Asian Rice Noodles with Shrimp and Broccolini

In answer to your question... yes, I do seem to be posting quite a few Asian noodle-type recipes lately (like here here here).  And no, I'm not even sorry.  I mean, I did consider apologizing, because I don't want you to think I'm one of those cooks who gets in a rut and doesn't realize how repetitive and boring she's getting.  But then I made this again last night and was immediately convinced that no apologies were needed.  If this is a rut, please let me stay here forever.  And ever.

If truth be told, my palate (LOL!!) is leaning very heavily these days towards Asian flavors, and you know, you gotta cook what inspires you.  Next month it might be Mexican or Indian (I'm in!). But this particular dish has quickly become a regular in our weeknight rotation, not only because of its particular deliciousness, but also because it's just so dang quick and easy to throw together.

It takes only minutes to trim up some broccolini, 3 minutes to cook it and a few minutes to cook some shrimp and soak some rice noodles.  The sauce is just a few easy ingredients. And I promise you, dinner is ready in 20 minutes total.

If you've never cooked with rice noodles before, nothing could be easier and they're gluten free and soak up sauce like nobody's business and that makes them super flavorful, and I hope I've done my job convincing you to get this made.  But one word of advice... double the recipe.  Although the recipe says it will serve 3 or 4, it will easily feed 2, but will leave 4 people sad and hungry for more. Here's the recipe...

Asian Rice Noodles with Shrimp and Broccolini

Click here for a printable recipe

I made a few changes from the original recipe that I got from The Kitchn website, which included reducing the fish sauce and increasing the soy sauce and replacing lemon juice with lime juice.  I made a few other changes as well, but you can see the original recipe here.  As I mentioned in the blog post, if you are feeding 4 people, you will want to double this recipe.  If you do happen to have leftovers, they're ever so great for lunch.  P.S.  The last time I made it I threw in some langostinos that I had in the freezer and that was heavenly!

Adapted from The Kitchn

Serves 3 to 4 (but not really)

1 bunch Broccolini (about 6 ounces), trimmed and cut into 2-inch pieces
8 ounces thin, flat, dried rice noodles (see Recipe Notes)
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
8 ounces large uncooked shrimp (26/30 count), peeled and cleaned
1 clove garlic, minced
2 teaspoons fish sauce
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice
1 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce or tamari
2 teaspoons (or to taste) Asian chile-garlic paste, such as sambal oelek (I like go-chu-jang)
1 tablespoon coarsely chopped fresh cilantro

Cook/soak the rice noodles according to the package directions, about 8-10 minutes.  Drain and rinse briefly with cold water to keep it from sticking.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the Broccolini and cook until crisp-tender, about 3 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the Broccolini to a large plate.

Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large nonstick frying pan or wok over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the shrimp, season with salt, and sauté until just pink and almost cooked through, about 3 minutes. Transfer to the plate with the Broccolini. Drain the rice noodles.

In a small bowl, jar or measuring cup, combine the sauce ingredients and set aside.

Heat the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil in the pan over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the cooked, drained noodles, the broccolini, shrimp and sauce ingredients. Mix everything together really well and then remove from the heat, cover and let sit for a few minutes to let the noodles absorb the sauce.  Give it all another good stir and serve with a sprinkling of cilantro.

The Easiest No Knead Bread Yet!

We've got a good news/bad news kind of post today.  So let's start with the good news, shall we? OK, the good news is sort of self-evident.  Homemade bread coming out of your very own oven is now easier than it's ever been.  I mean it's as easy as it's ever going to be until such time as they can figure out a dough that will form itself into loaves and hop into the oven on its own.  Most definitely good news.

The bad news?  Well, the bad news is only for those of you who have been ambivalent about making homemade bread and used the difficulty level as the reason to resist.  This excuse will no longer be acceptable.  Sorry.  It looks like you're either going to have to pull out your flour bin or find a new excuse because the difficulty level here is way down in the easy category. Way down. For those who love homemade bread, but have no interest in making it yourself, then find a good friend or relative who likes to bake and maybe share this one with them because not only are we talking easy, but this is some good bread!  Yes, we're calling it delicious.

So how easy it it?  Well, if you can stir or mix a batter, then you can make this bread.  But before we talk about just dumping everything in the bowl and mixing, I thought we'd have a short chat about the best way to measure ingredients (for any kind of baking).  The good news is that the best most precise way to measure is also the easiest and least messy.  Yay!!  I love using a kitchen scale which means I don't have to dirty measuring cups and spoons and there's no wondering if you've measured correctly.  The scale does all of the work for you.  If you haven't used one before, this is how it works...

You're just going to place your bowl on the scale, press the "tare" button and that will zero out the weight.  Now you can add your flour..

After adding the flour (32 oz in this case), just press "tare" again which will zero out the weight, add water (24 oz) and then hit the "tare" button again.  Continue this process adding the salt and the yeast and then you'll have all of your ingredients precisely measured and there will be only one bowl to wash!  Don't you love it?  The problem is that there aren't too many recipes which give you measurements by weight as opposed to volume, but there are lots of apps and websites that will do that for you.  I love the "kitchen scale" app.  It will convert measurements from volume to weight and vice versa - super easy to use!

So once you've got your ingredients all measured, you're just going to get them all mixed and then let your dough rise for an hour or two (or not) and then stick it in the fridge. When you're ready to make a loaf of bread, grab a hunk, plop it on your baking sheet, let it rise and bake.  OK, there are a few more little things to do in there, but that really is pretty much it.

As you can see from that very dull photo there on the left, this is a fairly wet dough.  But no worries, cuz you're not going to have to knead it!  Yay!  

After the dough sits out for an hour or so, it will look like that photo on the left.  That's when you can just stick it in the fridge and leave it.  I mean, really, just leave it.  I've left it for 10 days and made beautiful bread with it. When you remove it from the fridge, it will look like the photo on the right. See those gluten strands?  Cool, huh?  And you didn't even knead.

Depending on how many loaves of bread you would like to make (this recipe makes 3 nice-sized loaves), get some flour on your hands and grab a hunk of dough, about 1/3 if you want to just make 1 loaf.  Then form it into a ball or a baguette shape by rolling or patting or whatever method suits your style.  No need for precision here.  Then sprinkle them with a little flour...

Since this is a rather wet dough, the loaves will tend to spread outward as they rise, which is fine for the loaf on the left.  I sort of wanted my baguette-shaped loaf to rise up rather than out, so here's a nifty little trick to take care of that problem...

no knead bread 2760.jpg

Place a rolled-up towel on each side of the dough under the parchment paper. This will provide a little support on the sides and your loaf won't be quite as eager to flatten as it rises.

For the round loaf, I found that placing a large glass bowl over the loaf as it was rising kept it from drying out and produced a really nice crust after it baked.

Let your dough rise for at least 2 hours, but I found that there are times when it needed close to 3 hours.  This will depend on your room temperature.   The original recipe from King Arthur said to let it rise 1 hour, but my first loaf was way under-proofed at that point.  After your dough has risen, use a very sharp knife or razor blade to slash the dough.  You'll do better than I did here...

It doesn't actually matter what your loaves look like before they go in the oven because they will come out looking delicious.

And they'll taste even better...

I love it when my bread produces large holes like that.  It means that it had plenty of time to rise and baked all the way through in the oven.  Don't be tempted to take your bread out of the oven too soon.  Let it go until the crust is as dark as you can stand it.  

So there you have it, a perfectly lovely loaf of bread just waiting for you to slather it with butter or make yourself the perfect sandwich.  But just don't say it's too difficult.  That train's left the station.  Here's the recipe...

The Easiest No-Knead Bread Yet!

Recipe adapted from King Arthur Flour

Click here for a printable recipe

This really is perhaps the easiest way to make beautiful homemade bread yet.  Make a batch of dough and stick it in the fridge for a few days.  When you're ready to make a loaf or two, just grab as much dough as you want and leave the rest to continue to ferment in the refrigerator.  The longer it sits, the more flavor it develops!  I haven't taken this any longer than 10 days, so beyond that, I'm not sure how the dough will hold up.  I suggest you use a scale to measure your ingredients which makes the measuring much more precise (and easier too!).

If measuring by volume:
3 cups water (see note below)
7 cups all purpose flour
1 tablespoon salt
1 1/2 tablespoons instant or active dry yeast

If using a scale:
24 ounces water (see note below)
32 ounces all-purpose flour
1/2 ounce salt
1/2 ounce instant or active dry yeast

Note:  If using active dry yeast, use lukewarm water; if using instant yeast, use room temperature water

Directions (they might seem lengthy, but every step is super easy!)

Combine all of the ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Mix and stir everything together to make a very sticky, rough dough. If you have a stand mixer, beat at medium speed with the beater blade for 30 to 60 seconds. If you don't have a mixer, just stir-stir-stir with a big spoon or dough whisk until everything is combined.

Cover the bowl, and let the dough rise at room temperature for 2 hours. Then refrigerate it for at least 2 hours, or for up to about 7 days. (If you're pressed for time, skip the room-temperature rise, and stick it right into the fridge). The longer you keep it in the fridge, the tangier it'll get; if you chill it for 7 days, it will taste like sourdough. Over the course of the first day or so, it'll rise, then fall. That's OK; that's what it's supposed to do.

When you're ready to make bread, sprinkle the top of the dough with flour; this will make it easier to grab a hunk. Grease your hands, and pull off about 1/4 to 1/3 of the dough — a 14-ounce to 19-ounce piece, if you have a scale. It'll be about the size of a softball, or a large grapefruit.

Plop the sticky dough onto a floured work surface, and round it into a ball, or a longer log. Don't fuss around trying to make it perfect; just do the best you can. (see note below)

Place the loaf on a piece of parchment (if you're going to use a baking stone); or onto a lightly greased or parchment-lined baking sheet. Sift a light coating of flour over the top; this will help keep the bread moist as it rests before baking.

Let the loaf warm to room temperature and rise; this should take at least 60 minutes (or longer, up to a couple of hours, if your house is cool - it took a full 2 hours for mine to come to room temperature and then I let it go another 30 minutes to finish rising). It won't appear to rise upwards that much; rather, it'll seem to settle and expand (see note below). 

Preheat your oven to 450°F while the loaf rests. If you're using a baking stone, position it on a middle rack while the oven preheats. Place a shallow metal or cast iron pan (not glass, Pyrex, or ceramic) on the lowest oven rack, and have 1 cup of hot water ready to go.  (If I'm just baking one loaf, I turn my cast iron pan upside down in the oven and bake on that._

When you're ready to bake, take a sharp knife and slash the bread 2 or 3 times, making a cut about 1/2" deep. The bread may deflate a bit; that's OK, it'll pick right up in the hot oven.

Place the bread in the oven — onto the baking stone, if you're using one, or simply onto a middle rack, if it's on a pan — and carefully pour the 1 cup hot water into the shallow pan on the rack beneath. It'll bubble and steam; close the oven door quickly.

Bake the bread for 25 to 35 minutes, until it's a deep, golden brown. (It took mine closer to 45 minutes to cook in my conventional oven)

Remove the bread from the oven, and cool it on a rack. Store leftover bread in a plastic bag at room temperature.

Note:  If making a baguette, you can help it keep its shape while rising by placing a rolled towel under the parchment paper on each side of the baguette.  You can refer to the blog post for a pictorial description of this.


Zucchini Bread?

Seriously?  <Insert yawning emoji here>  Zucchini bread?  That's all you've got?  This is what's playing through my head right now because I'm not sure there's any food item more pedestrian that I could have chosen to put out there.  Well, maybe besides banana bread, which, yes, I've done that one too.

If truth be told, I've never been all that impressed with zucchini bread.  It's not that I don't like it, it's more that it's been done.  Everywhere by everyone.  So with 7,500 recipes to choose from, why on earth would you even still be reading this?  (but glad you are).

There are actually 2 reasons why zucchini bread is showing up here, the first being an abundance of zucchini in my fridge.  I will admit to a sort of weakness where zucchini is concerned, especially this time of year when it's at its peak, so I had quite a lot of it in the veggie bin.  And then my son and daughter-in-law brought me some from their garden.  So yeah, zucchini bread sort of came to mind. 

 Of course, I've made it before, and have a few recipes stashed away, but here's the thing... most zucchini breads aren't actually all that good for you, with copious amounts of oil and sugar which almost sort of cancels out the health benefits of zucchini. So I wanted to do something about that, which leads me to the second reason for posting this... taking on the challenge of making it just a little healthier without compromising flavor and texture.

Without boring you any more than you might already be, suffice to say, I'm pretty happy about how this turned out... moist, great flavor, awesome texture and definitely a little better for you.

A couple of ways I did this was to up the amount of grated zucchini - we're using a whole 4 cups of it.  

Then I reduced the overall amount of oil and replaced some of that with applesauce and then subbed out part of the white sugar for brown which added depth of flavor and boy howdy, did it ever come out great!

So there you go, people.  I've done my part for you fellow zucchini lovers out there... a zucchini bread that needs no apologies.  And now that we've lightened it up a bit, you can feel better about slathering it with cream cheese.  Here's the recipe...

Sort of Lightened up Zucchini Bread

Click here for a printable recipe

This makes a very moist, flavorful zucchini bread, partly because we’re using 4 whole cups of grated zucchini.  To get the excess moisture out of it, I use a flour sack towel (or any thin kitchen towel will work and place the zucchini in the towel.  Pull up the ends of the towel and squeeze until you think you’ve gotten it pretty dry. Also, note that I used a sort of smallish size loaf pan.  If you only have larger ones, just reduce the cooking time to about 30-35 minutes.  I know it says that the nuts and raisins are optional, but it’s just not zucchini bread without them.  :) 

4 cups grated fresh zucchini (from 2- 3 medium-sized squash)
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/2 to 2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 eggs, beaten
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup coconut oil (melted) or vegetable oil
1/3 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 cup walnuts (optional)
1 cup raisins (optional, but not really)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and spray (2) 8 1/2 x 4 1/2 -inch loaf pans with cooking spray.  Note:  these are a little smaller than your standard loaf pan.

Place your grated zucchini in a thin kitchen towel and squeeze out any and all excess moisture from the zucchini.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, and ground nutmeg.

In another large bowl, whisk together the sugars, eggs, vanilla extract. Stir in the drained, grated zucchini, the oil and applesauce.

Add the flour mixture, a third at a time, to the sugar egg zucchini mixture, stirring after each incorporation. Fold in the nuts and raisins. 

Divide the batter equally between the loaf pans. Bake for 45 minutes or until a tester inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool in pans for 10 minutes. Turn out onto wire racks to cool thoroughly.

Pasta with Zucchini, Bacon and Goat Cheese

The last and final leg of the kitchen remodel is nearing completion, and as I sit here fondly reminiscing about how good this pasta was, my musings are rudely disrupted by fumes from the newly-applied finish on the floors.  We've got 2 more days of this and I'm still trying to decide if it's worse or better than the dust from all of the sanding.  I think we've agreed that none of it's all that pleasant.  The Husband has done it all himself and I think it's fair to say that the only thing that sounds better to him is a day that doesn’t involve bending over wood floors.

There’s no easy segue from that to telling you about this most awesome pasta dish, except to say that it involves very, very pleasant aromas;  that is, if you’re partial to the smell of bacon cooking. Lots of bacon.  Of course, there's lots of zucchini too, which is always a good thing this time of year, but bacon, people.  It's a simple recipe to put together with a minimal number of ingredients which makes this very doable on a busy weeknight.  

Perhaps what I love most about this pasta is that it's lightly sort of creamy without being rich and heavy, owing to the bit of goat cheese that gets stirred into the pan at the end.  And if you want to add a little more than 3 ounces, I won't judge.  The goat cheese adds creaminess but also a sort of brightness that only goat cheese can bring to the party.

This is good stuff, you guys.  But of course you probably already figured that out as it wouldn't otherwise be showing up here.  So grab your bacon; here's the recipe...

P.S.  The floors are now finished and beautiful and the kitchen is officially done.  Oh, the joy!

Pasta with Zucchini, Bacon and Goat Cheese

Click here for a printable recipe

Recipe adapted from The Kitchn
Serves 2 to 3 generously

4 to 5 slices of bacon (see note below)
1/2 yellow onion, sliced thinly (I used 2 shallots)
1/2 pound short pasta like gamelli, penne, cavatappi, farfalle, fusilli or ziti
2 medium zucchinis, thinly sliced
3 ounces goat cheese
small handful of fresh basil leaves, sliced into ribbons
salt and pepper
Grated Parmesan for serving

Note:  I used turkey bacon which I cooked in 3 tablespoons of olive oil over medium high heat until semi crispy.  This had the added benefit of infusing the olive oil with yummy bacon flavor.

Cook the bacon in a large skillet (you'll be adding all of the pasta to this skillet later) until crispy. Remove, and let drain on paper towels. Add the onion to the bacon grease, season with salt and pepper, and cook on medium-low heat until very soft and beginning to brown, about 15 minutes.

While the onion is cooking, bring a pot of salted water to boil for the pasta. Add the pasta and cook until just al dente. Add the squash to the onion, season with salt and pepper, and cook until tender, about 5 minutes. If the pan gets dry, add a splash of olive oil.

Scoop out 1/2 cup of the pasta water, set aside, then drain the pasta and add to the pot with the squash and onions. Crumble the goat cheese on top and stir until it is distributed throughout the pasta, drizzling in the pasta water to help make the sauce creamy.

Crumble the bacon over the top, add the basil, and season to taste.  Serve with lots of freshly grated Parmesan cheese at the table.

What's Cookin'?

In case you haven't seen the little blurb I wrote last week in the sidebar over there, I've launched a new page on the website called "What's Cookin?"  It pretty much chronicles what I'm working on in the kitchen, whether it be a new recipe I'm testing or dinner that night or whatever I might be doing in the kitchen that day.  Why I think this might be interesting to you, I have no idea.

But the main reason I've been wanting to do something like this is because I often pull recipes from past posts to make for us.  Some of these are old favorites that you might not know about and some of them might be updated versions of older recipes.  Of course, often it will be a preview of a new recipe, good or bad, but I like the idea of staying in touch with you on a daily basis.  So check in often and see what's cookin'!!