Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Baked Ziti

Continuing with the comfort food theme, this week we make baked ziti. Another simple but great dish for the cooler months of the year. Easy to make, and fun to eat.

One of the great qualities of baked ziti, like many marinara-themed dishes, is that it is a great candidate for two things:

1 - LOTS of fresh garlic
2 - LOTS of red wine

Of course, the cheese and pasta are nice too :)

This recipe is adapted from Cooks.com.

INGREDIENTS

- Spaghetti or other marinara sauce
- 1 box ziti or penne pasta
- 8 oz. ricotta cheese
- 1/2 c. milk
- 8 oz. sliced mozzarella cheese
- 2-4 cloves fresh minced garlic
- Pinch of basil
- Pinch (or more, to taste) of garlic powder
- Pinch of Italian seasoning
- 8-12 inch baking dish
- 1 large bottle red wine

Open wine. Pour a glass. Get to work ...

In a saucepan, set water to boil and proceed to prepare pasta as stated on package.

In the meantime, dump ricotta cheese into a medium mixing bowl and mix in the milk and spices, stirring. Consistency should be similar to pancake batter. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare bottom of baking dish with approx. 4 tablespoons of spaghetti sauce.

When ready, add drained pasta to ricotta cheese. Mix well. Then dump into 8 x 12 inch pan. Lay mozzarella cheese on top of pasta. Add 2 tablespoons of spaghetti sauce to top to keep mozzarella from burning. Bake for 30 minutes or until bubbly warm. Let stand 10 minutes before serving and top with more spaghetti sauce to serve.

Serve with some nice bread and more wine!

NOTE: you may be tempted to use shredded mozzarella here, and while that will work, your baked ziti will drier than it would be otherwise. The consistency of the slices gives the dish a nice, cheesy bubbly texture, which works hand in hand with the sauce.

Tonight's music: Nocturnes by Dave Brubeck

Tech Tip: This week's tip is more of a 'food for thought' tip rather than a technical one. Some of you may have heard of OpenID, which is a universal username and password set people can use all over the Web with their various services. To read more, go here: http://openid.net/. My question to you is, what do you think of this? Given the amount of web-based services many of us use (Amazon, Flickr, Yahoo, Google, Delicious, etc.), it's easy to forget the usernames and passwords we create, especially if we don't use one or more sets of them consistently (this is what I do, so if I do forget, I know it is one of a series I always use). However, how convenient would it be to use a single set to sign on to everything? VERY. But, there is the security issue. Anyone using OpenID who has their identity hacked may find all of their web-based accounts vulnerable; but of course, this is a worst-case scenario, and OpenID likely has contingencies for such events. But it is an issue worth pondering as more services support the OpenID platform. In a field in which technology adoption and use moves so quickly, often we don't stop to think how something we do may affect us in the future. I am not coming out for or against OpenID. I only wanted to get you thinking about it, along with everything else you do out here.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Mac and Cheese

It is time for some comfort food, and one of the best for me is homemade mac and cheese. Simple, but good.

This is a favorite meal of mine during the late fall and throughout the winter. It is a nice option when you come home, it's already dark, and you don't have the energy to fix something glamorous.

Something you'll notice right away, when making this recipe, is how much the boxed variety of mac and cheese sucks.


Honestly, this meal doesn't really lend itself to a 'drink' drink. If anything, dark beer or chilled white wine could be good. Otherwise, water or soda works just as well.

INGREDIENTS

-2 cups macaroni/elbow pasta
-1 cup sour cream
-2 cups cottage cheese
-1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
-1 egg, slightly beaten
-3/4 tsp salt
-1/2 cup sliced jalepenos (or to taste)
-A few dashes of paprika (to top)

Combine sour cream, cottage cheese, cheddar and egg in a bowl. Mix well. Preheat oven to 425 F.

Then, boil pasta and drain. Add to mixture along with jalepenos and crushed red pepper. Stir until evenly mixed.

Put the mixture into greased baking dish, spreading evenly. Top with a few dashes of paprika and bake for 45 minutes or until mixture is bubbly and top is slightly browned. Remove when finished and let stand for 10 minutes. Put into bowl and serve. Repeat as necessary.

Tonight's music: Kill To Get Crimson by Mark Knopfler.

Tech Tip: Ever wanted to add your own content to Google Earth? Well, you can! Using Google's Panoramio photo community (free to join), you can upload photos, tag them, and geographically place them on a map (geo-tagging), which can be included in Google Earth. There are lots of possibilities, too, if you really get into it -- you can even create your own 'tours' using Google Earth. If you haven't downloaded the free app, get it from www.google.com. Explore, and have fun -- it's often the best way to learn.