Cafeteria Food

Posted: February 1, 2010 | Author: Alyssa | Filed under: Alyssa | Tags: , , , , , | 3 Comments »

One of the ‘perks’ of my job is that I can save money by eating whatever meals I want in the dining hall.  Unfortunately, when cooking a  meal for 400 people in a high school cafeteria, quality has a tendency to go out the window.  The other day for lunch, the menu said that they were serving grilled chicken and penne in a creamy roasted red pepper and smoked gouda sauce.  Sounds really good right?…sadly, no.   There was one tiny little chink of chicken on my plate with watery sauce, over cooked pasta, and garnished with cherry tomatoes.  Not cooked cherry tomatoes which might have made sense, but raw, cold cherry tomatoes from the salad bar.  I can’t not think of anything more disappointed than a meal that sounds fantastic and tastes like crap.  I was convinced that I could do better, so this weekend I planned it out and tried to execute.  Needless to say (hopefully) mine was way better than the institutional cafeteria version.

The first thing that I did was roast a red pepper, which required putting a red pepper in the over and rotating it every 5 minutes until it is black on all sides, then taking it out of the oven and covering it with a towel until it cools and collapses a little.  Once you can handle it, peel all the skin off and cut it into bite sized pieces.

While the pepper is roasting, cut the chicken into bite sized pieces, and sautee with some butter, salt and pepper until it is golden brown.  Set the chicken aside and throw some mushrooms, onions, and asparagus into the sautee pan and cook until they are tender.

Put a pound of pasta (I used angel hair, but use whatever you want) into boiling water, and while that cooks, you can start the sauce.  Its a basic white sauce, so I started with 3Tbsp of butter and 3Tbsp of flour to make my roux, then added 2 cups of milk and 1 cup of chicken stock.  Once it thickens add grated smoked gouda to taste.  I used a combo of smoked gouda and regular gouda because my stupendous grocery store only had one block of smoked gouda.  Add the chicken, peppers and veggies, then salt and pepper to taste.  Once the pasta is cooked, drain it and add it to the sauce.  Toss to coat.

Thankfully, this turned out beautifully.  More importantly, it turned out WAY better than the dining hall version.

Pasta with creamy smoked gouda sauce

Hope you enjoy!

Grilled chicken and penne
pasta in a creamy roasted
red pepper and smoked
gouda saucGrilled chicken and penne
pasta in a creamy roasted
red pepper and smoked
gouda sauceGrilled chicken and penne pasta in a creamy roasted red pepper and smoked gouda sauce

Sunday Brunch, Anyday

Posted: November 14, 2009 | Author: Johanna | Filed under: brunch, Johanna, Make-Ahead, Monthly Mingle, vegetarian | Tags: , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

One of my favorite bloggers recently posted a recipe for Saffron shortbread cookies. And she posted it as a participant in something called the Monthly Mingle. The internet is full of blog events, from Novel Food to Daring Bakers to the BBA Challenge.

This month’s Mingle theme is brunch recipes. Now, I love me some brunch, so I decided that a heck of a time to start participating would be with brunch. So….. away we go!
Breakfast Bread PuddingWhile I love french toast or a good stack of pancakes as much as anybody, I’m much happier to put my energies into a savory brunch, and similarly much happier to eat it. Plus, it’s difficult for me to make a brunch decision out at a restaurant that doesn’t involve cheese or eggs in some way. Unless it’s corned beef hash. And honestly, cheese on corned beef hash would be delicious, but overly decadent.
And yet I digress.
We were out at a party the night before our at-home brunch, and I knew that I would be up early the following morning to go for a run (4.5 miles. ughhh). So, when we got home from the party, I threw together a Breakfast Bread Pudding, which much like a strata, can be left in the fridge overnight, fully assembled, and baked the next morning.
Breakfast Bread Pudding
1. Butter a baking dish. It can be round or oval or rectangular, 9×13 or smaller, or possibly bigger if you scale up. I used a smaller one than I planned, but any baking dish will do, as long as it has 2-inch or higher sides.
2. Tear up half a loaf of crusty bread. We used Pan Paesano from Whole Foods, which has a delicious cornmeal crust, but please feel free to leave whatever loaf of bread you want out on the counter all day, so you can tear it up at night. Rip it into bite-sized pieces, and scatter them evenly over the bottom of the dish.
3. Dice 1 small onion and 1 clove of garlic, and saute in 1 tablespoon of butter until soft. Add roughly 8 ounces of chopped crimini mushrooms, and cook until softened and starting to color. Add a pinch of salt, and season with pepper. While the mushrooms and onions cook, halve 3/4 of a pint of grape tomatoes and reserve.
4. Whisk together 6 eggs and 1 cup of milk, and season with salt and pepper. Raid your cheese selection to see what you have left in the fridge. Grate whatever looks good — in our case some leftover Madrigal baby swiss that was used in several recipes, most notably the Most Amazing Mushroom Risotto EVER.  Grate 2/3 of a cup of cheese.
5. When the mushrooms are cooked, sprinkle the mushroom-onion mixture, as well as the tomatoes, over the bread chunks. Sprinkle with half the cheese. Pour in the egg mixture, and press everything down into the bottom of the baking dish. This is literally the most disgusting combination of sound and feeling ever, but persevere. Top with the rest of the cheese.
6. At this point, you could cover the bread pudding, and stick it in the fridge overnight. Otherwise, you could put it directly into a 350-degree oven for 1 hour.

You bring the champagne. I'll bring this.Call your friends up, and tell them to bring the mimosas.

Or, y’know, change out of your sweaty running clothes, thank the heavens for boyfriends who remember to put the food in the oven, and settle down on the couch with a plate of this and a cup of coffee. Your house will smell gorgeous and you will be eating a delicious meal. I suppose there might be more to life, but around 11am, I couldn’t think of a darn thing.

Johanna: The Improviser

Never quite follows the recipe. Doesn't really measure. Tastes with her fingers. Somehow, it always works.

Alyssa: The Triple Threat

Can do it all. And modest to boot.

Bakezilla: We Use Mixers Too

She likes to bake. Actually, baking is the only thing she does. It's a passion.

Rita: The Kosher Chick

Restrictions have nothing on her.