Archive for category Cooking

Cooking with RnR: Tortellini with Italian Sausage, Fennel, and Mushroom

Two in a row?? Don’t get used to this, it’s definitely a fluke!

This is one of those instances where I stick to the recipe and only deviate by adding slightly as opposed to re-working large portions of it. The recipe is Tortellini with Italian Sausage, Fennel, and Mushroom, once again from Epicurious.

Additions to the original recipe:

  • Added 1/2 cup of cooking sherry/dry white wine (Tio Pepe). I have experimented in the past with using cooking sherry in a cream sauce, and I thought that it would be a good combo here. Also, the sweetness of the wine works well in contrast with the spicy Italian sausage
  • Go with the fresh tortellini as opposed to the dried

On this one, stick to the recipe and add the sherry before you add the cream to let some of the alcohol burn off. You can get fancy and light the thing with a long match if you so choose, but that’s up to you and your home owner’s insurance policy coverage! 😉

How it comes out:
DELICIOUS! A very hearty dish, with excellent flavor. The fennel seeds, the muted anise flavor, the spicy sausage….it all works very well. Go crazy with the Parmesan cheese as well….I had to grate more because I used the entire fist batch when prepping. 😉

The heartiness and spice to this make it an excellent dish to warm you up on a chilly winter night. I would suggest pairing it with a semi-fruity white wine, if one is so inclined.

UPDATE: Sentence edit for clarity

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Cooking with RnR: Apricot Chicken with Almonds

Welcome to another edition of Cooking with RnR.

Yes, it has been a long time. I blame apathy and the fact that as a traveling tech consultant, I’m not home often enough to experiment. As luck would have it though, I was able to work from home for a few days and was able to cook some good meals.

For this post, I will be talking about my version of an Apricot Chicken with Almonds recipe I found on Epicurious.

As with many recipes I have encountered, there are some changes that were made to accomodate what I was in the mood for cooking wise, and what resources I have at my disposal.

Let us begin!

Changes from the orginal recipe:

  • Used boneless/skinless chicken thighs, cut into pieces.
  • Cooked the chicken in a pan, until just about done and then added the sauce.


  • 1 1/2lbs (approx 2 pkgs) skinless boneless chicken thighs, cut into pieces (~ 1 inch)
  • 5/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/3 cup sliced almonds
  • 1/2 cup apricot preserves
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon whole-grain mustard
  • 1 tablespoon salted butter


  • Cook apricot preserves, soy sauce, mustard, butter, salt and pepper in a small saucepan over moderate heat, stirring, until preserves are melted. Set aside.
  • Take the shaved almonds and toast them in another pan over medium heat, until they begin to brown and become aromatic. Be careful not to burn them. Set aside on small plate to cool.
  • In a large skillet, heat some olive oil up and start cooking the chicken. I added Adobe, garlic powder, and onion powder. The sauce in this dish has a rich flavor, but with chicken, I always like to add just a bit of flavor while it cooks.
  • As the chicken is just about cooked, begin spooning sauce into the pan and stirring to coat. It is up to you on how much you end up using, so taste as you go.
  • Upon plating of the chicken, sprinkle some of the toasted shaved almonds on top.

How it comes out:
The sauce is AMAZING! The soy sauce and mustard add a nice savory flavor to it, while the sweetness of the apricot preserve adds another layer of depth to it. I plan on trying the sauce out on fish and possibly pork at some point as well.

Since I have not really delved into the world of the boiler as of yet, I cannot compare to the original, although I mean to try at some point. As mentioned above, the sauce is the best part of this dish, and I plan on expanding it’s use. Served over rice, this dish makes an excellent meal.

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Cooking with R&R: Angel Hair Pasta with Tomato and Onion Marinara

Credit for this dish can go to the Wife, as she came up with this originally.


  • 1 large Onion, diced
  • 1 can diced Tomatoes
  • 1/2 pkg of Angel Hair Pasta
  • 2 cloves of garlic minced, or 2 heaping tbsp of minced garlic
  • 1 stick of butter (this is the killer, 😉 )


  • In a small pan over medium heat, cook the onions in some olive oil until they are just about translucent
  • Add the garlic, and saute for a few more minutes
  • Add the butter
  • Add the can of diced tomatoes
  • Add salt, pepper, garlic powder, and onion powder to taste
  • Cover, turn heat to low and let simmer lightly
  • Cook the pasta as you would, boiling water, add some salt, cook until al dente, you know the drill

Once the pasta is cooked, take some and put it in a bowl, spooning the sauce over top. Garnish with freshly grated Parmesan cheese.

How it comes out:
DELICIOUS!! (see a trend forming here? 😉 )

Final Thoughts:
A simple and quick dish for those nights when you don’t want to go to crazy. A buttery take on a simple marinara sauce, that adds a different flavor and texture to a traditional dish.

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Cooking with R&R: Caramelized Panchetta and Fennel Salad

This is one of those recipes that start one way and inevitably change into something a bit different. The original can be found here. I was trying to find something more interesting to do with salad. This sounded good and Giada….well it’s Giada! 😉

When I made it by following the recipe it came out alright, but it wasn’t quite what I was looking for. The Wife enjoyed it as well, and after we spoke about it, we decided to try some changes. Basically we did the following:

  • Increased the amount of Panchetta
  • Diced the fennel
  • Added pine nuts
  • Used Balsamic Vinegar in the dressing instead of Red Wine Vinegar
  • Used 7oz of salad greens instead of 5oz. I usually use Baby Arugula

These changes, in both our opinions, made the dish better.

Here is how to make my version of Caramelized Panchetta and Fennel Salad. Makes 4-6 Servings


    For the Caramelized Panchetta and Fennel:

  • 1/2lb sliced Panchetta
  • 1 large or 2 small Fennel bulbs
  • 2 tbsp Brown Sugar
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced (I usually use 2 heaping tbsp of minced garlic from a jar)
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/8 freshly ground pepper
  • 1 tbsp Olive Oil
    For the dressing:

  • 1/2 tsp of honey
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp freshly ground pepper
  • 1 tbsp Lime Juice
  • 2 tbsp Balsamic Vinegar
  • 1/4 cup Olive Oil
    Other Ingrediants

  • 1 Package of Greens or 7oz fresh greens
  • 1 package of pine nuts (about 5-6oz)
  • Shaved Parmesan


    Fennel and Panchetta

  1. Set your oven to 450 degrees
  2. Dice the fennel
  3. Add the fennel, salt, pepper, garlic, brown sugar into a bowl
  4. Now, shred the panchetta and add it to the bowl
  5. Add the tbsp of olive oil, and stir it all together
  6. Spread the mixture on a tinfoil covered baking sheet. The panchetta pieces WILL bunch up, so break up the bunches by hand
  7. Cook for 20-22 minutes
  8. While the mixture is cooking, roast the pine nuts in a pan until lightly brown. Set aside on a plate to cool.
  9. Once the panchetta/fennel mixture is finished, let stand for 5 minutes

  1. Add the honey, salt, pepper, lemon juice, and vinegar to a bowl
  2. While mixing, add the 1/4 cup of olive oil until you have an emulsion

Once everything is ready, add the salad greens, roasted pine nuts, panchetta/fennel mixture, and dressing to a large salad bowl. Mix together and serve with the parmesan shavings on top.

How it comes out

Final Comments
This dish, which can be a side or a main course, is a many layered flavor experience. The carmalization of the panchetta using the brown sugar makes a sweet/savory combo. The cooking of the fennel cuts the anise flavor from overpowering, to a wonderful accent. The woody flavor of the pine nuts, the peppery flavor of the arugula, and the wonderful flavor of the dressing help to make this a truly delicious and easy to make salad for any occasion.

And once again, a tip of the hat to Giada, who’s recipe formed the basis of my version.

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Cooking with R&R – The Knife

This isn’t a cooking recipe as much as a cool breakdown of the chef’s most essential tool, the knife.

Here is the link from Gizmodo. It’s a good read.

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Cooking with R&R: Chicken and Rice

It has been a while since we had a good ‘Cooking with R&R’ post. I had actually meant to do this one in the beginning along with the others. But alas, my laziness got the better of me and I just didn’t do it! 😉

But I have found a renewed vigor, and have committed to finishing this post which has languished unpublished for so very long! (See the fancy words in that sentence….it means I’m serious!)

Here we go, a quick and easy chicken & rice dinner!

For Rice
1 Cup of Jasmine Rice
1 teaspoon of salt
1 and 1/2 cups boiling water
For Chicken
5 -8 Chicken Thighs
Celery Salt
Adobe (no pepper) Seasoning
Onion Powder
Garlic Powder
Freshly Ground Pepper
Olive Oil
1 QT saute pan for the rice (stainless steel preferably)
1 large skillet for the chicken

For the Rice:

  • In a saute pan (that you have a lid for) coat the bottom with cooking oil. I use canola.
  • Pour in rice. I use jasmine as we prefer it. You can use whatever you like, but you’ll have to keep an eye on it to make sure it cooks right
  • Add the salt and stir
  • In a micorwave safe container or cup, put the 1 and 1/2 cups of water and microwave on high for 2 minutes
  • Turn on burner to medium high
  • Stir rice until a portion of the grains start to turn chalky
  • Add in the now HOT water
    • WARNING: The water will boil instantly upon pouring it into the pan so be VERY CAREFUL!!
  • Let simmer until you can ALMOST see the rice, stirring regularly
  • Cover with lid and turning heat to low
  • Let cook 15 minutes
    • NOTE: I usually cook it in increments of 7 and 1/2 mintues checking by tasting at the halfway mark only because an older gas range I had seemed to power cook the rice and have it done in half the time. My current range does not do this, however it has now become habit for me to do it this way 😉 !
  • Once cooked to your liking, take the lid off and fluff with fork
  • If you so choose, from here you can make what Dominicans call ‘Con Con’.
    • DO NOT DO THIS IF YOU USED A NON-STICK PAN!! You’ll obviously ruin the non-stick coating if you scrap it with a metal spoon! 😉
    • This is rice that has been left at the bottom of the pan and cooked to a crispy consistency. All you have to do is fluff everything but what is stuck to the bottom of the pan. Leave the pan on the burner at it’s lowest setting for another 5 to 10 minutes. Once that is done, transfer the cooked rice to another bowl, grab a spoon and scrape the rice off of the bottom of the pan. Serve at the table in a separate bowl for those who like it to eat it. The Wife LOVES the stuff 😉

For the Chicken:

  • I usually use 5 to 8 chicken thighs in this recipe. Although fattier then breasts (giggity) I prefer the taste. Your mileage may vary!
  • Spread them out on a plate and season one side
  • In a large skillet, get some Olive Oil warmed up
  • Once hot, place the chicken seasoned side down in the pan
  • Repeat seasoning on unseasoned side
  • Once browned, flip
  • Once thoroughly cooked, serve with the rice

How it comes out:
DELICIOUS! (see a theme here? 😉 )

From here it all depends on your personal choice. I usually serve 1 to 2 pieces with rice on the side. You may choose to serve the chicken on the rice, and you can even squeeze some fresh lime juice on it if you want. It’s quick and easy and of course feel free to change spices to your tastes. Enjoy!

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Cooking with R&R: Sausage, Spinach & Pasta ‘Swill’

This dish was ‘invented’ by my mother. It was created around the time I was finishing high school, my brother was finishing grade school and my sister was ALWAYS doing something. The whole lot of us would never be home at the same time for a real dinner. She would make this ahead of time and leave it on the stove for everyone to grab a bowl when they had a chance. It also keeps well for a few days in the fridge. This dish is quick and can be made in 15-30 minutes.

1 Package Hot Italian Sausage (5 links)
1 Package Frozen Spinach (box or bag)
1 Package Tri Color Fusilli Pasta (spirals)
1 Can (14 oz) Chicken or Beef Stock
2 tbsp Minced Garlic (heaping)
Garlic Powder
Onion Powder
Olive Oil
Large skillet about 2 inches in depth.
2-4 quart pot boiling water


  1. Put some olive oil into the skillet
  2. Fill the pot with water, add some pinches of kosher salt and start it boiling
  3. Take the skin off of the sausage, and then cut/break into pieces. I can usually get 5 to 6 pieces per sausage link. Put the pieces into the skillet
  4. Sprinkle the pieces liberally with the garlic and onion powder
  5. Turn to med high and begin to brown
  6. Once the sausage begins to brown, drop in the minced garlic
  7. Once completely browned, add in the spinach
  8. Once the spinach begins to thaw and turn dark green, add the stock
  9. Once again sprinkle liberally with garlic and onion powder
  10. When the mixture begins to simmer, turn the heat down to med low
  11. At this point the water should be boiling so add the pasta
  12. Cook pasta until just al dente
  13. Drain the pasta and return to pot
  14. At this point, combine the pasta and the sausage/spinach mixture
  15. Serve in bowls with a good helping of freshly grated Parmesan Cheese on top

How it comes out:

Final Thoughts:
This dish, with the spicy sausage and the heartiness of seasoned stock, makes for a good winter dish to help warm you up at the end of a cold day. Add to the fact that the dish can be made quickly, it makes a great last minute ‘what’s for dinner’ idea. I highly recommend this.


Cooking with R&R: The College Years

I would say that my college years were not the best time for my culinary training. Institutionalized food and greasy burger joints do not a taste bud make. However, there are still some dishes that bring back memories of better, less stressful times. Here are two examples.

I never actually made this but I did have the pleasure of trying it: The Garbage Plate
It’s a Rochester favorite and is highly recommended to be consumed between the hours of 2am and 4am after some heavy drinking.

And then there is

Train Wreck
When in college I was a member of a fraternity. As part of the membership ‘privileges’, every Saturday morning before our noon house meeting we would clean the house. No, really, we did clean ….stop laughing…seriously STOP laughing!
As payment for doing this, lunch was made for all the members. Most of the time (re: ALL of the time) it consisted of a ‘goulash’ type dish that was lovingly dubbed Train Wreck. I contacted one of the brothers who was the Steward at the time I was there and thus in charge of creating this culinary masterpiece for us while we slaved away our hangovers trying to clean (SERIOUSLY, STOP LAUGHING!!!). So without further ado, i present to you the recipe for Train Wreck, compiled in its entirety by Nili Monster, aka Mostu:
Read the rest of this entry »

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Cooking with R&R: Tilapia

This is a dish that was given to me by the secretary I worked with on a consulting gig while in Dallas. Her boyfriend used to make this on a regular basis and she gave me the recipe after raving about it to me. It can be used with almost any fish, but I use Tilapia.

I usually bake this (for lack of a grill) but it can be done on the grill as well. Once I do procure myself a grill, I will test it out.

4 Tilapia Fillets
4 tbsp Butter
1 tsp Lemon Juice
Garlic Powder
Tony Chachere’s Creole Seasoning
Freshly Ground Pepper

  1. Set your Oven to 450°
  2. Spray a glass baking dish with Pam and place the Tilipia Fillets in it.
  3. In a small sauce pan, begin melting the butter. Once it is mostly melted, and before it boils, add the lime juice.
  4. Pour the mixture over the Tilapia, covering the surface of each fillet as much as possible.
  5. Sprinkle the seasonings over each fillet
  6. Place the dish in the oven, uncovered, for about 12-15mins.

For my oven (the tiny apartement gas stove) I usually have to go the whole 15 as it has issues getting upto 450° and staying there. For you rich suburbanites out there, things should be ready in 12 minutes.

Serve with the side of your choice. My reccommendations:

How it comes out:

Final Thoughts:
I like butter, so sometimes I make it a bit more buttery. I tend to increase the lime juice in this case as well. Usually end up using a whole lime. Half of it in the butter sauce and the other have on the final product after plating.

I also enjoy my seasoning, so I always go heavy on the Garlic Powder. Not too heavy on the Creole seasoning as it contains salt, but i tend to give it a good dusting.

Your tastes and mileage may vary.

Hope you Enjoy it!

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Cooking with R&R

I have decided to add a new category to my site called Cooking. I will attempt to outline several of the rather delicious meals that I prepare, plus share with you new recipes, tips and tricks, and any other culinary tidbits I may want to share. It’ll be like Food Network, without the hot chicks and the dirty old lady.

On a side note, have you ever really LISTENED to Paula Deen talk?? It’s so naughty! I sometimes have to turn her show off because I feel wrong listening to her say those things!

Moving on…..I’ll begin by listing what I made last night for dinner, how and what I changed about it, how it came out, and what I might do different in the future.

Chicken Saute with Green Olive Topping Served With Sauteed fresh Green Beans and Shaved Almonds

Changes from the listed recipe:

  1. I used boneless, skinless chicken thighs instead of breasts. The Wife and I like the flavor of the thighs better, even though they are a bit less healthy than chicken breast. (mmmmm fatty goodness)
  2. By accident, I used a tablespoon of Lemon Zest when it called for a teaspoon.
  3. I added Garlic Powder and Onion Powder to the chicken along with the Cumin and Cayenne Pepper.

How It Came Out:
The verdict on this was a general ‘It was OK’ from both the Wife and myself. I thought it lacked a bit of flavor and the cayenne was a bit much. The Wife said the lemon flavor was overwhelming to her, but that was my fault anyway. Also, our place smells like Body Odor from the Cumin.

How I would change it:
Since I thought it lacked flavor, I am thinking that I’d cut out the Cumin and Cayenne completely and go with my standard chicken flavoring routine (Celery Salt, Adobo(No Pepper), Onion Powder, Garlic Powder, and Freshly Ground Pepper). I would also add some almonds to the topping. Since they were present with the Green beans, I had the chance to mix them in with the chicken and the topping while eating, and it really did taste good!

There you go. I suggest trying the recipe first and seeing what you think before getting all crazy. Unless you want to get all crazy, then by all means, have it it!