Welcome to Sarah's Adventures in Culinary Experimentation

This blog is for posting recipes I've experimented with while teaching myself to cook. Some I have taken from my favorite recipe books, others are purely my own experimentations. My audience is usually just my husband, my toddler daughter, and I and we are living on a tight budget. Sometimes you might find a splurge.

Hopefully you'll find something here that you like!

Monday, July 28, 2008

Sarah's Chili Con Carne

(Serves 6-8... good for bulk cooking and freezing)

With White Rice

2 500g packages of ground beef (or preferred mince)
400g tomato paste
3 cans diced tomatoes (with liquid)
2 green bell pepper (diced and deseeded)
2 Ramiro Peppers (long red pepper, usually has a sweet taste) - (diced and deseeded)
2 cans kidney beans (drained and rinsed... if they have them with chili sauce, get those... I know Sainsbury does)
2 onions (yellow or white... diced)
8-10 slices of the jarred jalapenos in vinegar (dice them)
2 beef bullion cubes (Knorr brand is the best)
1/3 cup Worchester Sauce
1-2 cups water (depending on how thick you want it)
5 TBSP Cumin
5 TBSP Coriander
1.5 TBSP Chili Powder (hot)
1 TBSP Salt
1 TBSP ground black pepper

For Serving:
Preferred rice (wholegrain, brown, white, etc)
Sour Cream

Brown the meat with the onions. Drain off as much grease as possible when it's done. You can also, after you drain it, dump it on a plate covered in paper towel to pat off the excess.

Put the meat into a slow cooker. Depending on your slow cooker setting, I had mine turned on high (I only have high, medium, and low) and it cooked well in 4 hours. The key is to let it simmer. So if you don't want to use a slow cooker, turn your stove on medium low or low and cover everything.

To the meat add the rest of the ingredients, saving the water for last. Add one cup and if you still feel its too little, just add a little more until you feel it'll be the right consistency. I only added 2 cups and it didn't look like enough, but once the veggies started cooking it became more liquidy. So just be lean on the water. You can add more as you go if you don't feel you added enough.

Let simmer until the peppers are soft or until at desired taste/style. You should be able to tell when it's the type of done you want. Just cook it slow and it'll turn out great!

Use brown or white rice. Some also prefer noodles. It's up to you what you do with the chili when it is done. Enjoy!

With Brown Rice

Friday, July 25, 2008

Gnocchi with Tomato Vodka Cream Sauce

Gnocchi with Tomato Vodka Cream Sauce
(Serves 2-3)

I just buy the gnocchi pre-made, which is the easiest. I have yet to really experiment with making it myself, but this entire meal takes like 10 minutes. So follow the directions on your gnocchi package (probably boiling them) and once they’re done and drained, mix with the sauce and serve.

Vodka Cream Sauce:
2 tablespoons butter
1 medium chopped onion
2 tablespoon vodka
1 tablespoon heavy cream
1 cup preferred Tomato Sauce

To make the sauce: Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the shallots and cook, stirring occasionally, until they soften. Add the vodka, cream, and tomato sauce, and simmer until the flavors blend, 2 to 3 minutes.

Finish the dish with a small handful of shredded mozzarella cheese. It'll melt in and tie it all together.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Devil’s Delight

Devil’s Delight
(Makes roughly 82)

Finished Devil's Delight

Mini muffin tray
Piping Bag with tip or Piping injector

Devils Food Cake Mix (and the required ingredients - eggs, oil, water)
Strawberries (UK strawberries are small, so you will probably only need 1 strawberry for ever 6 muffins if you get normal US sized strawberries)
2/3 c. sugar
2 8 oz. packages of cream cheese, softened
1 tsp. vanilla
2 egg
8 tablespoons butter, at room temperature (1/2 cup butter)
3 3/4 cups confectioner’s sugar, sifted
3 to 4 tablespoons milk
3 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Start with the Sweet Cream Cheese filling.

Sweet Cream Cheese Filling
2/3 c. sugar
2 8 oz. packages of cream cheese, softened
1 tsp. vanilla
2 egg

Sweet Cream Cheese Filling

In a bowl, beat 2/3 cup sugar, cream cheese, 1 teaspoon vanilla and egg until fluffy. Put aside until ready for piping. Then work on the frosting.

Butter Cream Frosting
8 tablespoons butter, at room temperature (1/2 cup butter)
3 3/4 cups confectioner’s sugar, sifted
3 to 4 tablespoons milk
3 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Butter Cream Forsting

Place butter in large mixing bowl. Blend on low speed until fluffy, 30 seconds. Stop mixer and add next ingredients (use only 3 tablespoons of milk to start). Blend on low for about 1 minute and then scrape sides. Blend on medium speed for another 1 minute until light and fluffy. If the frosting seems too stiff, add the other tablespoon of milk. (Before I was done, I beat it on high until smooth, light, and fluffy for 30 seconds.) Do not refrigerate, else it will be difficult to spread.

Mix your cake mix and fill your mini muffin cups halfway up (grease tin before filling). Have your oven preheated to the directions on the box. And put your tray into the oven.

Watch the cupcakes very closely and when they are starting to get a little firm, but are still soft (maybe 5 minutes in the oven) pull them out. They can still have a somewhat liquid appearance, so don't fret. You don't want them fully cooked when injecting the filling, because you want the filling to cook into them.

Fill your piping bag or piping injector with the cream cheese filling and use a small round tip. In the middle of the muffins, going about halfway up the tip but not to the bottom of the muffin, inject filling until right before it feels like the muffin will explode. At a slow pressure, you’re adding filling for about 3/1,000 seconds. You can count with Mississippi if you prefer. You will get the hang of it as you go and don’t worry if the cupcake sticks to the tip of your piping, just wipe it off and keep going. They’ll cook over and then you’ll frost them anyways.

Once you are finished piping, put them back in the oven until they are finished cooking (again consult your box directions… maybe 10 minutes). If the cream cheese is browning, its too long.

Take the muffins out and put them on a cooling rack and continue with your next batch until all the cupcake batter is gone.

Colling Muffins

When you are finished you can frost the cupcakes either using a piping tool again or you can carefully frost the top, but you really only want a thin layer of frosting so that you can still taste the middle.

Light Swirls of Frosting

Close-Up on Swirls

Cut up your strawberries and place 1/6 of the strawberry on top, or whatever you prefer. Arrange how you like. It worked better with just one nice slice, instead of these smaller slices.
Strawberry Example

These cupcakes are best enjoyed within 12 hours of making, but are still delicious later. Store your leftover frosting in the refrigerator, but if you are going to use it again, let it sit a little before spreading after refrigeration. The same with the cream cheese filling (it’s a good dip for leftover strawberries).

I recommend only frosting and presenting enough for the group you are making them for and storing your leftovers disassembled, but either way, make sure your muffins are either in ziplock baggies or Tupperware and the same with the other ingredients.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Potato and Onion Soup

Potato and Onion Soup
(Serves 2-3)

Potato and Onion Soup

1 cup chicken broth (or vegetable broth if you have it)
5 skinned, boiled, and mashed potatoes
1 TBSP steak seasoning
1 diced onion
1 tsp pepper
1 tsp salt
2 TBSP butter or margarine

Peal, boil and mash the potatoes. Leave chunks if you like a little potato chunk if your soup. Do not use a mixer or make them creamy. Just mash them with a fork or masher.

Sautee onions in 1 TBSP butter until slightly translucent.

In a pot, add the broth, the mashed potatoes, steak seasoning, pepper, salt, 1 TBSP butter, and onions. Let simmer on medium low for 10 minutes, unless you need to make it less chunky by adding a little more broth as needed. Essentialy your just heating everything together.


Note: You can be fancy and dress up the soup when serving by adding some thinly shredded cheddar or mixed cheese (not white cheese) on top.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Meatballs and Veggie Rice

Meatballs and Veggie Rice
Especially for Those Comfort Days

500g ground beef (a little over 1lb beef)
1 egg
1 TBSP Worchester Sauce
2 TBSP whole grain mustard
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp corriander
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper


2 Uncle Ben's microwave packets of Long Grain Rice
1 Uncle Ben's microwave packet of wholegrain rice
2 chicken bullions
1 can cream of celery soup
3 cups water
1 head of broccoli (mostly the tops)
1/2 onion cut into 1/2in chunks
4 carrots thinly chopped
3 TBSP hot chili powder
1 TBSP cumin
2 TBSP favorite mixed Italian herb seasoning
1 tsp salt
2 tsp pepper
1 TBSP minced garlic


Mix all the meatball ingredients together, then roll into 1x1in balls. Place in baking pan. Cover with foil and cook for 7 minutes. Then remove the foil and put them under the broiler until nicely browned.

In a pot start to boil the water and add the chicken bullion. Start the add the skinned and chopped up carrots. Make sure they're sliced thin enough to cook quickly. Then add the celery soup (turn the heat to medium) and start to chop of the broccoli into small pieces (or do this all as prep work and throw in all at once). Cut as close to the head of the broccoli flourrets as possible. Then add the onion and minced garlic. Followed by all the seasonings. Once it is mixed together, add the packets of rice. Do not microwave them first.

Let that cook until the liquid is mostly gone. Then serve in a bowl with 3-4 meatballs as pictured. Grate a little parmegion or gruyere over the top and serve.

Meatballs and Veggie Rice

Note: To reduce heat limit the amount of chili powder that is added. Ours was spicy hot chili powder.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Jim’s Magnificent Ravioli of Power

As part of a new project I am working on, I decided to use our friend Jim as my first participant. He filled out a questionnaire about his tastes in food and from it, I tried to come up with a recipe that he might like. It doesn’t have to be his favorite, but it will hopefully be something that he could potentially enjoy cooking and could claim as a special dish to cook when company comes over. I don’t know. So here is the dish I created for our friend Jim.

Jim’s Magnificent Ravioli of Power
(AKA Jim’s Meat and Potatoes Ravioli with Gruyere Cheese Sauce)
(6-7 Servings/ 4-5 ravioli each)

The Filling
2/3 package skirt steak
McCormick Montreal Steak Seasoning
4 peeled, cubed potatoes
1 head of broccoli
1/2 diced yellow/white onion
1 TBSP butter or margarine
150g cubed Camembert
1/2 TBSP dried chilies
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
3 TBSP butter or margarine

First bring a pot of water to boil and put the potatoes in. Cook them until they are ready to be mashed. Once drained, place potatoes in a large mixing bowl and mash them with 3 TBSP margarine or butter.

While the potatoes are cooking, start boiling your broccoli. Should only take 8-10 minutes, or until tender. When the potatoes are mashed, drain the broccoli and add it to the mixture, mashing the broccoli into the potatoes.

If you have a third burner and can multi-task, cook the onion with the 1 TBSP butter or margarine. Sautee until somewhat translucent. Add to the mixing bowl.

Add the salt, pepper, and dried chili.

Rinse and prepare your steak. Season each side of the steak lightly with the Steak Seasoning. Either grill until medium or use a frying pan. Once ready, cut as thin as possible at an angle. Then dice the meat and add it to the mixture. Use your masher to integrate everything. Then remove the masher.

Take your camembert and cut off the white outer layer. Then cut into small pieces to add to the mixture. Mix them into the bowl using a spoon. Put this mixture aside while you make the pasta.

Vegetarians: Simply take out the steak. Everything else should be fine.
Non-Beef Eaters: Do not substitute another meat, just take out the steak and eat it as is.

The Pasta (makes about 28-30 ravioli)
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 large eggs
3 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt

By Hand: On a clean surface make a well with the flour. This well should go all the way to the bottom of your flour mound so that the mixture doesn’t spill out everywhere. In a measuring cup mix the eggs, water and oil and salt. Pour the wet mixture slowly into the flour and mix until all of the wet is incorporated. Do not force the dough to take all of the flour. If you are going to use a pasta machine to roll out the dough you may at this point form the dough into a disk and cover with plastic wrap. Place in the refrigerator for 1 hour to rest. If you going to roll this by hand you should knead the dough on a floured work surface for 8 to 10 minutes.

By Food Processor: In the bowl of your food processor combine the flour and salt and pulse 2 to 3 times. In a liquid measuring cup whisk the eggs, water and oil. While pulsing the machine pour this mixture in a continuous stream and continue running the machine until the dough begins to pull away from the sides of the bowl. Follow directions above for hand rolling or machine.

Make sure the dough is incorporated well and roll it out as thin as you can make it. Then cut 3-4in x 3-4in circles (a coffee mug is a good mould if you don’t have one). After you cut out each, roll it out a little more with your pin or use your hand so that you are sure it’s a good, thin circle.

Then place 1 TBSP of the mixture into the ring and fold over. Seal the pasta edges. You can either use an egg wash or make little pie crust folds along the edges to ensure it staying together. Put these aside until the water is ready to boil.

To Cook Pasta: boil a pot of water with 1 TBSP of vegetable oil and 1 TBSP salt. Once the water is rapidly boiling, drop in your pastas. Depending on thickness you will probably want to cook your pasta 10-20 minutes.

NOTE: If you really don’t want to make fresh pasta, you can buy wonton wrappers at the grocery store and follow the directions listed on the package.

The White Cheese Sauce
1 chopped onion
2 oz butter
2 oz flour
2 cup milk
2 handful of grated gruyere cheese

Sautee butter and onion on medium heat in saucepan for 2 minutes, add flour and milk and bring to a bubble on high. Add cheese, stir and cook until liquid consistency.

1 large ladle of cheese sauce should cover 4 pastas.

Storage: store your uncooked pastas in a Tupperware container, separating levels with foil if necessary. Store the sauce in normal Tupperware. Reheat carefully in microwave (cheese does burn easily).

Please check back later to find out what to do with leftover mixture, if you have any.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Breaded Eggplant

Breaded Eggplant
(serves 2)

1 large eggplants, cut into round slices ¼ in thick (roughly)
2 eggs, beaten
1 tsp Tabasco Sauce
1 tsp Worchester Sauce
3 cups fine bread crumbs
½ cup extra virgin olive oil (enough to cover the bottom of your pan)

Spread out the eggplant slices on a flat surface and sprinkle with salt. Leave them untouched for about 20 minutes in order to drain off excess water. Dry the slices and dust them with flour. Beat eggs, Tabasco and Worchester sauce. Dip the slices in the eggs and then in bread crumbs. Heat up oil in a frying pan and fry the eggplant in hot oil. Only for about 30 seconds on each side (or until crispy brown). Blot on absorbent paper towels. Adjust the salt and serve hot.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

2-Bite Ham Sandwiches

2-Bite Ham Sandwiches
(Serves 5-6)

1 baguette (about 18in long)
4 eggs
½ TBSP Coriander
1 tsp salt
½ TBSP pepper
1-2 packages of thinly sliced ham (one large package should do the trick)
4-6 small tomatoes (should fit on a baguette slice)
Whole gain mustard
Low-fat shredded cheese of your choice (recommended Monterey Jack)

Mix the eggs with the coriander, salt and pepper in a bowl or container where you can immerse the baguette slices. Beat until the mixture is consistently the same color. Add a little Tabasco sauce for some kick if you’d like to spice up the flavor.

Slice baguette at an angle into 1 inch pieces. Soak the pieces in the egg mixture. Then place in a frying pan to cook briefly on each side.

On a cookie sheet or a baking pan, arrange the cooked slices of baguette. On each slice spread a thin layer of whole grain mustard. Then add a slice of tomato. Then allow for two thinly sliced pieces of ham to fall on the baguette.

Once arranged, put them under the broiler for a 5-10 minutes (depending on your broiler), so that the ham gets a little crispy. Pull them out and sprinkle a little of your favorite shredded cheese (a low-fat Monterey Jack cheese might be good) on top. Put them back under the broiler for a few seconds while the cheese melts a tad.

Let cool and enjoy.

Note: a bowl of tomato soup would be a delicious match for this nummy meal.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Tasty Tuna Tomatoes

Tasty Tuna Tomatoes

Tasty Tuna Tomatoes

1 can tuna (use the pinkish tuna, not the high quality white albacore tuna)
2 TBSP mayo (or light mayo)
1 TBSP whole grain mustard
1 tsp brown sauce (or steak sauce)
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
4 small tomatoes or 2 normal sized tomatoes
2 slices medium cheddar (light preferred)

Mix the can of tuna with the mayo, mustard, brown sauce, salt and pepper.

Halve the tomatoes and hollow them out. Fill each tomato with tuna.

Place them in a baking dish and put 1/4 slice of cheese on each (if small tomatoes you’ll have 8 halves). If you use the larger tomatoes, cut the pieces of cheese in half like a triangle and place 1/2 a slice of cheese on each tomato.

Bake them in the oven on 350 degrees (of 250 on UK ovens) until the tomato is slightly tender. Make sure you keep them on the rack away from the top of the oven. You should cook them for maybe 10 minutes. Then turn your broiler on when the tomato is tender and just bake the cheese for a few second until it browns just a tad.

Take them out, let them cool for 1-2 minutes and serve.

Note: the tomatoes we use here are about 2inx2in.

(serves 1-2)

Tasty Tuna TomatoesTasty Tuna Tomatoes

Friday, July 4, 2008

Sauceless Vegetable Spaghetti

Sauceless Vegetable Spaghetti
(Serves 4-6)

With Mushrooms

500g spaghetti noodles
1 large onion
2 orange pepper (yellow as an alternative or red as a last resort. Don’t use green)
4 beef tomatoes
1 medium sized red chili (seedless)
12 button mushrooms (or preferred mushroom)
2 TBSP garlic
1/4 cup olive oil
1 TBSP Salt
2 TBSP pepper

Start a pot of water for the spaghetti noodles. Add salt to the water and a dash or two of olive oil to season and add texture to the noodles. Boil the water and add the noodles. Break noodles in half in desired.
Get a large pot so that you’ll be able to mix the noodles after you cook the veggies. Do not pour the mixture into the noodle pot, because you’ll lose some of the cooked flavor of the pan. If you have a large (surface space large with at least a 3 inch lip around the edge), you can cook the veggies in that. I recommend a pan with a lot of surface area to really integrate flavors.

Slice the onion and pepper into thin strips. Throw them in the second pot with the garlic, ¼ cup olive oil, salt and pepper. As they start to wilt (Medium High), deseed the red chili and cut into four vertical strips, then slice horizontally (so essentially dice your chili into large pieces). Cut in half and then deseed the tomatoes. Cut the tomatoes into 1/2 inch strips (about the width of your pinky finger or a little less if you think it’s too big). Also cut up the mushrooms (buy them precut if you prefer).

When the onions and peppers are close to losing their crispness, add the tomatoes and mushrooms, turn down to medium low. When you feel the veggies are at your preferred crispness (some like their peppers more cooked, so like them with a bit of crunch left), add your rinsed and drained pasta to the pot. Turn on low and toss the noodles with the veggies.

When done tossing, turn the heat off. Let it set for a minute or two and serve.

Note: I don't add mushrooms to mine, because I have a negative reaction to mushrooms. So some flavors might be a little different. My husband loves mushrooms and he loved his, but he said the dish with and without had a slightly different flavor. Experiment for what you like. Might even add a white wine when cooking the veggies.

Without Mushrooms

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Sarah's Flavorful Burgers

Sarah's Flavorful Burgers
(Serves 6-8 depending on burger size)

2 lbs ground beef
3/4 cup ketchup
1/2 cup mayo (or 2 eggs)
1 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1 TBSP cumin
1 TBSP coriander
2 TBSP minced garlic
1 diced green chili (remove seeds to reduce heat and emphasize flavor)
1 tsp salt
1 TBSP pepper

Mix all ingredients VERY WELL in a large bowl. Then make your preferred sized patties. The larger/thinner the patty, the more flimsy it might be. Grill or use your oven. Cook as desired on each side. Don't flip back and forth frequently, because the patties might be tender. The grill might not be the best way to do it, if you feel the mixture isn't staying together. A double layered drainable cooking pan might be best. (we aren't allowed to grill in the backyard, so we have to cook inside)

Prepare other ingredients as desired (buns, ketchup, etc.).

For a more fun flavor, sauté mushrooms and put them on the bottom of the bun. Then mix curry (1 TBSP) with ketchup (1 cup). Add this ratio for however much you need to make. Put the ketchup on top with the rest of your cold desired additives. Onions can go on the bottom with the mushrooms. If you want to add cheese, add your desired cheese on top.