Category: vodka sauce

My Noodly Appendage

I’ve always been known to keep a well stocked fridge and pantry. Among other basic necessities, you’ll rarely find me lacking any of the following foods: assorted cheeses, frozen vegetables, multiple bags of pasta and jars of Classico tomato sauce. [A note on the latter: though I’m a stickler for homemade, those chefs over at Classico really know what they’re doing. Though I wasn’t paid to say that, I’d just like to inform the fine folks over at Classico that I really wouldn’t mind some free sauce. Or a coupon. You know, both are good!]

All I had was an hour, but all I wanted was pasta. With some garlic toast. And maybe even a little use-up-the-veggies-up-before-they-wilt salad. I thought it would be as fast as boiling some noodles and opening up a jar. Alas, I was jar-less. My Classico supply had been depleted.

That’s when I hit the vodka… 

Paired it with tomatoes and cream and turned it into a velvety smooth sauce!
Though the actual preparation is quick, if you have the time I highly recommend that you make this earlier on in the day and let it simmer over low heat in order for the sauce to thicken and the flavours to enhance. I served mine over spinach fettucine (to add a splash of colour & pizzazz to the plate… yes, I just used the word pizzazz) with a side of pumpernickel toasted with garlic butter and a hint of shredded cheese. I balanced it all out with a cherry tomato, avocado & romaine salad tossed with Renee‘s naturally low-cal cucumber, dill & yogourt dressing.


Nutrition facts about this meal

Pasta myths debunked: Spinach pasta is not any healthier than regular pasta – the spinach is mostly used for the colour, though the spinach content does add a small ammount of vitamin A and some iron. I choose spinach pasta because I prefer the taste and texture, but you may prefer the enriched semolina (regular) variety. If you’re looking to add fibre to your diet, whole-wheat pasta is the choice for you. The “healthiest” pasta in my opinion is quinoa pasta, as it contains the most nutrients overall – however, this is not to say that you should banish pasta from your diet. In a well-balanced meal like this one, pasta can be a satisfying and healthy choice, no matter what variety you use.

Vitamins & Nutrients: Lutein, the compound that gives tomatoes their bright red colour, is a vitamin that is said to reduce the risk of serious eye disease. This sauce is chock-full of it! The avocados in your salad are a source of HEALTHY fat – the kind that helps to unclog your arteries, as well as 20 other minerals and nutrients. Contrary to popular beleif – eating avocados will not make you fat! The yogourt in the dressing is a source of “good” bacteria that help with food digestion, and is low in saturated (unhealthy) fat. People who are slightly lactose intolerant can often digest yogourt due to it’s bacterial content.

Drunken Tomato Sauce 
note: you can add other vegetables into this sauce while simmering, such as diced carrots, crushed garlic, chopped spinach, etc. I kept the recipe simple because that’s how I like it but I’ll leave it to your discretion to make it your own! 

what you’ll need
•    1 large can plum tomatoes (other varieties will do, but this is my recommendation)
•    1 large onion, diced
•    1 tbsp vegetable oil
•    1 tsp sugar
•    1/2 cup cream (at least 10%, use 35% if you prefer a creamier sauce)
•    1/4 cup vodka
•    2 tsp sea salt or kosher salt
•    dash tabasco or other hot pepper sauce
•    handful of fresh basil, chopped (optional)

how to do it
In medium saucepan, heat oil on medium and add onions. Sprinkle with sugar and cook until soft. Add tomatoes, breaking up with mixing spoon. Stir in tabasco & vodka. Simmer until tomatoes begin to break down. Bring cream to room temperature while simmering. Once sauce has reached desired consistency, slowly stir it, one tbsp at a time, into cream, just until the cream is warm. This will ensure that the cream does not curdle upon entering the hot pot. Whisk cream into sauce, slowly, little by little. Add salt and basil. Cover and simmer 10 minutes or until ready to serve. Garnish with grated fresh parmesan cheese.

Move Over, Martha!

I’ve had the most splendid week in the kitchen and I must tell you ALL about it! I began my cooking extravaganza by making my very first buttercream icing. Fun to work with, easy to make, lovely to look at, but unfortunately, not so lovely to eat. I just don’t see the appeal of eating something that tastes like a stick of butter. Deciding then to stick with familiar classics, I made the absolute best banana cake in the history of the world. Marie Antoinette, eat your heart out. My friend Lisa, an equally exuberant foodie, suggested that I pipe some butter down the centre of the cake to create a perfect “crack.” Simple trick, fabulous results. Not only did the cake look fantastic, it had an extra hint of buttery flavour throughout. Perfection. However, my ultimate kitchen success came last night when I stirred up a delightfully velvety vodka sauce – caramelized onions, crushed garlic, plum tomatoes, fresh basil and a splash of vodka to enhance all of the flavours. By special request, I served a baked brie wheel as an appetizer, smothered in a slow-cooked peppered cranberry sauce. But the ultimate show stopper was the dessert – a layered vanilla, chocolate and salted caramel mousse, as pleasing to the eyes as it was to the palate! Two things about this mousse were most exciting: the first was the creation of the caramel. As simple as you can get, this rich caramel was created by simmering sugar and a couple of tablespoons of water over HIGH heat. Yes, high heat surprised me, and scared me, as I do not own a “heavy bottom” saucepan, so I decided to put my lovely Lagostina’s life on the line. It worked like magic! As the sugar began to dissolve, a lovely cotton-candy aroma filled the air, and then, almost instantly, the colour morphed from a silvery white to an amber yellow. At this point, I poured in the heavy cream and WHISH! An unexpected bubbling and sizzling happened, and the amber yellow transformed to a deep perfect caramel colour. While I waited for that to cool, I prepared my mousse base, which consisted solely of egg yolk, vanilla, sugar and milk. Gently folding whipped cream into the base and slowly adding the flavourings created sweet toothed bliss.

Vanilla, Chocolate and Salted Caramel Mousse Cups
recipe adapted from Tartelette

What you’ll need:
for the caramel
½ cup sugar
2 tbsp water
½ tsp kosher or sea salt
¼ cup heavy/whipping cream (35%)
2 tsp unsalted butter

for the vanilla mousse base:
4 egg yolks
¼ cup sugar
1 cup whole milk
½ vanilla bean, or 2 tbsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp powdered gelatin dissolved in 3 tbsp water
1 cup heavy/whipping cream (35%)

for the chocolate:
¼  cup semisweet or dark chocolate chips

How to do it:
Prepare the caramel first, as it will need to cool to room temp.
Place the sugar and water in a small/medium heavy-bottomed saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. Continue to cook just until light amber color.  Watch it the entire time, the colour changing process happens VERY quickly and you must remove it from the heat immediately at this point. Once it it removed slowly stir in the heavy cream (watch it bubble!) and then add butter, stirring constantly.

Prepare the mousse base as the caramel is cooling:
In a large bowl, whisk the egg yolks with the sugar until very pale. In the meantime, in a large saucepan set over medium heat, bring the milk and the vanilla bean (split open and scraped over the milk) to a boil. Slowly pour the milk over the yolks, whisking constantly. Make sure you do not pour too quickly, as this will cook the eggs. Pour the mixture back into the saucepan over medium low heat and cook until the cream coats the back of a spoon. Add the softened gelatin and stir until melted completely into the cream. Let cool to room temperature.

Whip the heavy cream to soft peaks and fold it into the cooled cream base. Divide the base into three equal portions. One portion is the vanilla mousse.

For the caramel mousse: fold a little bit of one portion of the mousse base into the caramel. Slowly add the rest of the base, folding lightly. If you find the mousse is too watery (as mine was), whip a little more cream and fold it in until you reach your desired texture.
For the chocolate mousse: melt the chocolate chips in the microwave for one to two minutes on high. Add the allotted mousse base to the melted chocolate chips and fold.

Layer the three mousses into glass serving dishes as demonstrated in the photo. The caramel mousse should be on the top as it is the lightest. Garnish with a sprinkling of cocoa or chocolate shavings. Freeze for an hour, then serve, and succumb to heaven in your mouth. (Can also be frozen for future use, just remove from freezer and thaw for 15-20 minutes before you serve it.)