙂

Super Simple Seared Steak Tacos!

Happy Sunday, Foodies!

 

My dad asked me if I was going to post recipes about something other than pasta and seafood (which is hard because these are my favorite foods). SO, here is something slightly out of my comfort zone!

While I love steak, I don’t typically go out of my way to eat Mexican food. Except for Moe’s, for Moe’s I’ll go out of my way. I’m reaching out of my food comfort zone a little, and making Steak Tacos. So many times when I hear Steak Tacos, I think of them being filled with ground beef (my least favorite thing), or some low-quality and over cooked steak bits. This recipe, I hope, will far surpass these expectations by using quality ingredients and preparing them properly.

Ingredients

Ribeye steak(flank or skirt work fine as well), Flour tortillas, Tomatoes, Onion, Cilantro, Lime, Avocado, Sour Cream.

These tacos will be built with steak, pico de gallo, and an avocado cream topping. Super simple!

For the Pico De Gallo:

Dice your onion(s) and tomatoes, chop the cilantro as finely as you can, and zest and juice one of your limes. Feel free to add jalapeño if you like spice!

Mix these all together in a bowl and set aside.

For the Avocado Cream:

Add ripe avocado(s) and sour cream to a blender with the juice of two limes, salt, and a small amount of water and olive oil until the consistency is right. This stuff is so delicious and will add a ton of flavor to your steak tacos!

For the Steak:

The steak is the most important part of the steak tacos, so we want to make sure it is good. Keep the flavors simple, season the ribeyes with kosher salt or sea salt and cracked black pepper. Let the salt sit for a few minutes to bring the moisture out and then pat them dry. Cook them in a very hot pan to your desired temperature. If you prefer to grill your steaks, that’s fine as well. Melt 1 tbsp of salted butter on the hot steak after it comes off of the pan/grill. Let rest for at least 10 minutes, then slice thinly.

 

The Tortillas:

For the sake of time, I left my tortillas as they were. However, if you want a warm tortilla, you can sort of roast it over a small flame or toast it in a pan on a medium heat before assembling.

The Assembly of the Steak Tacos:

Almost done!

Simply assemble your tacos by starting with the tortilla, then adding a few pieces of steak strips, then adding your pico de gallo, then the avocado cream on top!

That’s it!

These steak tacos are so so so delicious and so easy! As someone who almost always prefers Italian food over Mexican, I was very pleased with this recipe. I’ll definitely be making this one again!

I hope you’ll enjoy this as much as I did, and feel free to add jalapeño or lettuce or anything else you want to this recipe!

Please let me know if you tried this and how it turned out!

Emily 🙂

Salmon Three Easy, Healthy Ways

Salmon is, in my opinion, the tastiest fish. It is flavorful, easy to cook, and it’s pink. Ask anyone that knows me well, and they’ll tell you I eat a lot of pasta and a lot of salmon. Seriously, it wouldn’t surprise me If I get mercury poisoning (although I limit myself to twice a week to try and prevent that). So often though, I feel like cooking a piece or two the same way every week can get very boring. If you are bored with your salmon as well, or just want to try something new, try these three easy, healthy, salmon recipes!

For starters, let’s talk about the main ingredient. Unless you live very far north and by the sea, you’ll have a hard time getting local salmon. There are a lot of different types; Atlantic, Alaskan, Sockeye, Chilean, Farmed or Wild. Typically, I don’t look into it too deep. I try to get one that has a lighter pink/orange color, and just overall looks fresh and is from a place that I trust.

These are the fillets that I got from Publix. I usually get the select cuts because they’re already cut into portion sizes.

#1, Seared Salmon with Sauce

(Extra points for alliteration)

This way of cooking the salmon is the way I do most often. It is pretty simple and only requires a few ingredients.

  • Salmon
  • Lemon Pepper Seasoning
  • Garlic Salt or Garlic Powder
  • Butter, White Wine, Heavy Cream, and Thyme (for the sauce)
  • Lemon Juice

This recipe is delicious without sauce as well, so feel free to forego it if you don’t want it.

Also, for a good sear, I cannot stress enough the importance of a stainless steel pan. Someone told me once that you’ll never be able to get as good of a sear on nonstick as you will with stainless. I didn’t really think it made that big of a difference until I got one. Seriously, do yourself a favor and invest in one. Here’s mine- Le Creuset Tri-Ply Stainless Steel Fry Pan, 10-Inch. And here is a cheaper one, Emeril Lagasse 62951 Stainless Steel Fry Pan, 8″, Silver.

Step One

Dry off your piece of fish with a paper towel, then add all of your seasonings. That’s it for step one! 

Step Two

Heat your pan on medium heat. Don’t add any oil until you get it hot enough that a drop of water won’t bubble up and evaporate. It should be a ball of water that moves around the pan like this:

 

This is also known as the Leidenfrost Effect. 

 

 

 

 

Add your oil and let that heat up as well, until it has ripples or “legs” in it. Then, place the salmon face down in the middle of the pan. Once it is down, DON’T touch it. To prevent it from sticking to the pan it needs to sit for anywhere from 2-4 minutes, depending on the thickness of the fish.

Flip the fish after it has formed a crust and no longer sticks to the pan. If it is very thick, you may need to let it cook on its sides a bit too.

Step 3

Take your salmon off of the pan. There will probably be brown bits on the bottom of the pan, and that’s great. Those make your sauce flavorful. Put two sprigs of thyme in the pan and let those fry for a minute. Add butter and let it brown (again, this works best in a stainless steel pan). Once your butter is melted and browned, add white wine and let the pan deglaze. When the steam subsides, add a small amount of heavy cream. Just enough to get the wine and the butter to combine. Add lemon juice, salt, and pepper to your liking.

 

#2, Salmon Ceviche

A lot of people think that ceviche is raw fish, but it’s actually not. Ceviche is when the raw fish is “cooked” in acidic substances like lime or lemon juice. It is a Peruvian dish that traditionally consists of only fish, salt, limes, onions, and hot peppers. I don’t like hot peppers, so I came up with my own version. Feel free to add whatever you like to this dish!

Ceviche does, however, still resemble raw fish. So, if that freaks you out, you may want to pass on this one.

This is definitely the easiest recipe because it requires no heat!

You can kind of do this however you want, so long as you have lemon or lime juice to “cook” the salmon. Here’s how I did mine.

Step One

  Isn’t that beautiful?

Chop the salmon up into small bite-sized cubes. Then chop the ingredients of your choice.

I used celery, shallot, chives, avocado, lemons, and limes.

Step Two

Mix it all in a bowl, add salt, and set it in the fridge to chill for at least an hour.

That’s it! 

It is literally that easy, and it is so delicious.

 

#3, Baked Salmon

Baked salmon is what I cook the least of the three. However, it is very delicious and easy. I just hate waiting for an oven to heat up. Baking salmon can be a much healthier way of cooking because it requires little to no oil. I like to make mine heavy on the garlic, butter, and lemon. But for this, I am going to make a Cilantro Lime Garlic Baked Salmon.

Since you won’t need to worry about a sear, don’t bother to pat down the salmon. I cook mine in a baking dish, but you can do it in aluminum foil just as well.

Start by chopping a small amount of fresh cilantro, zest one lime, and mince a clove of garlic. Mix together the lime zest, juice, cilantro, and garlic in a small bowl with a small drizzle of olive oil and salt and pepper. Then, put salmon in a baking dish or aluminum foil and pour your mixture on top. Put four cubes of unsalted butter on top and put it in the oven at 400 degrees for 10-12 minutes. Then take it out and enjoy!

Not the prettiest but still delicious.

 

I hope you all enjoyed this and now have some new salmon recipes to try! Please let me know if you tried it/ how it turned out!

Happy salmon eating!

Emily 🙂

How To Make Fresh Pasta From Home

If you’ve ever had fresh pasta, you’ll know why I’m so obsessed with it. Although it is relatively time-consuming, making your own fresh pasta will absolutely improve the texture and quality of your pasta dish. Fresh pasta is so easy to customize to make different flavors. The best part is that you most likely already have all of the ingredients! Keep reading for a step-by-step guide on making fresh pasta at home!

*This recipe will yield about two large servings. If you are making this for a side dish, it will yield about four servings.*

Ingredients:
  • 2 Cups of All-Purpose Flour
  • 2 Large Eggs
  • 3 tbsp. warm water
  • Salt
  • Drizzle of Olive Oil
Step One – The Dough:

  • In a large bowl (a bowl is not necessary, I use one for an easier clean up) make a well with the flour. Make sure there is enough room for two large eggs. Before adding the eggs, add as much or as little salt as you want.

  • Fill the well with two large eggs. Having a furry friend to help makes for better pasta (kidding).
  • Whisk the eggs with a fork, slowly mixing in the flour until it is fully incorporated. The eggs may fall out of the well, and that’s just fine. Just make sure you mix it well. Once your dough starts to form, add the warm water and continue to mix. Then, add a drizzle of olive oil.

Eventually, you will get this beautiful ball of pasta dough! I cut my dough ball in half, and that half is one large serving. Now, start kneading it with your hands and get it as flat as you can with just your hands.

Sprinkle both sides with flour, so it doesn’t stick to your pasta machine!

Step Two – Rolling The Dough:

Speaking of the pasta machine, it is definitely not necessary, but way easier. A pasta machine is not too expensive and is such an important tool if you like to make fresh pasta often. This is the one I use, and it’s currently 55% off! Pasta Maker Machine (177) By Cucina Pro

Closeup of the fettuccini and spaghetti cutter inserts

Now, pasta can absolutely be rolled and cut without a machine. It will just be more difficult to make anything thinner than a fettuccini. If you’re using this method, consider making lasagne, ravioli, tortellini, pappardelle, or fettuccini noodles. With this method, you’ll roll out your dough with a rolling-pin to your desired thickness. Then, with a precise knife or a pizza cutter, carefully slice the shape of the pasta that you want! Make sure you’re adding flour throughout to prevent stickiness.

If you are using a pasta machine, start with the roller on setting number one. Roll your flattened dough through here twice (or more if needed), before moving on to setting number two. 

Here are the progressions of my pasta dough. I went through setting number five. The settings get smaller and smaller as the numbers get bigger, making the dough thinner. 

This is the thinness I chose, and so I stopped here. At this point, I cut the sheet in half so it would be easier to handle while cutting.

Step Three – Cutting and Drying The Pasta:

Once your pasta is at your desired thickness or thinness, it’s time to choose your pasta shape and cut!

I chose spaghetti just because I prefer a thinner noodle and spaghetti is more versatile in my opinion. You’ll put the pasta sheet into the cutter and turn the handle just like you did in the roller section. Once you’ve put both halves of your pasta sheet into the cutter, add more flour and pull apart any noodles that are stuck together. 

At this point, you can leave it how it is and put it right into your boiling water, or you can let it dry a bit.

To let it dry, I make little pasta “nests.” First, I straighten the noodles into long strands. Make sure there’s enough flour, so they don’t stick together while they dry. Then, just wrap them up in a circular motion. 

Pasta Nest

Another way to dry your pasta is to hang it over the back of a chair (or a Pasta Drying Rack) after you’ve straightened the noodles.

Congrats! You’ve made fresh pasta! To cook it, just fill a pot with a decent amount of water (enough for the pasta to move around freely), salt the water, and drop your pasta in once it’s at a rolling boil.

Making fresh pasta does take a lot of steps. However, it is not hard at all with the right tools! I, by no means, have any issue with boxed pasta (trust me, I eat plenty of boxed pasta), but the fresh pasta will take your pasta dish to a new level. So excited for you all to try this! Let me know what your favorite pasta dish is in the comments!

Happy Cooking!

Emily 🙂