New (to Me) Blogger on the Block #25

by Cate on June 2, 2006

Rachael Ray has a new cookbook out that is quickly becoming quite popular. Express Lane Meals is a great one to have on hand for its tutorial aspects. Next to each recipe is a helpful grocery list of what items you need to buy to make the dish, and the cookbook as a whole assists you with prepping your pantry so you always have key components on hand.

It’s a simple concept really, but one that cannot be overstated … having key ingredients in a well-stocked pantry will allow you to whip up dinners in a flash, perfect for those harried weeknights when you have a limited amount of time to spend in the kitchen. Rachael Ray’s personal list of what she keeps in her pantry is listed below for your convenience. By keeping these items stocked, you’ll need just a few fresh items to make the recipes in this cookbook – how’s that for keeping life simple? If you tune in tomorrow, we’ll chat about another celebrity chefs’ “go to” pantry list.

So needless to say, Rachael’s Express Lane Meals cookbook is the one I “discovered” for this week’s Rediscovering My Library segment. I went with her Pasta with Bacon, Cheese and Tomatoes recipe, an easy choice since I happened to have all the ingredients on hand already (see how that pantry preparedness comes in handy?). It was quick to make (on the table in about 20 minutes), tasty and simple. With the abundance of fresh basil and chives, this makes a perfect contribution to Kalyn’s Weekend Herb Blogging. Interestingly enough, the Contra Costa Times picked this very recipe for the Rachael Ray challenge.

For tonights’ New (to Me) Blogger on the Block, I’m going to turn your attention to Curiosity Killed the Cook. Whether it’s her cooking-through-the-countries challenge, substitution tips, Triple Chocolate Fudge-a-licious Brownie Cookies or her Catalan Salad, I’m sure you’ll find something to whet your appetite on her site.

OK folks, all for tonight. Until tomorrow… don’t forget, you have one more day to send me your fridge pic for the I’ll Show You Mine If You Show Me Yours roundup!

A year ago todaybelated Anniversary celebrations.

Pasta with Bacon, Tomatoes and Cheese
Courtesy of Rachael Ray
Serves 4

1 pound short-cut pasta
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
4 bacon slices, chopped
1 large onion, chopped
4 large garlic cloves, chopped
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Black pepper
1/2 cup white wine
1/2 cup chicken stock
1 pint grape tomatoes
1 ball fresh mozzarella, cut into 1/4 inch dice
1 bunch fresh chives, chopped
15 fresh basil leaves, chopped or torn
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Place a large pot of water with a tight-fitting lid over high heat and bring to a boil. Once it comes to a boil, add some salt and the pasta. Cook according to package directions until al dente. Heads up: you need to reserve 1/2 cup of the cooking liquid before you drain the pasta.

While the pasta is cooking, start the sauce. Preheat a large skillet over medium-high heat; add the EVOO. Add the chopped bacon and cook, stirring ever now and then, until crispy, about 2-3 minutes. Add the onions, garlic, red pepper flakes, and a little salt and pepper. Cook, stirring frequently, for about 5 minutes, or until the onions start to brown. Add the white wine and cook for 1 minute. Add the chicken stock and reserved pasta cooking liquid, then bring up to a bubble and simmer for 2 minutes. Add the grape tomatoes and cook them for about 30 seconds, just to start getting them hot and ready to burst. Add the cooked, drained pasta, toss to coat in the sauce, and let some of the sauce soak in, about 1 minute. Turn the heat off and add the diced mozzarella, the chives, basil, grated cheese, and black pepper to taste. Serve.

Sweetnicks’ Note: Only thing I did differently was the bacon. I baked it in the oven (less greasy that way) and added it at the end to keep it crispy.

Rachael Ray’s Cheat Sheet
“Go-to Basics You Should Keep On Hand”

Baking and Spices Aisle
Ground allspice
Bay leaves
Chili powder
Ground cinnamon
Ground coriander
Ground cumin
Curry paste or powder
Fennel seeds
Grill seasoning
Whole nutmeg
Dried oregano
Paprika, smoked and regular
Poultry seasoning
Red pepper flakes
Dried thyme
Coarse salt
Coarse black pepper
White sugar
Brown sugar
All-purpose flour
Cayenne pepper

Condiment Aisle
Hot sauce
Dijon mustard
Spicy brown mustard
Worcestershire sauce
Roasted red peppers
Peanut butter
Bread crumbs, plain and Italian
Vegetable oil
Vinegar: red wine, balsamic, and a mild one like cider, rice or white wine

Dairy and Deli Cases
Heavy cream or half-and-half
Unsalted butter
Grated Pecorino Romano

Produce Aisle
Flat-leaf parsley
Idaho potatoes
Small, red baby potatoes
Yukon Gold or small, white boiling potatoes

Freezer Case
Frozen peas
Frozen corn
Frozen chopped spinach

Canned Goods Aisle
Chicken stock in a box
Beef stock in a box
Italian tuna in EVOO
Tuna in water
Canned Alaskan salmon
Anchovy fillets
Diced fire-roasted tomatoes
Diced tomatoes, regular and petite-dice
Canned crushed tomatoes
Canned tomato paste
Canned tomato sauce
Chipotle chilies in adobo or dry chipotle powder
Canned black beans
Canned chick peas
Canned cannellini beans

Grocery Aisle
Long-cut pastas
Short-cut pastas
White rice

Liquor Store
White Wine
Red Wine
Dry Sherry

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{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Melissa June 2, 2006 at 2:53 am

I discovered this book at my library too…I own quite a few of her cookbooks, but thought I’d give this one a try first. Made Pappa al Pomodoro tonight. Thought the kids would hate it, but they actually ate. Definitely a winner here.
My favorite RR book is the RR 365 though.


Tanna June 2, 2006 at 10:00 am

Looks like a fairly complete list. I always look at those lists and am intrigued by how many different dishes can come from the same list of ingredients. Simple concept that really makes meal preparation such when we’ve had a lapse.


Kalyn June 2, 2006 at 12:36 pm

Pasta with Bacon, Cheese and Tomatoes sounds great. I’m a fan of the pre-cooked bacon from Costco. I keep it in the freezer since I don’t eat that much bacon. It would be perfect for this recipe.


Cate June 3, 2006 at 1:52 am

Melissa – I’ll have to try the Pomodoro recipe – thanks for the heads up.

Tanna – It is pretty amazing, isn’t it? All you need is a few simple things…

Kalyn – perfect for a South Beacher. ;)


Anna June 3, 2006 at 9:10 am

Thanks for the referral to Curiosity Killed the Cook. The Around the World in 243 Recipes is really interesting and will be one of those long term activities to keep on watching. I can see myself becoming addicted.


Genie June 5, 2006 at 2:44 pm

I find that some of Rachael’s recipes work great, and others don’t work as well, so I’m always glad to get hands-on reviews before I try something! This looks delicious. Thanks for sharing it!

The Inadvertent Gardener


sher June 5, 2006 at 10:48 pm

The pasta? You had me at bacon! :):) I know this will taste great.


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