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Archive for the ‘Cooking for N00bs’ Category

Light Pasta with Sun-dried Tomatoes

In by Amy, Cooking for N00bs, The Everyday Foodie on January 16 at 6:57 pm

Cooking time: 20 minutes | Originally enjoyed on: 1/16/2010

A new year means it’s time to get off my lazy butt and post at least 1 of the 8 topics I have to write about. My dear brother gave me a couple of Alton Brown Good Eats DVDs for Christmas, and one particularly helpful set is on cooking from things already in your pantry. This recipe is from an episode on cooking pasta, as is a great one for beginner chefs.

Spaghetti tossed in extra virgin olive oil with sun-dried tomatoes, cheese, olives, and smoked oysters.

Watching this episode made me remember that while I love sun-dried tomatoes, I had yet to cook with them. I resolved to remedy this once I returned to Berkeley.

This pasta is pretty much as easy as you can get, short of mixing pasta with pre-made sauce. After you cook the pasta, drain it and put aside. Pour some olive oil into a bowl or plate (only a couple of tablespoons); place about a teaspoon of garlic in the center. Mix thoroughly into pasta (tongs, chopsticks, or a fork and spoon may be helpful here)–since the pasta is still very hot, it’ll cook the garlic without burning it. Lastly, add whatever other ingredients you’d like: in the original episode, Alton used cheese, sun-dried tomatoes, and nuts. We didn’t have any nuts, but we did toss in cheese (leftover packets from the Costco 3-cheese ravioli), sliced sun-dried tomatoes, olives, and smoked oysters.

Some suggestions to get you started on ingredients: parsley, pine nuts, chopped basil, sautéed mushrooms, grilled chicken.

And there you go, tasty pasta that took little to no skill to make.

P.S. According to Alton Brown, don’t rinse your pasta after draining; your sauce will stick to your pasta better.


Put an Egg on It

In by Amy, Cooking for N00bs, The Everyday Foodie on December 14 at 12:47 am

Chicks and ducks better scurry

When I put an egg on my curry

When I eat a hearty meal with an egg on top!

Finals week has prevented me from going grocery shopping, wreaking havoc on my diet. Suddenly I’m  much more content to eat instant, quick-to-prepare foods. I’ve already had fried rice (3 times), ramen (2 times), microwavable mac and cheese (3 times), and frozen dumplings (5 times) on several occasions in the past week and a half.

I’ve still been cooking from scratch! Just on much rarer occasions.

At any rate, in an attempt to clean the fridge, I’ve also been reminded of one of my favorite foods: eggs.

Generally, I try not to use eggs too often because of their high cholesterol content, but I’ve made an exception this week. I just polished off a classic finals week dish (ramen–mee goreng, in particular) that I made 5 times more awesome with an addition of a fried egg.

Instant mee goreng made instantly better: ramen noodles with an egg on top. Ah, what a difference a single egg can make!

Midway through my meal, I realized just how much I love eggs. They make EVERYTHING taste better, especially the most n00bish of meals. (Katherine was not too impressed and dryly remarked, “You know Forrest Gump? You sound like-” Me: “Yes. I know. *sigh*.”) At any rate, I think I also like them because they look so smiley and happy. Example:

  • Fried egg on top of fried rice
  • Egg mixed into ramen soup
  • Fried egg with steak or even better, Vietnamese pork chops
  • Runny eggs in a Vietnamese sandwich (so messy but so tasty)

Not to mention the wonderful dishes based on eggs: poached eggs, soft-boiled eggs with soy sauce/sesame oil, eggs in a basket (a great snack), soy sauce eggs, and my personal favorite, EGG TARTS. (For those of you in the SF Bay Area, you NEED to head over to Golden Gate Bakery and taste the best egg tarts in America.)

So next time you make a meal, try enhancing it with an egg. You’ll be converted for life.

Oh man, this post makes me realize that I could never be a vegan.


In by Amy, Cooking for N00bs, Dessert First, This is Why John's Fat. on December 12 at 12:39 am

Cooking time: 35 minutes | Originally enjoyed on: 12/9/2009

A couple of days ago, Katherine and I took a study break from Dead Week to make dozens and dozens of cookies. We used a recipe from Katherine’s mom, who allegedly got it from an Australian family. After, we delivered them to friends, teachers, and neighbors.

Dip shortbread into melted semi-sweet chocolate for an extra-tasty treat.

I’ve never made shortbread, but this recipe was easy and tasty enough, mostly due to copious amounts of BUTTER.

Ingredients (yields 36 cookies):

  • 1 lb plain flour, or about 2 3/4 cup
  • 1 lb butter (4 sticks)
  • 1/2 lb corn starch, or about 1 3/4 cup
  • 1/2 lb icing sugar, or about 1 3/4 cup

You can also vary the amount of ingredients; Katherine’s mom has baked with less butter with successful results.

Mix dry ingredients (flour and corn starch). In a separate bowl, mix together butter and sugar until crumbly. Combine mixtures.

Roll dough into balls and press onto a lined cookie sheet. Bake at 325 degrees for 25 minutes, or until golden brown. Tip: place a pan with some water on a rack underneath the cookie sheet, to prevent burning the bottoms of the cookie.

Afterward, we dipped the cookies into melted chocolate and put them out on the balcony in the freezing cold to let everything set in. You can also roll the cookies in nuts or sprinkles. Make sure you let the cookies cool first, or they might break when you’re decorating them.

Another tip: use a double boiler so the chocolate won’t burn. You can use an actual double boiler, or an improvised one out of two stacked pots–just make sure the top pot with the chocolate doesn’t touch the water; the chocolate should melt by steam alone. Due to a temporary shortage of pots, I used this “fancy contraption”:

Improvised double boiler: one rice cooker, another smaller rice pot, and a netted strainer.

Enjoy! Beware: this cookie crumbles VERY easily — eat in a safe area!

Roasted Garlic Mmmmashed Potatoes

In by Deanne, Cooking for N00bs, The Classic Foodie on November 23 at 2:24 pm
To continue the “old school” trend, I adapted another recipe from my Good Housekeeping Illustrated Cookbook, circa-1980, this time with  mashed potatoes. What is there to adapt you ask? The part about adding the heavenly scent of oven-roasted stinking roses:

Roasted Garlic with drizzled olive oil and rosemary. And a couple of burnt cloves in the back--whoopsie poopsie! :P

Roasted garlic is also very easy to make, and will make a huge difference in your mashed potatoes (that is, if you are as much of a fan of garlic as I am). Simply peel away the outer layers of an entire garlic head without the individual cloves falling apart, cut off the tops so all cloves are exposed, and then pour at least a tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil on top (the more the merrier). Make sure to rub it in for an even distribution of olive oil. I recommend adding extra herbs on top; I used rosemary. Wrap the garlic up in foil and scrunch it all up tightly. Put it into the oven heated 400 degrees, leave it in for 40 minutes or so. When it’s time, take the garlic out and squeeze the delicious roasted garlic pulp out of the individual cloves. For this recipe, set the garlic aside for now.

Creamy roasted garlic mashed potatoes!

The potato part is also very straight-forward. I used fourteen medium-sized Russets, since it’s for a feast. I was too lazy to skin them beforehand so I boiled them with the skin on. I haven’t tried this technique myself, but according to a Japanese TV show I saw on Youtube, if you score all around the potato’s middle, then boil, set it in cold water for a few minutes, the potato will literally pop out when you squeeze it (I wish I knew about this earlier! It would have saved me 40 minutes). Set the potatoes in a big pot of cold water almost to the top with a teaspoon of salt. When it boils, lower the heat down to a simmer. Simmer for 30 minutes. Drain, wash in cold water, peel, and then set about putting your potatoes through the ricer for an easier time of mashing. Ricers also make potatoes fluffier. Handy dandy tip: remember your roasted garlic? Now put it in between layers of potato in the ricer, squeeze–and Voila! Your garlic is now evenly incorporated into the mashed potatoes! No one will accidentally get a mouthful of clove! Yay! Now mix in a teaspoon of salt, some black pepper, a cup of hot milk, and 1/2 cup of butter. Good job, you now have a pot of roasted garlic mashed potatoes! Fancy-schmancy!

Old School Pecan Pie

In by Deanne, Cooking for N00bs, Dessert First, The Classic Foodie on November 21 at 10:16 pm

Since Thanksgiving is coming up, it might be helpful to know an ol’ trick or two. This classic pecan pie recipe is from Good Housekeeping Illustrated Cookbook, first published in 1980. Back in its hey day, this cookbook was a huge success and had a definite presence in all family households. So I thought it might be nice to dust off its cover, flip through the pages, and make an era come alive all over again!

Pecan pie fresh out of the oven, with moody urban background

Making pecan pie is surprisingly easy. For this recipe, I used ready-made, unbaked crust (yes, the actual recipe calls for making your own crust. . . but we all cut corners here and there). I whisked 3 eggs, mixed in 1 cup dark corn syrup, a little bit less than 1/2 cup sugar, 1/4 cup melted butter, and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract. Whisk well. Then I prepared the nut/crust portion by creating 1 layer of pecan pie in any pattern you would like. Of course I had a little fun first:

A smiling, content pie.

A freaked out pie.

A pie with Cal insignia!!! Go Bears! (in honor of a proper trouncing of Stanford earlier today)

As fun as it is to make designs, you do want to pack as many pecans as you can into one layer, so that it comes out more like this:

Try to arrange the pecans in an aesthetically pleasing pattern

Next, carefully pour in the mixture as to not disturb the pecans’ pattern. Then pop it into the oven (heated 350 degrees) for about 1 hour. Take it out when you stick a knife in 1 inch from the edge and it comes out clean. Cool. Enjoy!


Beef Chili

In by Amy, Cooking for N00bs, The Everyday Foodie on November 21 at 6:24 pm

Cooking Time: 30 minutes | Originally enjoyed on: 11/20/2009

On a rainy day, nothing combats the weather like the taste of hot soup.

Beef Chili: the meat-flavored cousin of Vikram's Three Bean Chili.

John, Sandra, and I returned from a Safeway run only to be met with pouring rain. I immediately switched our lunch plans to making chili. This recipe is a modification of Vikram S.’s three bean chili, which I originally made for a Foodie Friday last October. While Vikram’s recipe has a more sophisticated flavor that contains multiple bell peppers, a tomato base, and no meat, I just threw in the “right” ingredients until I was satisfied with how it tasted.

You’ll need:

  • About 1/2 pound of ground meat (I used beef I had in the freezer)
  • 1 bell pepper (I used red)
  • 2 cans beans (I used chili beans and drained garbanzo beans)
  • Green beans
  • Half an onion, diced
  • Corn (can be frozen, canned, or fresh, depending on your time constraints)
  • Cumin, fennel, cayenne pepper, chili pepper, paprika, salt and pepper to taste

I love making chili because it’s so easy: just prep your food and cook it in one pan. For prep, dice the onion, cut the bell pepper into strips (or squares, whatever you prefer); and chop the green beans into one-inch pieces. Defrost the corn, and open the cans of beans. Drain the beans if they’re not chili flavored–otherwise, your soup will be too watery.

Brown the beef thoroughly on medium heat; season with salt and pepper. Then, saute the onions until slightly translucent. Add in the red peppers and the canned beans. Cook for about three minutes. Then, add in the corn and the green beans.

Let the chili simmer for about 10-15 minutes, or until the vegetables are softer. Then, season with spices to taste. Serve with bread, cheese, or over rice.

Deanne’s Simple Salmon

In by Deanne, Cooking for N00bs, The Everyday Foodie, Uncategorized on November 8 at 4:24 pm

If you are ever looking for a main dish that is impressive yet easy to make, this Simple Salmon recipe is the way to go! This recipe is in no way completely original or creative, it simply involved one hungry Cal student with fresh salmon in the fridge, and some spare olive oil and seasoning in the cupboards.


For this last-minute recipe, I sprinkled liberal amounts of olive oil and fresh lemon juice and rubbed it into the salmon filet. Then I topped it with all sorts of basic seasoning: salt, pepper, rosemary, thyme. Next, I baked it in the oven for about 15 minutes (depends on the size of your salmon filet). The baking time is absolutely crucial–make sure that you do not dry out the salmon! Stop when the salmon has just turned from orange-raw to a rather pale pink; you can check by inserting a fork and examining the color of the inner portion. If you have removed the salmon from the oven at the perfect time, the texture should be flaky yet soft and creamy. Hints of lemon will really accentuate the taste.

And voila! You have your fancy baked salmon in under 20 minutes! Quick, easy, delicious, and packed with Omega-3’s! Truly a win-win situation.

Extra: If you are a fan of crispy salmon skin, I recommend also rubbing olive oil and lemon juice to the bottom skin portion of the filet. It will be come crispy with baking and taste like salmon chips. Bon appetit!

Asian Lunch Part 1: Pan Fried Tofu

In by Amy, Cooking for N00bs, The Everyday Foodie on October 4 at 12:59 pm

Cooking time: 15 minutes | Originally enjoyed on: 10/4/2009

Sandra, John, and I ventured out early in the morning for a grocery run. When we returned, John and I decided to make an Asian lunch, since we’re tired of being fat and adding lots of butter to everything.

First item on the menu: Sandra’s pan fried tofu.

Pan fried tofu, served with soy sauce and sesame oil, topped with fresh green onions.

Pan fried tofu, served with soy sauce and sesame oil, topped with fresh green onions.

We first enjoyed this dish a couple of weeks ago when Sandra was making a quick dinner for her boyfriend. It’s also an incredibly easy recipe, which convinced me to try it.


  • 1 block tofu (I used firm)
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup of flour
  • Salt, pepper
  • Green onions
  • Soy sauce and sesame oil to taste

Read more>>

Read the rest of this entry »

Sandra’s Cake Mix Cookies

In by Amy, Cooking for N00bs, Dessert First, This is Why John's Fat. on September 28 at 8:51 am

Cooking time: <15 minutes | Originally enjoyed on: 9/28/2009

Cake mix cookies, yum! (This picture is from another blog, found on Google images.)

Cake mix cookies, yum! (This picture is from another blog, found on Google images.)

If you’re looking for a pick-me-up in < 15 minutes, look no further. Sandra, 205’s baking wizard, introduced us to the loveliness of Cake Mix Cookies during a late-night study session.

Combine 1 box cake mix with 2 eggs, 1/3 cup of oil (you can use 1/2 cup if you’d like), and a handful of chocolate chips.

Mix, spoon onto a cookie sheet, and bake for 10 minutes at 325 degrees. Keep watch for cookie monsters that may be lurking around.