Archive for April, 2009

Note the bits of parmesan cheese falling magically from the sky - that was Dan's idea

Note the bits of parmesan cheese falling magically from the sky - that was Dan's idea


There was a restaurant in San Luis Obispo (I cannot, for the life of me, remember the name of it) that served a dish called “Penne Pasta with Salsiccia e Funghi” or something to that effect. It was love at first bite, and unless osso bucco was on the specials menu, I would never order anything else there in all my life. Since I really couldn’t afford to eat at this restaurant on a regular basis, I had no choice but to figure out how to make this dish myself.

Words of Advice

Make sure that you use some sort of flavorful brown mushroom. Portobellos are great (or crimini, which I think are just small portobellos). Shitakes are great. Porcinis or chantrelles are delicious. A mixture of a bunch of different exotic mushrooms is even better. This recipe makes enough for 4 full-sized humans, especially if it’s served as a first course. It’s really good leftover, so if there are just two of you, then you each get lunch the next day!

Penne Pasta with Creamy Sausage-Mushroom Sauce

2 tbsp olive oil

1/2 onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

4 cups mushrooms, thinly sliced

4 Italian sausages, casings removed

1 small can (4 oz) tomato paste

2 tbsp cream or milk

1/4 cup broth

1/2 lb penne, cooked al dente

  1. Chop onion and heat olive oil in a sauce pan or large skillet; place onion in the pan and sprinkle some salt over the top (just a light sprinkling will do). Stir occasionally.
  2. When the onion bits are translucent, add the minced garlic. Stir occasionally.
  3. When the onion and garlic are just beginning to brown, add the mushrooms.
  4. When the mushrooms have cooked, add the sausage meat (casings have been removed). If you’re using Trader Joe’s sausage or the kind from the regular grocery store, just use one package of hot sausages. I get my sausages from a local vendor and the hot ones are REALLY hot, so I use 2 hot and 2 mild.
  5. With a wooden spoon or spatula, break up the sausage meat as it cooks.
  6. When the sausage meat has all browned, add the tomato paste and stir everything thoroughly to remove any of the pasty tomato paste lumps. You may need to add the broth at this time to smooth it all out.
  7. Cook your pasta.
  8. Right after you put your pasta in the boiling water, that’s the time to add the cream to the sauce. Stir to incorporate, and then turn off the stove.
  9. Mix all of the pasta with all of the sauce, scoop into bowls, and then sprinkle some fresh parmesan on top.

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salad2The original version of this recipe came from my friend Marsha, who is a raw foodie. So, for any other raw foodie friends, omit all of the cooked stuff and viola! 🙂

This recipe kills two birds with one stone. It’s a great way to make use of a whole bunch of basil AND to disguise the horrid flavor of flax seed oil, which is really really good for you but really really hard to choke down. It’s actually delicious.

Healthy Pesto Dressing/Dip

2 cups basil leaves, packed

1 cup flax oil

1/2 cup pine nuts, toasted

Juice of 3 lemons (Meyer lemons are the best)

1/4 cup grated parmesan

1 tsp fresh ground pepper

4 cloves garlic

  1. Place all ingredients except Flax oil in food processor.
  2. Turn on food processor and slowly add the flax oil.
  3. Serve as a dip, or as a salad dressing.

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100_1138After much research and several experiments, I believe I’ve perfected the ginger cookie – well, for my purposes, at least. My brother noted that they are really “zingy” with all those incarnations of ginger and other spices, so he decided they should be called “Jingers” (you know, like ginger, but zingier). What inspired me, a woman who once said, “if it doesn’t have chocolate in it, it’s not worth baking,” to work diligently to perfect this Jinger recipe? The answer is Dan. His favorite type of cookie is the ginger cookie, which I thought was really weird but since I love to feed people and want Dan to feel fulfilled in his culinary journey through life, I decided to start reading ginger cookie recipes and bastardizing them ALL!! (insert evil cackle here) I would cite my references, but I started reading recipes online a long time ago and just writing down the parts I liked, then I crossed out a bunch of stuff and changed it around as I made the first few batches. The most important person to credit here is Nancy, who told me I should use freshly grated ginger, so she’s kind of the main genius behind the deliciousness of the Jinger. Note that even my own mother, who has an aversion to ginger, loves these Jingers. And here is the recipe:


3/4 cup unsalted butter (room temperature)

1 cup dark brown sugar, packed

1/4 cup dark molasses

1 Tbsp vanilla

1 egg (room temperature)

2 tsp baking soda

3 tsp freshly grated ginger

1 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp allspice

1 tsp salt

2.5 cups flour

1 cup crystallized ginger, chopped

1/4 cup sugar (for coating the balls of dough, later)

  1. Cream together butter, sugar, and molasses.100_1125
  2. Add egg and vanilla and really give those guys a good hearty whipping with your wooden spoon. Or, if you’re using a stand mixer, just let it keep mixing as you grate your ginger.
  3. Add baking soda, freshly grated ginger (note, do not try to call these “Jingers” if you don’t use freshly grated ginger), cinnamon, allspice, and salt. Really whip those guys in.
  4. Slowly add the flour so it doesn’t make a big white cloud.
  5. When all flour is incorporated, mix thoroughly and then add the chopped crystallized ginger.
  6. REFRIGERATE dough for at least four hours. Note that this is an important step that, if skipped, will leave you with flat, skinny cookies.
  7. Preheat oven to 350100_1132
  8. Place sugar in a high sided bowl. (I like to use evaporated cane juice for this part because it adds a nice crystally crunchy texture to the outside of the Jingers.)
  9. Remove dough in about tablespoon sized scoops, roll each into a ball with your hands, and then toss around in sugar bowl to coat.
  10. Place sugar coated balls onto cookie sheet, about 2 inches apart.
  11. Bake at 350 for 15 minutes.
  12. Cool for about a minute or so in cookie sheet before transferring to cooling rack.
  13. Enjoy with a nice cup of coffee or tea.

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I have a lot to learn, like how long it takes to actually write down exactly what I’m doing, and remembering to take pictures. Last night, I made chicken enchiladas, Mexican rice, salad, sauteed greens, and guacamole, and I tested these dishes on Paula and Todd (and Dan, of course). I forgot to take pictures or write down what I did on all of the dishes, so I’ll have to re-post this menu later. This guacamole is probably my most requested item, so I’ll post that recipe first.


3 enormous, ripe avocados (or 4 small)

1/4 – 1/3 cup minced fresh cilantro

1 tsp salt

1/2 – 1 tsp fresh ground pepper

juice of 2 limes

1/2 habanero pepper, de-pithed, de-seeded, and very finely minced

1/2 red onion, finely chopped

Quarter the avocados (for easiest peeling and pit removal). Remove peels and pits, saving one pit (to add to the guacamole last so it doesn’t get brown). Place avocado quarters in a bowl, mash just a tiny bit with a potato masher or a fork, and then add all but the onion. After chopping, place the onion in a colander and pour boiling water over it. This wilts the onion and removes some of the bitterness. Add the wilted onion to the bowl and mash just a bit more, leaving significant amounts of avocado chunks so your guests do not think you’re serving guacamello. Place in a lovely high sided serving bowl for ease of chip-dipping. Add that pit you saved – just stick it right in the middle of the bowl.

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