Emergency Pasta Dinner

I really suck at eating meals lately. Usually, I'm bad at eating breakfast. Last week, I did a poor job of eating breakfast and lunch. For the past few days, it's extended to dinner. I've been really busy, and often alone at mealtimes, which are two things for me that spell disaster as far as sitting down and eating a nutritious meal goes. I either go without, or eat bites of things here and there on the run, both of which are terrible for me. The other day for lunch I basically ate like a squirrel; I ate nuts and fruit, which are great, but not while busy, stressed, and standing! Yesterday, I had a good breakfast (because Mikey made it for me), but then worked a significant portion of the day and only ate 3 oreos (ew, and then I felt so sick). I was shaking and crazy by the time I got home late afternoon!

Today, I did a terrible job eating as well, and then baked all evening... by the time 8pm rolled around, dinner was looking bleak. Instead of whining and debating for hours on what to eat, feeling increasingly worse, and too tired to make myself anything substantial, I sucked it up and opened the fridge. I decided to make a really, really, disgustingly simple but delicious pasta I made a few times when we were doing the Real Food Pledge. It's an adaptation of a pasta dinner I'd often make for myself as a teenager.

It's so simple (did I mention that?) and you'll be eating in about ten minutes! I love it because you can adapt it to use anything you have as far as pasta types (or grains--would be great with cous cous or quinoa), or vegetables go. You could swap the butter for sesame oil, and the parmesan for a scoop of peanut butter with a dash of sriracha for an asian style version. Or some olive oil and feta for a mediterranean flavor. You get it. It's simple and versatile. The best kinds of recipes are that way. They are simply guidelines--combinations and ratios you'll keep stored in your head and make for yourself or your family after a busy day, a forgotten meal plan, or a ruined recipe.

Emergency Pasta Dinner
For one. Double, triple, or quadruple as necessary :)

1 teaspoon sea salt, divided
2 ounces pasta (I used veggie pasta)
1/4 head of broccoli, cut into decently sized florets
2 small carrots, sliced 1/4 inch on the bias
3-4 large leaves rainbow swiss chard, or kale
1 tablespoon butter
3 tablespoons parmigiano reggiano

Place a medium saucepan or saucier 2/3 full of water on to boil with 1/2 teaspoon salt. Once boiling, add the pasta and set the timer for 8 minutes (this is how long my pasta takes, obviously adjust as necessary).

Meanwhile, prep your vegetables. Place another medium saucepan on to simmer, with a couple of inches of water, a steamer basket, and a lid. When the timer gets down to 5 minutes remaining, add the carrots to the steamer basket. At 4 minutes, add the broccoli florets. At 2 minutes, add the swiss chard.

When the timer goes off, take the lid off the veggies and kill the heat. Drain the pasta, reserving 1-2 tablespoons of the cooking liquid. Let the pasta hang out in the strainer in the sink and return it's pot back to the burner on low. Add the butter and 1 tablespoon of the reserved cooking liquid. Add the cheese, stir, add the pasta, and stir again to coat. Dump in the vegetables and stir until everything is evenly coated. If necessary, add the remaining tablespoon of cooking liquid. Season with the remaining 1/2 teaspoon of sea salt, and plenty of freshly ground black pepper. Grab a fork, and dump your food into a bowl.

Make sure you are wearing pajamas, sitting on your couch with a blanket, then proceed. Close your eyes, take 5 deep breaths, clear your head and relax your body as best you can. Now you can eat. Eat slowly, and make sure to actually taste your food. Now maybe you'll finally absorb some of those nutrients! Enjoy :)


Lofthouse Copycat Cookies

You know those really thick, soft, not too sweet cookies topped with sweet buttercream frosting in the grocery store? Well, a few weeks ago, Mikey and I got a craving, but I wanted to make them from scratch, without all the preservatives and weird stuff... so we found a recipe! Normally I make a recipe and tweak it, and post it when I'm happy with it. But this recipe was spot on from the beginning! Yay!

The only thing I will say is if you are looking for as close a match as possible to Lofthouse cookies, you need to frost them, then let them sit out overnight so the frosting can get firm to the touch, with a slight "crust" on top. These stay amazingly moist for a ridiculously long time. Also, this batch makes a LOT. The dough keeps well in the freezer or fridge, but I wouldn't make the full batch of frosting and store it. It turned out weird the second time for me. I'd just make half the frosting, and the other half right before you cook up the rest of the dough.

Lofthouse Copycat Cookies
About 4 1/2 dozen cookies

5 cups flour + up to an additional 1 cup
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup butter, at room temperature
2 cups granulated sugar
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups sour cream

1 cup butter, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 cups powdered sugar
6 tablespoons heavy cream (I used whole milk)
Food coloring, to desired color
Sprinkles, traditionally jimmies

Whisk together 5 cups of the flour, the baking soda, and the baking powder. In a separate bowl, cream your butter and sugar for at least 5 minutes, until light and fluffy, scraping down the sides of the bowl intermittently. Add the eggs, vanilla, and sour cream. Beat at low speed until combined. Add the dry ingredients, and beat at low speed until just combined. You are looking for a rollable dough--so if you need to add more flour (up to 1 cup she says), you can. I needed an additional 1/4 cup. 

Halve the dough, flatten into 2 inch thick rounds, and wrap with plastic wrap. Let chill in the coldest part of your refrigerator overnight.

The next day, preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Line two baking sheets with silicone baking sheets, parchment, or grease. Flour your work surface and your rolling pin.

Working with one half of the dough at a time (leave the rest in fridge), roll out to 1/3 inch thickness (she says 1/4, I liked 1/3). Cut out circles (or any shape really), transfer to baking sheet, and bake for 7-8 minutes, until the bottoms are just pale golden. Let set on sheet for 1-2 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool.

Meanwhile, make the frosting. Cream together the butter and vanilla, slowly add the powdered sugar, then add the milk/cream 1 tablespoon at a time until you reach the consistency desired to spread. Add food coloring. I did teal, which took a ridiculous amount of food coloring to achieve for the whole batch of frosting. Next time, I'll probably omit the food coloring entirely, unless I make them for an event or children. Frost and sprinkle the cooled cookies. Let the frosting set before storing or serving.

Pita Bread

Back when I was living in a house with two men and a cat, we used to do family dinners on Sundays. Said men are part Greek, big fans of being Greek, eating Greek, talking about being Greek, and one of them even visiting Greece. We used to do these huge delicious (Manson) family dinners of fresh falafel, pita, red onion, cucumber, tomato, hummus, feta, tzatziki, and lettuce. I loved these times of sitting around our coffee table, sitting on the floor with our chosen family, laughing and eating copious amounts of fresh food. Confession: once upon a time, I didn't own a rolling pin. Pretty weird for someone who has always loved baking, right? I mean, I had a gorgeous granite one at my parent's house, but that was technically my mom's (I've never seen her touch it, let alone use it). I swear, these two things connect... One day, we decided to make homemade pita, because, duh, it's way better. And we rolled it out with a floured wine bottle. And it was delicious.

Three years later, I give you the recipe. Only because I've made it plenty of times, and attempted to substitute better flours, like spelt, rice, and whole wheat, but just keep reverting back to my friend AP. Some recipes are meant to be left alone in their simplicity. This is one of them.

Pita Bread
8 pitas

3 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt
1 tablespoon honey
1 packet active dry yeast
1 1/4 cups water, divided
2 tablespoons good olive oil

Dissolve the yeast in 1/4 cup water (100-110 degrees) in your mixing bowl. If you are using Rapid Rise Yeast, simply add yeast to dry ingredients, and add the water all at once when called for. Add the honey. Stir. Add the flour, salt, olive oil, and remaining water. Either stir together with a dough hook in your stand mixer, or go the traditional route and use a wooden spoon. The mixture should form a ball. If some of the flour does not stick to the ball, you can use more water (up to about 1/4 cup). Once all ingredients have formed the dough ball, either need on low speed with dough hook for 10 minutes, or place the ball on a surface and knead for 10 minutes.

Coat a bowl lightly with olive oil. Form the dough into a ball, place seam side down in bowl, and roll the ball around the bowl so it is coated in oil. Cover with a damp kitchen towel and leave to rise in a warm location until doubled in size, about 90 minutes.

Punch the dough down, to release the trapped gases, and divide into 8 pieces. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees and put a baking stone in to preheat as well, on the middle rack (you can use a cookie sheet upside down). Roll each of the 8 pieces into a ball, cover with the damp kitchen towel, and let them rest for 20 minutes so they are easier to shape. 

Coat a work surface with a little flour, grab a ball, and coat that in a little flour, as well. Use a combination of a rolling pin (or wine bottle) and your hands to stretch and flatten the dough. I would shoot for 1/8-1/4 inch thickness. If the dough is giving you problems, let it rest a bit longer. I've never had an issue with it.

If you don't like blistering, you can spray your work surface with a mist of water and close the oven for 30 seconds. I like blistering, but this recipe has never really blistered too much for me.

Shove as many flattened pitas as you can on your hot baking stone, close the oven, and take them out 4 minutes later. You can leave them in a little longer if you like crispier, darker pita bread.

Eat one while they are still hot, while you are baking the rest.

We love using these traditionally for falafel and veggies, but we also shoved protein salad (recipe coming soon) in them, and that was amazing, as well.

Due to technical issues :( this is the only photo I have to show you of pita bread. An old polaroid my sister took of me at Slasher, the first time I made it. With greek bro in the background.