Thursday, December 2, 2010

Tuscan Tomato Pasta

This is a Morning Star Farms recipe that appears to have come from one of those coupon spitters in the grocery store isle.

Tuscan Tomato Pasta

1/2 C chopped onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 T olive oil or vegetable oil
1 C sliced fresh mushrooms
1 can (28 oz) whole tomatoes, cut up
1/2 C shredded carrot
2 T red wine vinegar
1 T dried basil leaves
1 C Morningstar Farms Meal Starters Chik'n Strips
8 oz spaghetti or fettuccine
2 T shaved Parmesan cheese

1) In large saucepan cook onion and garlic in hot oil until tender.  Add mushrooms.  Cook and stir 1 to 2 minutes or until tender.
2) Stir in undrained tomatoes, carrot, vinegar, and basil.  Bring to boil.  Reduce heat.  Simmer, uncovered, for 10 to 15 minutes or until desired thickness.  Stir in Chik'n Strips.  Cook and stir for 1 to 2 minutes or until heated through.
3) Meanwhile, cook pasta according to package directions.  Drain.  Toss tomato mixture with pasta.  Sprinkle with cheese.

Yield: 4 servings

My substitutions/additions:
  • Apparently, Morningstar isn't making Chik'n strips any more.  I went to two different stores and couldn't find them, so I substituted two Quorn Naked Chik'n Cutlets.
  • I also added salt and pepper

Well, aside from the amusing discovery that apparently "chik'n" is the accepted spelling for alterna veggie "chicken," I wasn't crazy about this one.  It's possible the Quorn chik'n doesn't pack the same punch as the Morningstar version, but I found the vinegar off-putting and the recipe pretty boring over-all when weighed against the time it took to make.  DH liked it, but as for me, if I'm going to be chopping a bunch of veggies, it aught to have a little more personality than this.  I don't think I'll make it again.  I'm chucking this one.

Twofer Wednesday

Two recipes tonight, both awesome.  If you're from the South, that is...  You can't have grown up in the South and not have eaten pinto beans and cornbread a time or two.  And not that sissy sweet cornbread.  Hard-core corn meal cornbread.  The cornbread recipe is modified from the Alber's cornmeal box, I'm going to post the sissy sweet version from the box and then tell you my recipe in the substitutions section.

And what does one serve with cornbread?  Pinto beans, of course!  My father-in-law taught me how to make fantastic pinto beans in the pressure cooker.  He learned from his Mom.  I expect I'll be showing my boys some day.  It's the fastest way to make beans, hands down.  Don't worry about the pressure cooker.  My father-in-law has been making beans in a cooker for longer than I've been alive and he's never exploded a cooker with these beans.  I've been cooking them like this for at least five years now and have never exploded a cooker with these beans.  The main thing is to make sure the vent hole is clear and you've got a good seal (not cracked or hardened) on the lid.  Well, here goes!

Corn Bread

1C Alber's yellow corn meal
1 C all purpose flour
1/4 C granulated sugar
1 T baking powder
1 t salt
1 C milk
1/3 C vegetable oil
1 large egg, lightly beaten

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Grease 8-inch-square baking pan.  Combine corn meal, flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in medium bowl.  Combine milk, vegetable oil and egg in bowl; mix well.  Add milk mixture to flour mixture; stir till just blended.  Pour into prepared baking pan.  Bake for 20-25 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean.  Serve warm.

Note: Recipe may be doubled.  Use greased 13X9 inch pan; bake as above.
High Altitude (3500-6000 ft): Bake for 22-24 minutes (8 inch square and 13X9-inch pan).

My suggestions/additions:
  • Instead of 1/4 C sugar, I sub. 1 T sugar and 3 T corn meal.
  • I usually sub. whole wheat flour for the regular white.  Not as authentic, but adds a little nutty flavor I like besides being slightly better for you.
  • Instead of a greased pan, I use a cast iron skillet.  It's the only way to cook cornbread.  Trust me.  My pan is well-seasoned, but I still like to put it in the oven while it preheats with a little shortening in it.  Take it out when the oven hits 400 and pour the batter in.  It will probably sizzle as it goes in.  That's the crust forming.  Dude.

Pressure Cooker Pinto Beans
Serves 2
1C dry beans
1 1/2 to 2 t olive oil
4 C water
1 1/2 t salt

Wash beans til water runs clear.  Add all ingredients to the pressure cooker.  Make sure to add the weight to the vent.  Bring to a jiggle, then turn down to slow jiggle.  Cook for 1 hour 30 minutes.

Serves 4
2 C pinto beans
3 t oil
6 C water
2 t salt

Cooking time 1 hour 30 minutes.

My additions/substitutions:
  • I'll be honest.  I have a tendency to burn these beans.  I don't know if it's the difference between our stoves (his is electric, mine is gas) or his experience or just the pans, but I have to use 7 C of water.  Even then I'm not perfect.  But when they come out right, boy do they come out right!  Better than canned by about 1,000 and better than soaked and boiled, too.  More firm.  And of course the added benefit that I don't have to think about them the night before!
  • A little bullion added to the water adds a nice flavor and a bit of ground ginger will take care of any interesting after-effects without changing the flavor.

My husband's favorite meal is my father-in-law's pinto beans and cornbread "flitters."  My pinto beans and cornbread is his second favorite... I like mine with a little sauerkraut.  Don't ask me why, I just do.  My Mother-in-law likes a little chow chow with it every now and then.  Serve it with mashed potatoes, greens, cabbage, whatever you like.  You can't go wrong.  They're keepers!
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