Let's Keep It Simple Silly... the rule for Bow Tie Pasta and Broccoli

The simpliest dishes with fewest ingredients are often the best and most satisfying of all. Bow Tie Pasta and Broccoli melange is no exception. In its simplicity, it will satisfy vegetarians and meat eaters alike. Let's not forget the healthy food aspect either, being low in fat and cholesterol, rich in vitamins and minerals, and just about right in calories. Whether presented as a main course sprinkled with grated cheese or a side dish with baked fish or chicken, pasta and broccoli will feel well at home. Begin with the following ingredients for 4 to 6 servings:

16 oz. of dry bow tie pasta
16 oz. of broccoli, cut into flowerettes
4 garlic cloves, peeled and semi crushes
4 tablespoons of olive oil
1 teaspoon of dried basil
salt and pepper to taste

The Perfect Broccoli

There is a fool proof way of cooking broccoli to perfection and it's not boiling or steaming. Both of those methods, which I have used, require that you keep a good eye on the pot, making sure that you don't overdo it, leaving the vegetable just a bit too mushy for this dish. Believe it or not, I use the microwave oven to make the perfect al dente broccoli. In a microwave dish, add the broccoli, 4 tablespoons of water, some salt and pepper, and cover with a wet paper towel. Microwave on high for 3 minutes and leave it in the micro for a few minutes before using. You will have a perfectly cooked broccoli that will not be mushy or water logged, perfect for tossing with pasta.

Garlic Infused Olive Oil

Heat the olive oil in a pan over medium low heat. You don't want it to smoke. Now add the crushed garlic cloves and allow them to slow cook for several minutes. You want to make sure you use fresh garlic cloves for this. Once the garlic has developed a light golden color, remove it from the oil and set the pan aside. Add to the oil, the basil, salt and pepper, and stir well. You will get a lightly infused oil of garlic and basil aromas that you will toss with the bow tie pasta.

...and now the Bow Tie Pasta

In a large pot, add water to the 3/4 level and 1 tablespoon of salt. Bring water to a boil over high heat. Once water boils vigorously, add 16 oz. of pasta and bring back to a boil. Do not add oil because we want the infused olive oil to bind well to the pasta. Allow pasta to boil semi covered for about 8 minutes and then check for doneness. You want it to be al dente so that the bow ties don't break up when tossed. Pasta that is too done is just not right for this (or for any dish for that matter). If not quite done, continue boiling for another minute. Different pastas have various cooking times, i.e., bow tie will cook faster than large penne, angel hair cooks quicker than linguini. Be sure to stir the pasta around while boiling so that nothing sticks to the bottom. When done, drain the pasta, but DO NOT RINSE! Rinsing takes the starch coating off the pasta and will not allow the olive oil to coat or adhere well.

Putting It All Together

In a large bowl, add the pasta, then the broccoli, crushed black pepper, and finally drizzle the infused olive oil over the top. Toss gently and taste for flavor. Add a bit more salt and pepper if you need. If you want, add some grated Parm or Gruyere and toss again. If you like, you may also toss a couple of tablespoons of melted butter for added richness. Serve hot.

A variation of this is to add sauteed mushrooms instead of broccoli. The flavors are wonderful and simply add a whole new element to the flavors. For you meat eaters out there, this variation works incredible with a nice pan fried Filet of Beef or Sirloin. Clense the palette before dessert with a nice tossed salad of mixed baby greens in a light olive oil and rice vinegar dressing.

Curry Chicken of 20 Cloves is sure to appeal to the indifferent ones

If you are a curry dish lover, this will certainly be of interest to you. Curry Chicken of 20 Cloves will also appeal to those that may be indifferent to curry because the recipe presents a very mild and delicate touch to the flavors. Pro or con, you should give this dish a chance, as you will be pleasantly surprised. It's easy to prepare and this quantity will serve four dinner guests.

4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves 20 cloves of garlic, peeled and left whole
2 medium yellow onions, peeled and quartered
2 Italian green pepper, chopped in 1 inch squares
12 oz. coconut milk
1/4 cup of white wine
1 teaspoon of flour
2 teaspoons of Vietnamese golden curry powder Salt and pepper Parsley, some chopped, and for garnish.
3 tablespoons of olive oil
1 teaspoon of sesame oil

In a large frying pan, heat the olive and sesame oil over medium high heat.

When oil just begins to smoke, sauté the chicken breasts on each side until they begin to brown. Remove them and set aside.

Reducing the heat to medium, sauté the onions and peppers for a few minutes.

Next add the garlic and continue to sauté for another minute or so. Next, add the wine and deglaze the pan, all the while, stirring the onions, pepper, and garlic.

Sprinkle the flour over the vegetables so that all are coated and stir.

Reduce heat to medium low so as not to burn the flour. Stir for about a minute and add the curry powder, continuing to stir well.

Next, add the coconut milk and stir well until the curry powder has blended well with the milk. The sauce should begin to thicken into a creamy texture.

If it thickens too much, either add a bit more coconut milk or non fat half n half. Season with salt and pepper, reduce temperature to simmer to low.

Add the chicken breasts back into the pan, turning them to coat all sides with the sauce. Cover and continue to cook for about 10 minutes or less.

You can serve this with steamed rice, but I have also found it works very well with cooked and peeled new potatoes. As a finishing touch, sprinkle the chopped parsley over each serving and a small bouquet to the side of the plate.

The Vietnamese curry can be found in Asian markets and has a somewhat rusty color to it. It is different from the Indian curry in that it is milder in flavor, although there are a number of variations in spices used in India for their curries. There is definitely an aroma of star aniseed, cinnamon, and cumin, with a more subdued smell of cloves. I find Indian curries more pronounced, depending on what each chef chooses to emphasize with the spices they use.

Coconut Raspberry Cake, simple to make and rich in flavor

I don't consider myself a "great" baker of desserts; however, I occasionally try my hand at it. As time goes on, I will make attempts to create from scratch, but not this time around. I wanted to present an easy recipe for Coconut Raspberry Cake that anyone could make, even your kids. For this cake, we cut corners by purchasing a box of white cake mix. The frosting is a cream cheese frosting that is borrowed from The Joy of Cooking with a "nonchefnick" twist. The filling is a wonderful blend of raspberry preserves, fresh raspberries, and a touch of Grand Marnier.

I had no idea how this was going to come out, to be honest with you. In the end, I was very pleased. It turned out absolutely wonderful, very moist, and rich in flavor. My dessert guests went goo goo gaa gaa over it to put it in simple terms. So, I decided to share it with you. Here's what you will need:

1 box of Duncan Hines Moist Delux Classic white classic cake mix
1 1/2 cups of raspberry preserves
1 cup of fresh raspberries, semi crushed
2 tablespoons of Grand Marnier

For the cream cheese frosting:

16 oz. cream cheese, room temperature
10 tablespoons of softened unsalted butter
4 tablespoons of vanilla
4 cups of powdered sugar
6 oz. of unsweetened coconut flakes (the big flake version)

Bake the cake mix according to the directions on the box. I won't bore you with typing out the directions when they're already on the package. You should bake according to 2 layers.

While the cake is baking, prepare your filling. In a bowl, add the raspberry preserves, semi crushed raspberries, and the Grand Marnier. Mix well until fully incorporated. Cover with plastic and set in the fridge to cool.

When cake is finished baking, remove from oven and allow to fully cool. Once cooled, slice carefully across the top of the bottom layer so that it is flat. If the top layer has a bulge, simply turn it upside down when you set it on the bottom layer. That way, the top of the cake will be nice and flat. Set the bottom layer on a cake plate and begin to spread the raspberry filling over the top so that entire surface is well coated. The filling should be a good 1/4 inch thick. Next, carefully set the top layer over to cover the filling. Carefully remove any filling that runs out the sides so that it won't mix with the frosting.

Now, prepare the cream cheese topping. In a large bowl, add the cream cheese and the vanilla and stir well until the cheese becomes well incorporated and has a smooth creamy texture. Now, add the softened butter and continue to mix so that butter and cream cheese blend completely. Finally, while mixing, begin to add the powdered sugar a little at a time so that sugar gets well blended into mixture. Continue to add the sugar until you get the consistency that you are pleased with. You may not need the entire 4 cups of sugar, it's up to you. Be sure to taste for your liking.

Once your cream cheese topping is ready, begin to smooth it onto your cake, beginning with the sides and then ending with the top. Make sure to cover entire cake well. Don't be afraid to use as much of the topping as you want. This cream cheese topping is out of this world!

Once cake is completely covered, it's time to add the coconut flakes. Make sure to use unsweetened flakes and be sure to use the large flakes as opposed to the "baking" type that is stickier and more crushed. The large flakes make all the difference. Start by carefully covering the sides first by cupping your hand and filling it with the flakes, then applying it to the frosting. Be careful to be delicate so that flakes don't break up too much. Once the sides have been covered, finish off with the top. Your cake should be completely covered. Be sure to have a little extra coconut flakes in case you run short.

There you have it, a wonderful Coconut Raspberry Cake that you'll be proud to present to your guests. When I say this was delicious, I'm not kidding. You'll just have to try it for yourself to be sure. Enjoy!

My first Apple Crumble is a smash right to the last crumb!

It's amazing how some things that are so easy to make are more often than not, absolutely delicious. Case in point is this version of Apple Crumble. It's not a pie and it's not a cake, just something inbetween. Until Sunday, I had never made this, but decided to take a crack at it without any influence of current recipes but simply with what my taste buds remember of the various crumbles I have had in the past. My only fear was leaving something out that was very important. But I wanted to see if I could put this together blindly. I wanted to put myself in the shoes of someone that had no knowledge or at the least, very green in the art of recipe creation. Well, if I could succeed, any one of you could as well. That was my atitude.

This experiment could turn out in one of two ways, I thought to myself. Either it will be a disaster like my Mom's apple pie that I've mentioned before (please check archives) or come out surprisingly delightful. Well, I'm happy to report that it was wonderful and after Sunday, there was not a crumb left to be had. So if you trust in me, get the following ingredients together and replicate this wonderful dessert in the comfort of your own kitchen. It's very easy to prepare and way too easy to inhale it!

7 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and sliced
2 tablespoons of corn starch
2 tablespoons of cinamon
3 tablespoons of sugar
2 tablespoons of brown sugar
dash of salt
1/2 cup of heavy whip cream
1/4 cup of Calvados (apple brandy)

For the crumble crust:

2 cups of sifted flour
2 cubes of butter
1 teaspoon of vanilla
2 tablespoons of Calvados (apple brandy)
2 tablelspoons of sugar
1 tablespoon of brown sugar
dash of salt
1/2 cup of cream

Preheat your oven to 375

Start by preparing the crumble crust. Place the sifted flour in a food processor. Add the salt, brown sugar, and sugar, process for about 30 seconds until all dry ingredients are well mixed. Next, take your two cubes of butter and slice into 1/2 inch slices. Add them to the processor. Make sure the butter is very cold, it will make your dough fluffier. Put the butter in the freezer for about 20 minutes to ensure it's very cold. Now process with the pulse button so that butter is well incorporated into the flour, next add the vanilla and Calvados, pulse a few more times. Finally very slowly add the cream while pulsing. Stop adding cream when the dough begins to clump and gets crumbly looking. At this point it's ready. You don't want it too moist because you're going to simply crumble it over the apples. Set this aside so you can start your filling.

Now prepare the apple filling. In a large bowl, add all the liquid ingredients with the apples. Mix well with your hands. Now add all the dry ingredients and mix well with your hands so that all the apple slices are well coated. Transfer this mixture to a well greased (with butter) baking dish approximately 8 x 12.

With your fingers, add the crust mixture to the dish, making sure to crumple it with your fingers and all the apples are covered. Place in the oven for about an hour uncovered. As a final ingredient, which is what I did, take and crumble a couple of Reeser's Crunch Bars, and sprinkle it over your dish about 20 minutes before finished, along with slivered almonds.

When baking is finished, shut oven off and allow dish to sit in the oven for 15 more minutes. Remove and set aside for another 30 minutes. Take some heavy whipping cream and beat it until it thickens but doesn't have peaks. Half way through, add a bit of vanilla and a tablespoon of powdered sugar. With a spoon, pour cream over individual Apple Crumble portions and serve. Enjoy!!

Sunday Morning Omelet has less fat and cholesterol

And so it's Sunday, you sleep in 'til 9, and you've committed yourself to a lazy morning and lounge. You can't forget that it's breakfast time, however. You want no complication, no fussy messy stuff, and no prolonged time in the kitchen. It's time for the Sunday Morning Omelet, a nice rich cup of coffee, and a crispy croissant, and out in the morning sun you go.

This omelet is quite simple to make and oh so flavorful, just the kind of flavors you'd expect in the morning. A good thing about it is that the amount of fat and cholesterol is reduced by eliminating one yolk and leaving the butter in the fridge. You won't be sacrificing flavor and that's a promise. The ingredients called here are for one nice serving. If you are having Sunday breakfast with your loved one, just double the quantity.

1 large whole egg
1 large egg white
1 2 oz. slice of Swiss cheese (skim is ok)
2 cloves of garlic
1 medium russet potato, skin on, diced
2 tablespoons of pimentos
2 tablespoons of olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
parsley, chopped, for garnish

Begin by dicing your potato. The cubes should be no larger than 1/4 inch square so that they will crisp quickly. Next, dice your garlic

Add your egg and white to a bowl, some salt and pepper, and beat until fluffy. Set aside. Heat a dry 9 inch fry pan over high heat for a few minutes until pan is very hot. A drop of water should bead up quickly.

When pan is hot, add the olive oil. It should begin to smoke almost immediately. Add the diced potato, garlic, and pimento and saute quickly, turning the potato frequently with a spatula. Add a couple dashes of salt and pepper. Continue to saute for a few minutes or until they begin to turn golden. If you need to add a bit more olive oil, go ahead and add another tablespoon.

Now reduce your heat to medium and add the eggs, making sure the entire surface of the pan is coated. Add the slice of cheese in the center, reduce heat to low, and cover. Cook covered on low for about a minute or so and then shut the heat off, leaving the pan on the burner for another minute or two, making sure the pan remains covered. Remove the cover and with your spatula, fold the omelet in half, remove from heat, and cover until ready to plate.

Serve, along with a nice strong cup of cafe au lait and crispy croissant. Enjoy this wonderful omelet, knowing that has lowered fat because you used olive oil, and lowered cholesterol because you used one less yolk and only 2 oz. of cheese, even lower if you use cheese made with skim milk. You can now enjoy the nice sunny Sunday morning with your morning paper and watch the morning slumber by. Happy Sunday!

Why is it called Rattlesnake Penne Pasta?

Well, Rattlesnake Penne Pasta doesn't really have rattlesnake meat in it. It's just a name, but then you all knew that anyway. This dish is always a favorite on restaurant menus and now it can be a favorite dish in the comfort of your dining room. Although it looks complex and full of ingredients, it is quite simple to make, but be forewarned, you had better make enough of it because seconds and thirds are a definite probability with this dish. The quantities mentioned here should suffice for a dinner of four.

1 16 oz box of dry Penne pasta noodles
2 large boneless and skinless chicken breasts, cut in 1 inch cubes
1 1/2 pounds of Mexican or Italian sausage, cut in 1/2 inch thick slices
2 large red or yellow bell peppers, cut in 1 inch cubes
1 large white onion, chopped
6 cloves of garlic, chopped
8 button mushrooms (brown or white), sliced
1/4 cup of chopped parsley
1 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
1 teaspoon of salt
1/2 teaspoon of red pepper flakes (for heat)
1/4 cup of olive oil
2 tablespoons of flour (sifted)
1 cup of heavy cream
1 cup of chicken stock
2 cups of shredded Gruyere or aged Swiss cheese

In a large skillet that is at least 3 inches deep (or you can use a large pot), heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the sausage and saute for about 5 minutes until slightly browned. Remove the sausage and set aside.

Next, saute the chicken until it begins to brown. Remove and set aside with the sausage. In the same pan, add the onions and the bell peppers. Saute over medium heat for 5 minutes or so and then add the garlic. Lower heat to medium low and sprinkle the flour to cover the onions. Stir well for about a minute and then add the chicken stock. The stock should begin to thicken pretty fast. Be sure to stir and scrape the bottom of the pan to deglaze. This will add flavor to your dish.

Add the mushrooms, salt, and pepper, along with the pepper flakes and stir well, lowering heat to low. Now add the cream and stirring, blend everything well. Add half of the shredded cheese and stir so that it melts into the sauce. Your sauce should now be a nice thick and creamy texture. Taste for flavor.

In a large pot, bring enough water to a boil to cook the pasta. Add a bit of salt (1 teaspoon) to the water. Cook pasta until it is al dente. It will continue to cook a bit more when you transfer it to the sauce. While the pasta is cooking, add the sausage and chicken back to your pan and stir everything well so that all is incorporated into the sauce. Cover and continue to cook on low or simmer while pasta continues to cook.

After about 8 minutes or so, the pasta should be about ready. Test it for the proper texture. Remove the pasta with a slotted spoon and add it to the sauce and stir everything well. If you need to, add a tiny bit of the pasta water to your dish and stir. Finally, add half of the parsley and stir, cover the pan, and let simmer for a couple of minutes.

Serve on a large deep plate and sprinkle the remainder of the parsley and cheese. This dish is guaranteed to please everyone! You can finish it off with a crisp greens in a simple olive oil vinegrette and a nice bottle of white wine of your choice. Enjoy!

Food Diversity marries Top Sirloin and Brussel Sprouts

It's amazing how simple combinations of foods that you wouldn't think go well together can create such a wonderful marriage of savory flavors. It is the job of NonChefNick to find these combinations, try them out, and wow the readers with the results of endless possibilities.

Take a simple Top Sirloin steak, a handful of fresh Brussel Sprouts (or frozen), a bit of red wine, salt, pepper, and garlic, and you will create a simple to make dish that will surely impress your special someone. There's no need to fill it up with starches and carbs, just simple, sauteed Top Sirloin and oven roasted Brussel Sprouts, the combination of flavors that will have you smacking your lips for more. This entree will certainly feel at home under candlelight and a bottle of nice Cabernet. Finish off with a refreshing salad of mixed greens, and never forget to save room for a couple of wonderful dark chocolate truffles to fuel the continued romantic evening. Send the kids to the baby sitter. Tonight is YOUR night.

You and your loved one should work on this together. Start by gathering all your ingredients.

2 nice 6 oz. Top Sirloin or Filet Mignon steaks
Approximately 12 Brussel Sprouts, cut in halves
4 cloves of garlic, chopped
6 tablespoons of olive oil
2/3 cup of red wine
salt and pepper to taste
1 tablespoon of butter (optional)

Preheat your oven to 400 before you start anything. Next, in a bowl, mix the Brussel Sprouts with 3 tablespoons of olive oil with some salt, pepper, and the garlic. Make sure sprouts are well coated. Transfer to a foil lined cookie sheet and roast in the oven for about 25 minutes.

While Brussel Sprouts are roasting, heat the remaining olive oil in a frying pan over medium high heat until it begins to smoke. Pat dry your steaks with a paper towel. Saute appproximately 2 to 3 minutes on each side, adding your desired pinches of salt and course ground pepper. Remove steaks and set on a heated plate and loosely cover with foil to keep meat warm. Deglaze your pan over medium low heat with the red wine and allow to reduce by half. Add the butter and stir until well melted and blended with the sauce.

Finally, remove the Brussel Sprouts and garlic from oven and transfer to the pan and stir into the sauce. Set each steak on dinner plates (heated) and spoon the Brussel Sprouts and sauce over the steaks. Serve hot and enjoy. I tell you, this is delicious!