Zucchini Noodles with Tomato Sauce – #GreatAmericanCookIn

Zucchini Noodles with Tomato Sauce |TheBachelorBasics.com
Food Stylist: Johanna Lowe

Here’s a simple and quick dish that doesn’t feature a lot of ingredients. If you love Italian food and want to start gaining experience with what I’d argue is one of the best cuisines, this Zucchini noodles with tomato sauce recipe is a great entry point.

Zucchini Noodles with Tomato Sauce |TheBachelorBasics.com
Zucchini Noodles with Tomato Sauce - #GreatAmericanCookIn
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Zucchini Noodles with Tomato Sauce |TheBachelorBasics.com
Zucchini Noodles with Tomato Sauce - #GreatAmericanCookIn
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Instructions
  1. Lay zucchini noodles in a single layer on paper towels. Lightly salt and let sit for 15 minutes to draw out moisture. Pat dry with additional paper towels.
  2. In a medium sauté pan, heat one tablespoon of olive oil over medium-high heat. Add garlic and sauté until fragrant and golden, approximately 3-5 minutes. Add tomato sauce and diced tomatoes, reduce heat to medium and simmer for 15-20 minutes. Stir in fresh oregano and simmer five minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  3. In a medium sauté pan, heat one tablespoon of olive oil over medium-high heat. Add garlic and sauté until fragrant and golden, approximately 3-5 minutes. Add tomato sauce and diced tomatoes, reduce heat to medium and simmer for 15-20 minutes. Stir in fresh oregano and simmer five minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  4. Transfer zucchini to serving bowls and pour sauce over the top. Sprinkle feta cheese and fresh oregano over each dish. Add freshly ground black pepper, if desired. *If you don’t own a spiralizer machine, cut zucchini into 1/2 inch rounds
Recipe Notes

Tips

  • Craving carbs: This sauce tastes great over pasta
  • Stay seasonal: In the winter months, serve this sauce with spaghetti squash
  • Extra flavor: Simple grilled shrimp makes for a yummy add-on to this recipe
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Secrets to Homemade Pizza and Calzones

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I have been obsessed with pizza of late. Seemingly every day for the past week I have been making homemade pizza. The mission has been to perfect thin crust. Bon Appetit’s recipe for “grandmother dough” is my go-to for thicker, chewy crust. But sometimes you just want a quick, crispy crust.

With some free time, I have been experimenting and cooking a lot more. The result is a growing mid section. Each time I made homemade pizza, I ate it pretty quickly. Then, I’d make it again the next day. You know what they say, “Practice makes obesity.” Continue reading Secrets to Homemade Pizza and Calzones

Bechamel | Mother Sauce

Bechamel sauce is one of the mother sauces. It’s pretty easy to make, but requires nearly constant whisking. It adds a richness that cheese simply can’t match.

bechamel recipe
Bechamel | Mother Sauce
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Print Recipe
Bechamel is one of the mother sauces. It's pretty easy to make, but requires nearly constant whisking. It adds a richness that cheese simply can't match.
Cook Time
20 minutes
Cook Time
20 minutes
bechamel recipe
Bechamel | Mother Sauce
BigOven - Save recipe or add to grocery list
Print Recipe
Bechamel is one of the mother sauces. It's pretty easy to make, but requires nearly constant whisking. It adds a richness that cheese simply can't match.
Cook Time
20 minutes
Cook Time
20 minutes
Ingredients
Servings:
Instructions
  1. Melt the butter in a large sauce pan. Medium heat.
  2. Heat milk in a separate sauce pan over low-medium heat.
  3. Once it starts to bubble, add the flour in batches. Whisk vigorously.
  4. After all the flour is added and smooth, start adding the warm milk 1/2 cup at a time. Continue whisking.
  5. Once all the milk is added, you can slow down whisking. The mix should be lightly bubbling/boiling. Whisk occasionally for 7-10 minutes.
    bechamel recipe
  6. Turn off the heat. Add nutmeg.
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Lasagne from Scratch: A Lactard’s Nightmare

homemade lasagna

“I can’t sell you this.” Dawn informed me.

Anticipating the carb overload that awaited us, we were racing the clock as we power walked over to CVS last night. The timer on the oven ticked down from 30 minutes when we popped out into the twilight.

Opting for the graduate study level of difficulty instead of the Bachelor Basics, we spent the majority of the evening making homemade whole wheat noodles, a spicy Italian sausage ragu and Bechamel sauce. The end goal was homemade lasagne (lasagna is the noodle, lasagne is the dish) and Dawn was the only thing standing between us and delicious, cheesy, possibly mouth-burning decadence.

Bechamel sauce is one of the mother sauces and I had never made it. That needed to change. It is commonly used in lasagne, as well as for Croque Monsieur. It is a white sauce that starts with a roux (butter and flour), then adds milk and a pinch of nutmeg. (Go here for the recipe.) You can use Bechamel as a base for numerous other creamy sauces. Gourmet mac and cheese that beats the blue box is a prime example.

Despite how much as I love cheese and milk, my stomach has developed a more acrimonious relationship. Aiming to assist my innards with processing the lactose super load, we ran to CVS to grab digestive enzymes. As any lactard knows, the lactase assists in breaking down the lactose. Science! I spotted CVS’s enzymes and celebrated that they were on sale. Is there anything better than finding the drug you need is on sale? Being able to digest lactose may trump that joy.

Box in hand, we went to check out and were informed by Dawn that she couldn’t sell me the drugs. Why must I suffer?! I considered telling her about the delicious feast that was waiting for us, possibly extending an invitation. The lactase pills were going to expire in May. I didn’t see why this was a problem. I just wanted my drugs. Is this what it’s like to be a food junkie? I NEED MY LACTASE!

Then, the magic moment happened. She called the manager to see if they had more in the back. In this moment, I flashed back to all the sitcoms and comedies that depicted variations on this situation. Mercifully, I wasn’t seeking diarrhea remedies or an ointment for a stubborn rash. That was last week.

The manager went to their storeroom. Leann and I waited, wondering if the timer had gone off yet. By this point, the entire store learned that I was seeking digestive enzymes. Working through the stages of grief, I considered offering to just take the expiring package and roll the digestive dice. I just need a few pills for today. I have my own stash at home. GIVE ME THE LACTASE! Continue reading Lasagne from Scratch: A Lactard’s Nightmare

Homemade Pizza Recipe that Will Change Your Life

Second

Name one of your friends that doesn’t love pizza.

Exactly.

If there is pizza, it will be eaten. Full disclosure: years ago I was told I’m sensitive to lactose. Not full-on intolerant, but I should proceed with caution before taking down the entire cheese wheel. That hasn’t stopped me from ingesting the Italian precursor to tostadas.

There was a dearth of holiday plans for NYE this year. So, my girlfriend and I invited friends to her casa for some drinks and dinner before going out. Grappling over what to make to feed our friends, we landed on homemade pizzas since we thought it would be the easiest and least time consuming.

The below pizzas–I don’t like calling them pies–were made off the dough recipe in Bon Appetit’s October issue. Their homemade pizza recipe and sauce is also a winner with anchovies as the secret flavor punch.

Life-Changing Pizza Dough from Bon Appetit

  • 1 envelope active dry yeast (about 2¼ tsp.)
  • 2 tablespoons plus ½ cup olive oil, plus more for bowl
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour, divided, plus more for surface

I have long avoided making legit, homemade dough mostly because when I want pizza I can’t wait 4 hours or definitely not 24 hours for dough to rise. Having made this dough twice in the past 5 days, I can vouch that it is doable to make your own pizza and stop relying on delivery or a frozen pizza.

This dough does take a full day to develop its flavors, BUT it only takes about 15 minutes to make. The rest of the time it sits in the fridge. In that time, you could clear your freezer of frozen pizzas bought in moments of weakness. You can also make a double batch of dough and freeze one for a later date.

Tips

  • Use a Kitchen Aid if you have one. It makes this insanely easy.
  • Make a double batch.
  • Be sure to oil the bowl and coat the entire ball of dough before refrigeration (flip it over once the bottom is coated).
  • Get creative.
  • My pizzas only took about 15 minutes instead of the recommended 20-30. So, watch them closely.

Once the dough is done with its day spa in the cooler, you need to get it back to room temperature before trying to stretch it onto a pan. This took at least 30-45 minutes for my double batch of dough. From then on it’s up to you to twirl your mustache and top it with your favorite veggies and meats. I learned one thing when asking for input before topping: a lot of people hate mushrooms.

We made three homemade pizzas on NYE with variations on the below toppings:

  • Onions
  • Red bell pepper
  • Italian Sausage
  • Pepperoni
  • Hot Capicola
  • Cherry tomatoes
  • Fresh basil

Endless possibilities await.

What are your favorite toppings?

Cheap, fast & marginally healthy dinner

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I made pasta sauce Sunday afternoon. It was by no means remarkable. It took about 45 minutes to cook. I started with diced onion, garlic, baby Bella mushrooms and a two cans of crushed tomatoes. Despite all that work, it essentially tasted like a pop-top jar of sauce.

Commuting into the city necessitates making meals ahead on the weekend. Whether that means a soup, sauce, or a bunch of grilled or cooked chicken, any advance cooking sets you up for having healthy meals during the week.

Tonight, I stopped at the grocery after getting off the train. While sprinting down the aisles in my post-work famine/rage, I grabbed one hot Italian sausage link from the butcher, fresh spinach and fruit.

I sliced the sausage link into half-inch pieces to expedite the cooking process. I heated a small skillet with a teaspoon of olive oil. Then add the sliced sausage into the hot pot. That took about six minutes to cook. I then washed and ripped up a handful of spinach. After removing the sausage from the pan, add the spinach to sauté quickly with salt and fresh cracked pepper. I added the leftover pasta with sauce to the pan. Once that was warm, I added in the crispy and spicy sausage.

You could also add grilled or seared chicken breast. Or if you are really fancy, steak. If you are vegetarian and somehow are lost on this blog, you could add in a mix of frozen or fresh veggies like peppers and sliced onion to bulk up and freshen the dish.

The meal with sausage, spinach and pasta cost about $4.

It won’t win any awards, but it will satisfy your hunger on a Wednesday night.
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Secrets to a Perfect Dinner Party

crostini, bruschetta, eggplant, olives, dinner party, entertain

BACON WEEK

So you want to throw a dinner party…

I had been wanting to gather friends for dinner parties for a few years. You can only post recipes and pictures of your creations for so long before a hangry mob requests samples. Tackling the Mealsharing dinner party with Leann taught several lessons. It also prepped me for the eventual showdown on Food Network. You may think it’s easy to just scale your recipes for more people. That works for some dishes. Others require increased planning and maybe even writing things down–something I have an extreme aversion to. For larger dinners it’s imperative to make checklists and think out the approach.

The Appetizers

Make anything that can be made in advance. This time around we had an electric knife to slice the bread evenly. We also had time to prep the bread and rub each slice with a clove of garlic before guests arrived. While I sliced the bread, my sous chef to the stars prepped the four different toppings. (I found the grilled eggplant superior to its oven-roasted counterpart). All the recipes for the toppings came from my grandma’s cousin in Sicily.

Having appetizers ready to go when people arrive buys you time to chat with your friends.

The Main Event

In the span of a few months I have gone from never making carbonara to making it on a weekly basis. It’s a simple and crowd-pleasing dish, especially for carb lovers. To offset the decadence of the dish, we had a salad to put something that won’t add 50 points to your LDL. In a rare moment I failed to photograph the salad.

While it is very fast to make carbonara, the downside is you can’t make it ahead. You can prep the cheese and eggs (best ratio for one pound of pasta is 3 egg yolks & 1 whole egg to 1/2 pound shredded parm), but that’s about all you can make ahead of time. You’ll need 10 minutes to devote to properly marry the piping hot pasta with the creamy egg/cheese/pepper combo.

During those 10 minutes you have to focus. It’s a simple process–drain the noodles, add to egg/cheese/pepper, toss–but you need to do it immediately after draining the pasta to use the heat to cook the raw eggs. After that it’s go time.

Dessert

dessert, tiramisu, espressoAfter buttons were undone and sighs of surrender, we had some limoncello and moved to more accommodating seating to stretch out. If anyone is still awake, feed them this closer to make sure they get home safely. Leann took charge of dessert and crushed it again with her homemade tiramisu.

Recap

  1. Make a list and attack it.
  2. Make anything ahead that can be.
  3. Share the responsibilities. Ask friends to bring wine, salad or a dessert.
  4. Wine and limoncello make everything better.
  5. Find a helper. I lucked out with my sous chef.
  6. Don’t forget to play some music.
  7. Keep it simple and have fun. The dinner party is more about spending time with friends than perfectly executed dishes.