Sunday, September 26, 2010

Chinese Chicken Noodle Soup (and the butternut squash recipe)

I read an article on NPR about this small province in China that has food that hasn't really made it to American restaurants. One simple recipe looked so comforting, I had to try it for Sunday dinner. I wasn't disappointed, it was yummy and comforting and awesome. It doesn't have chicken, but it is definitely the Chinese version of chicken noodle soup.

Xi Shi Tofu Soup

Xi Shi is one of the four beauties of ancient China who lived near Hangzhou in Zhuji. Legend has it that Hangzhou's spectacular West Lake is the incarnation of this belle. Like many seemingly "vegetarian" dishes in China, this soup is flavored with a bit of meat — shrimp and pork — used as a condiment. To make Chinese stock, boil chicken with ginger, green onion, white pepper and even country ham, for extra flavor. Feel free to improvise with the vegetables, but don't substitute firm for velvety soft tofu. This recipe is adapted from Hangzhou TV chef Chen Leilei.

Makes 4 servings

6 ounces boneless country-style pork rib (or piece of pork shoulder)
1/3 pound peeled, deveined raw shrimp
4 tablespoons Shaoxing* (Chinese rice wine), divided
1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste at end
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon powdered ginger
1 teaspoon cornstarch, diluted with two teaspoons water, separated
1/2 cup chopped green beans or peas
1 cup fresh corn kernels (sliced off the cob)
1 cup slivered shitake mushrooms
1 cup diced carrots
One 14-ounce package soft tofu, drained and cubed
4 scallions chopped, white ends and green stalks separated
2 tablespoons canola oil, divided
2 teaspoons minced ginger, divided
4 cups chicken stock (or up to 6 cups if you want a more brothy soup)
4 ounces bamboo shoots, drained (half a can)
Sesame oil
White pepper
*Available at Asian markets. Buy the cheap kind for cooking. Substitute dry sherry if it's not available.

Chop the pork and shrimp into half-inch pieces and put in separate bowls. Add 1 tablespoon Shaoxing wine, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon sugar, 1/4 teaspoon powdered ginger and half the cornstarch solution to each bowl and stir to combine. Let marinate for at least 15 minutes.

Dice all of the vegetables and tofu into 1/2-inch pieces. Set aside.
Fire up a wok over high heat. Add 1 tablespoon canola oil, and when glistening, add a teaspoon of minced ginger and the chopped white ends of the scallions (about 1 tablespoon) and stir-fry until fragrant, about a minute. Add chopped pork and saute until mostly cooked, about 2 minutes. Add shrimp and saute until just pink, about 1 minute. Remove meat mixture from wok and set aside.

Heat the remaining tablespoon of canola oil in the wok. Add the second teaspoon of minced ginger. Add the beans and carrots and saute 1 minute, then add the corn, shitake mushrooms and 1 tablespoon of chopped green onion, stir-frying 2 to 3 minutes, until coated with oil and starting to get tender. Splash on remaining 2 tablespoons Shaoxing wine to deglaze the pan.

Add chicken stock and bamboo shoots; cover and bring soup to a boil. Boil about a minute and then turn heat down, simmering a few minutes until the vegetables are done. Return cooked pork and shrimp to the pan. Add the cubed soft tofu and the remaining chopped green parts of the scallions (measuring about 1/3 cup), gently stirring once or twice to combine. Taste broth and add salt, if necessary.

Ladle into bowls. Garnish with a drizzle of sesame oil, a pinch of white pepper and more chopped scallions, if desired.

Roasted Butternut Squash, Rosemary, and Garlic Lasagne

yield: Makes 6 main-course or 12 side-dish servings

• 3 pounds butternut squash, quartered, seeded, peeled, and cut into 1/2-inch dice (about 9 1/2 cups)
• 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
• 4 cups milk
• 2 tablespoons dried rosemary, crumbled
• 1 tablespoon minced garlic
• 1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter
• 4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
• nine 7- by 3 1/2-inch sheets dry no-boil lasagne pasta
• 1 1/3 cups freshly grated Parmesan (about 5 ounces)
• 1 cup heavy cream
• 1/2 teaspoon salt

• Garnish: fresh rosemary sprigs

Preheat oven to 450°F. and oil 2 large shallow baking pans.

In a large bowl toss squash with oil until coated well and spread in one layer in pans. Roast squash in oven 10 minutes and season with salt. Stir squash and roast 10 to 15 minutes more, or until tender and beginning to turn golden.

While squash is roasting, in a saucepan bring milk to a simmer with rosemary. Heat milk mixture over low heat 10 minutes and pour through a sieve into a large pitcher or measuring cup.

In a large heavy saucepan cook garlic in butter over moderately low heat, stirring, until softened. Stir in flour and cook roux, stirring, 3 minutes. Remove pan from heat and whisk in milk mixture in a stream until smooth. Return pan to heat and simmer sauce, whisking occasionally, about 10 minutes, or until thick. Stir in squash and salt and pepper to taste. Sauce may be made 3 days ahead and chilled, its surface covered with plastic wrap.

Reduce temperature to 375°F. and butter a baking dish, 13 by 9 by 2 inches.
Pour 1 cup sauce into baking dish (sauce will not cover bottom completely) and cover with 3 lasagne sheets, making sure they do not touch each other. Spread half of remaining sauce over pasta and sprinkle with 1/2 cup Parmesan. Make 1 more layer in same manner, beginning and ending with pasta.

In a bowl with an electric mixer beat cream with salt until it holds soft peaks and spread evenly over top pasta layer, making sure pasta is completely covered. Sprinkle remaining 1/3 cup Parmesan over cream. Cover dish tightly with foil, tenting slightly to prevent foil from touching top layer, and bake in middle of oven 30 minutes. Remove foil and bake lasagne 10 minutes more, or until top is bubbling and golden. Let lasagne stand 5 minutes.

Garnish each serving with rosemary.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Overwhelmed by New Tastes!

Tried a new recipe and really hit the jackpot this time. I'm not sure if this recipe is Vietnamese, Thai, or some American concoction "inspired" by the tastes of these cuisines. Either way, I'm blown away.

As you will see in the recipe, it requires some ingredients you may not have. These are the ones I had to get, which is why I thought it had some thai influence.

So this recipe required me to slice things. I used the mandolin. The mandolin won, I lost.

But the ginger and onion smelled wonderful sauteing with the spices, despite my injuries.

Try this really cool recipe for an amazing treat!

Vietnamese Beef-Noodle Soup with Asian Greens
From Cooking Light
Serves 4

1 (8-ounce) sirloin steak

4 ounces uncooked wide rice stick noodles

1 1/2 cups thinly sliced yellow onion

3 whole cloves

2 cardamom pods

2 garlic cloves, halved

1 (3-inch) piece peeled fresh ginger, thinly sliced

1 star anise

4 cups fat-free, less-sodium beef broth

2 cups water

1 tablespoon less-sodium soy sauce

1 teaspoon brown sugar

2 teaspoons fish sauce

4 cups baby bok choy leaves

1 cup snow peas, trimmed

1 small fresh Thai chile, thinly sliced into rings

1 cup fresh bean sprouts

1/4 cup fresh basil leaves

1/4 cup fresh mint leaves

4 lime wedges

1. Freeze beef for 10 minutes; cut across grain into 1/8-inch-thick slices.

2. Cook noodles according to package directions. Drain and rinse with cold water; drain.

3. Place onion and next 5 ingredients (through star anise) in a large saucepan; cook over medium-high heat 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Add broth and 2 cups water; bring to a boil. Strain broth mixture though a fine sieve over a bowl; discard solids. Return broth to pan. Add soy sauce, sugar, and fish sauce; bring to a boil. Add bok choy and snow peas; simmer 4 minutes or until peas are crisp-tender and bok choy wilts.

4. Arrange 1/2 cup noodles into each of 4 large bowls. Divide raw beef and chile slices evenly among bowls. Ladle about 1 2/3 cups hot soup over each serving (broth will cook beef). Top each serving with 1/4 cup bean sprouts, 1 tablespoon basil, and 1 tablespoon mint. Serve with lime wedges.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Healthy Start to the Week

There's a certain co-worker who spent the day planning her new diet. As I listened and gave advice, I realized there were some improvements I could make with my own diet. Namely, stop adding butter to everything and stop the fast food breakfast. But in the interest of the blog, and my creative vein, I whipped up something for dinner that will work with anyone's new diet plan. Oh, and it's fast, easy and yummy to boot!

PS: I did not have the couscous as the recipe recommends, so I made it with instant rice. I kept everything else. It worked out perfectly!

Sauteed Zucchini with Lemon-Thyme Chicken

Servings: 4

1 Tablespoon lemon zest
1 Tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
1 lb chicken cutlets
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup water
1/3 cup uncooked couscous
3/4 pound zucchini (about 2 medium), halved lengthwise and cut crosswise into 1/2-inch pieces
1/2 lb yellow summer squach (ditto to the zucchini)
1/4 cup fat-free, low sodium chicken broth
Chopped fresh thyme, for garnish

1. Place the lemon zest and thyme in a small bowl; toss. Sprinkle the chicken with salt and pepper on both sides. Sprinkle half of the lemon-and-thyme mixture evenly onto one side of each cutlet. Heat the olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat; cook the chicken, herb side down, turning after 2 minutes. When the chicken is golden and cooked through (about 4 minutes), transfer to a cutting board. Cover chicken, and keep warm.

2. Bring 1/2 cup water to a boil in a small saucepan; gradually stir in the couscous (or just cook rice as normal). Remove pan from heat; cover and let stand 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork. Cover couscous, and keep warm.

3. Saute the zucchini and squash (in the same skillet used for the chicken) over medium heat, stirring frequently, until golden and tender (about 4 minutes). Stir in the remaining lemon-and-thyme mixture, chicken broth, and couscous (or rice).

4. Spoon the couscous mixture evenly among 4 plates; top each with a chicken cutlet. Garnish with thyme.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Dinner Last Night

I finally did the most suggested idea for what to do with an eggplant: make eggplant Parmesan. I went to a trusted source for basic recipes: Joy of Cooking. The weird thing about the newest edition of this cookbook is that it has so many basic recipes, that it often references other recipes in the recipe you're making. I'll just try to put it all together here, with my comments on what I had to change.

In the beginning, I thought the ingredients all laid out like this was so pretty, I had to take a picture. All of the ingredients are local (except the moz, which I could have found local if I thought of it), even the breadcrumbs, which are from challah bread maid with local eggs. Some of the tomatoes are even from my own garden.

Eggplant Parmigiana

4 to 6 servings


Fresh Tomato Sauce:
(I prepared this a couple of days before to reduce the amount of work)
6 cups
Drain in a colander for 20 minutes:
5 large ripe tomatoes, seeded and finely diced
Remove to a large bowl and stir in:
1/2 cup basil, oregano, or parsley leaves, finely chopped
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 garlic cloves, finely minced
Salt and black pepper to taste
Let stand for at least 30 minutes. Serve at room temperature.

Fried Eggplant:
1. Peel and cut into 1/2-inch slices or sticks:
1 medium eggplant
Whisk together in a shallow bowl:
3 large eggs
1 tablespoon olive oil
Dredge the eggplant in:
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
Shake off the excess, dip in the egg mixture, letting the excess drip off, and dredge in:
1 1/4 cups fresh bread crumbs
Arrange the eggplant slices on a rack and let dry for 30 minutes. Heat in a large skillet over medium-high heat:
1/4 cup olive oil
Add as many eggplant slices as will fit without crowding and cook for 4 to 5 minutes on each side. Transfer to a plate. you may have to add more oil to fry the remaining batches. Season with:
Salt and black pepper to taste.

Position a rack in the upper third of the oven. Preheat the oven to 425 F.
Coat a 17 x 12-inch rimmed baking sheet with half of the tomato sauce (I used an 8 x 8-inch pan, cause for some reason I didn't have enough tomato sauce!). Arrange the fried eggplant slices in a single layer (I could only fit three thick slices), or slightly overlapping if necessary, on the baking sheet. Top with the remaining tomato sauce and:
2 teaspoons dried oregano (I used fresh, 1 teaspoon)
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
Combine and sprinkle over the eggplant:
1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella (6 ounces)
2/3 cup grated Parmesan
Sprinkle over the top:
2 teaspoons chopped parsley (oops, forgot that one)
Bake until the cheese is melted and bubbly, about 15 minutes. Serve at once.

Soup For Lunch

Many of my coworkers have commented and asked about my lunch this last week and a half. I brought new soup that is very similar to others I have made in the past, but was a version supposedly "perfected" by America's Test Kitchen. I'm not sure I did everything right, but I have to say, it was as delicious as my coworkers said it smelled.

Hearty Tuscan Bean Stew

Serves 8. Published March 1, 2008. From Cook's Illustrated.


Table salt

1 pound dried cannellini beans (about 2 cups), rinsed and picked over

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil , plus extra for drizzling

6 ounces pancetta , cut into 1/4-inch pieces (see note)

1 large onion , chopped medium (about 1 1/2 cups)

2 medium celery ribs , cut into 1/2-inch pieces (about 3/4 cup)

2 medium carrots , peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces (about 1 cup)

8 medium garlic cloves , peeled and crushed

4 cups low-sodium chicken broth

3 cups water

2 bay leaves

1 bunch kale or collard greens (about 1 pound), stems trimmed and leaves chopped into 1-inch pieces (about 8 cups loosely packed)

1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes , drained and rinsed

1 sprig fresh rosemary

Ground black pepper

8 slices country white bread , each 1 1/4 inches thick, broiled until golden brown on both sides and rubbed with garlic clove (optional)


1. Dissolve 3 tablespoons salt in 4 quarts cold water in large bowl or container. Add beans and soak at room temperature for at least 8 hours and up to 24 hours. Drain and rinse well.

2. Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 250 degrees. Heat oil and pancetta in large Dutch oven over medium heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until pancetta is lightly browned and fat has rendered, 6 to 10 minutes. Add onion, celery, and carrots. Cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are softened and lightly browned, 10 to 16 minutes. Stir in garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in broth, water, bay leaves, and soaked beans. Increase heat to high and bring to simmer. Cover pot, transfer to oven, and cook until beans are almost tender (very center of beans will still be firm), 45 minutes to 1 hour.

3. Remove pot from oven and stir in greens and tomatoes. Return pot to oven and continue to cook until beans and greens are fully tender, 30 to 40 minutes longer.

4. Remove pot from oven and submerge rosemary sprig in stew. Cover and let stand 15 minutes. Discard bay leaves and rosemary sprig and season stew with salt and pepper to taste. If desired, use back of spoon to press some beans against side of pot to thicken stew. Serve over toasted bread, if desired, and drizzle with olive oil.

Monday, August 2, 2010


I totally made this soooo unhealthy. I used way more bacon and when I realized my pan wasn't big enough, I added some more bacon fat to the new pan.... I know! I'm horrible! But, it was the perfect dish for tonight. Mostly veggies, and all fresh and local other than the edamame, which had been kept in the freezer since I bought it on sale months ago. Adjust the recipe as you see fit. As I said, I used maybe 4-6 slices of bacon and probably 1 1/2 Tbls bacon grease, more corn, less edamame and less tomatoes. Try it. The leftovers are way worth. And this is fine as the main course, although Justin plans to accompany it with a BLT.

Edamame Succotash

1 slice center-cut bacon
1 Tbls butter
2 cups shopped sweet onion
2 cups fresh corn kernels (about 3 ears)
1 (16-ounce) bag frozen, shelled edamame, thawed
2 Tbls red wine vinegar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/2 tsp sugar
3 plum tomatoes, coarsely chopped
1 red bell pepper, seeded and coarsley chopped
3 Tbls torn basil

1 Cook bacon in a nonstick skillet over medium heat until crsip. Remove bacon from pan, reserving 2 tsp drippings in pan; coarsely chop bacon.

2. Increase the heat to medium-high. Melt butter in drippings in pan. Add onion; saute 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add corn kernels; saute for 3 minutes or until lightly charred. Add edamame, and saute for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in vinegar and next 5 ingredients (through bell pepper); cook 30 seconds, stirring occasionally. Sprinkle with bacon and basil.

Sunday, July 25, 2010


I really wish I had thought of photographing the wonderful meals I had on vacation. The beach was a fantastic way to decompress after a really stressful summer semester at Loyola taking classes part time after work to get my teacher's certification. However, I missed cooking for real. Making meals that just "wowed". And so, when my husband mentioned that he wanted to take lunch into work, I took it to mean I should COOK.

I also had approximately six pounds of tomatoes waiting for me after a week of being away from my garden.

Two soups resulted, the first and most amazing was from America's Test Kitchen, a beef and vegetable soup.

If you have ever watched this show, you know that they try all sorts of ideas to make a great dish even better. To make this soup, they concentrated on the idea of umami, that extra aspect of taste. You can think of it as that something extra your beef lo mein has that you can't place. Umami is found in mushrooms, soy sauce and red wine as well as in other foods. All three are in this meal. The meat is soaked in soy sauce before cooking. The next new idea was to add a small amount of unflavored gelatin to thicken the soup without decreasing or changing the taste.
The end result was a visual feast for the eyes, soup that was like the soup you see advertised on TV, and soup that smells better than it should and tastes even more amazing.

The tomato soup was much simpler, with the twists being a rounded tablespoon of pesto to add a kick, and some last minute chicken broth to stretch it out.
So all my work gave me much bounty in the form of perfect lunches. Two soups that are the reality that canned wishes it could be and most of America has forgotten. Luckily, I have plenty of plastic ware and a new knowledge that will replace yet another supermarket staple.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

The Blood before True Blood

I apologize for taking so long before posting. Please forgive, I've had classes and little time to try new recipes. Hopefully this makes up for it.

Tonight, we had ostrich. Yes, ostrich. And let me say that it was just as bloody and iron full as you would want any beef steak. Any beautiful, rare premium beef steak.

We had two 4oz steaks tonight. Justin seasoned them with the small amount of Worcestershire sauce we had with some crushed black pepper garlic powder and fresh lemon juice. He used very little liquid, maybe 1/4 cup, mixed the ingredients, then covered the steaks with the sauce. As most websites instructed, the steaks needed very little time to marinate, as they are very porous. Fifteen minutes later, they were ready for the grill. We grill them less than ten minutes total. Most places also say to make sure you have them no more cooked than medium as they have very little fat to keep them juicy. They were very right. Ours were pink to red in the middle and perfect. Justin is a very medium-well kind of guy and his was to his liking, even if it was pretty dark pink.

We supplemented that with some grilled veggies coated in red wine vinegar, honey and some red pepper flakes. And after that? Well some True Blood of course!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Garden Update

So, the last picture of the garden is extremely out dated. The spinach grew like mad, so I harvested it and cooked and and waited. The spinach continued to grow, but upwards and started to produce seeds. Justin and I decided it had run its course and picked the rest. I have a very substantial second harvest of baby spinach and a large empty spot in my garden.

Similarly, the lettuces have started to over-grow. I think I have to just remove a few of the plants and donate them to a friend for some awesome salad. Next year I won't grow as much lettuce, as that really over produces compared to other plants.

The kale is at the point of harvesting, which is great since they were always the runt of the litter. I plan on purchasing a pound of bacon or so and cooking all of that in the grease. Add a bit of balsamic vinegar, and you've got yourself a meal!

After that, we watch the broccoli and tomatoes ripen. Two of the broccoli plants have already started to produce and so have all three of the tomatoes. Now all I have to do is wait for them to ripen to the point of harvest. I especially look forward to the broccoli. One year my mom grew broccoli in a little garden of her own. She only got one harvest before the deer got to the plants, but I remember that one dinner distinctly. I have to say that the broccoli I ate that night was the best broccoli could ever hope to be. It was broccoli like it was before they mass produced for sale. And soon I will get that again!

Peace, love and veggies!

Saturday, May 29, 2010

The Next Best Pizza

I can't believe I got something other than the dishes done (which consisted of turning on the dishwasher). I had such an awesome lazy day, and so it was doubly awesome when Justin helped me make my last recipe for this week, a grilled vegetable pizza. Not only were the veggies grilled, but we cooked the dough on the grill as well! I didn't make the dough, but I did make the sauce. Very garlicy, very yummy.

Oh, and the color difference of the cheese is because Justin decided to "improve" my recipe with some store brand light mozzarella. My side (the right side) only has the artisan fontina cheese on it.

Yield: 5 servings (serving size: 2 pieces)


Fresh pizza dough

Cooking spray

2 tablespoons yellow cornmeal

12 ounces baby eggplant, cut crosswise into 1-inch-thick slices

1 medium zucchini, cut crosswise into 1-inch-thick slices

1 large red bell pepper, quartered and seeded

3 garlic cloves, minced

2/3 cup Basic Pizza Sauce (recipe follows)

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 cup (4 ounces) shredded fontina cheese


1. Pour 3/4 cup warm water in the bowl of a stand mixer with dough hook attached. Weigh or lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups and spoons; level with a knife. Add flour to 3/4 cup water; mix until combined. Cover and let stand 20 minutes. Combine remaining 1/4 cup water and yeast in a small bowl; let stand 5 minutes or until bubbly. Add yeast mixture, 4 teaspoons oil, and 1/2 teaspoon salt to flour mixture; mix 5 minutes or until a soft dough forms. Place dough in a large bowl coated with cooking spray; cover surface of dough with plastic wrap lightly coated with cooking spray. Refrigerate 24 hours.

2. Prepare grill to high.

3. Remove dough from refrigerator. Let stand, covered, 1 hour or until dough comes to room temperature. Punch dough down. Press dough out to a 12-inch oval on a lightly floured baking sheet sprinkled with cornmeal. Crimp edges to form a 1/2-inch border. Cover dough loosely with plastic wrap.

4. Brush eggplant, zucchini, and bell pepper with remaining 2 tablespoons oil. Grill eggplant 4 minutes on each side or until tender; place in a bowl. Grill zucchini 3 minutes on each side or until tender; add to eggplant. Place pepper quarters, skin side down, on grill rack; grill 6 minutes or until blistered. Place peppers in a zip-top plastic bag; seal. Let stand 10 minutes. Peel peppers; add to vegetable mixture. Coarsely chop vegetables. Add garlic to vegetables; toss to combine.

5. Place pizza dough, cornmeal side up, on grill rack coated with cooking spray, and grill for 4 minutes or until blistered. Turn dough over; grill 3 minutes. Remove from grill. Spread Basic Pizza Sauce evenly over top side of crust, leaving a 1/2-inch border. Arrange vegetable mixture evenly over sauce; sprinkle evenly with remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and black pepper. Top with cheese. Return pizza to grill rack, and grill for 4 minutes or until thoroughly cooked. Cut pizza into 10 pieces.

Basic Pizza Sauce

Yield: 6 servings (serving size: about 1/3 cup)


2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

5 garlic cloves, minced

1 (28-ounce) can San Marzano tomatoes

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon dried oregano


1. Heat oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add garlic to pan; cook 1 minute, stirring frequently. Remove tomatoes from can using a slotted spoon, reserving juices. Crush tomatoes. Stir tomatoes, juices, salt, and oregano into garlic mixture; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

New Post of Wimsy

Just wanted to mention that I love pizza. Also, 550 degrees F is really hot. I think I burnt my eyebrows putting this in the oven.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Another Try to Catch Up

I thought I would start the post with an updated picture of the garden. The lettuce is out of hand, and I cannot eat it fast enough! Those huge plants? The broccoli. And apparently they don't flower until July. I can't believe how large they've gotten!

The main recipe for this post is an Indian inspired dish that also saves money on meat. As I mentioned before, you don't have to give up meat to eat more balanced. Ground meat, no matter what animal, is one of my favorite ways to have meat in a dish, but increase the amount of grains and vegetables.

The Greek yogurt and cucumber give this dish a really fresh bright flavor, and the pitas just make it fun to eat. It's a fun way to introduce new flavors into dinner.

Sloppy Lentils in Pita

Yield: 4 servings (serving size: 2 filled pita halves)


1 tablespoon olive oil

3/4 cup finely chopped onion

1 tablespoon minced garlic

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

8 ounces lean ground lamb

3/4 cup dried brown lentils

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon dried thyme

1 cup water, divided

2 cups diced plum tomatoes or boxed diced tomatoes, undrained

1 bay leaf

4 (6-inch) whole-wheat pitas, cut in half

1/2 cup plain 2% Greek-style yogurt

1 cup thinly sliced cucumber

Chopped fresh mint (optional)

1. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion, garlic, salt, pepper, and lamb; cook 5 minutes or until lamb is browned and vegetables are tender, stirring occasionally to crumble lamb.

2. Add lentils, cumin, and thyme; stir until seasonings become fragrant. Add 1/2 cup water, tomatoes, and bay leaf; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat to medium, and cook 15 minutes. Stir lentil mixture; add remaining 1/2 cup water. Cover and cook 15 minutes or until lentils are tender and mixture is thick (add additional water as needed). Discard bay leaf. Fill each pita half with 1/2 cup lentil mixture. Spoon 1 tablespoon yogurt into each pita half; top with 2 tablespoons cucumber. Sprinkle with mint, if desired.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Long time no update

Oh, I know, it's been a while. The end of classes for the semester was such a welcome break, I forgot to do anything on the computer! However, I never stopped cooking. I started a vegetable garden:
(you should see it now!)

Grilled some kabobs:

Made some awesome steak tacos:
(key is the sauce that can double as a salad dressing. combine one avocado, 6oz fat free greek yogurt and 1/4 cup cilantro in a food processor)

Made an insane gourmet-style grilled asparagus salad:
Had time for gorgeous black bean burgers:

And even played some beer pong with sis!

Tonight we had a veggie-tastic meal. I want more vegetables, but I can't give up meat. To me, meat is another wonderful taste to add to food, one of many. So I've been trying dishes that have meat, but it isn't the solo player. The first dish was with pork. Later this week we'll try one with lamb and lentils!

Spanish Pork with Redskin Potatoes

2 redskin potatoes, cut into 1-inch pieces (we did three smaller ones)
1 zucchini (we had two for added veggies)
1 medium onion
3 tsp extra-virgin olive oil, divided
4 cloves garlic, chopped into slivers
3/4 lb extra-lean ground pork
1 cup frozen peas
1 cup frozen corn
1 tbsp sweet paprika
1 red bell pepper, minced
1 medium tomato, chopped
Juice 1/2 lemon
1/2 tsp dried sage
1/2 tsp dried thyme
sea salt and fresh ground black pepper, to taste
1 oz goat cheese

Fill a medium pot with water and bring to a boil. Add potatoes, cover, reduce heat to medium-low and cook for 10 minutes. Pierce potatoes with a knife to make sure they're tender, then remove from heat and drain.

While potatoes are cooking, saute zucchini and onion in 1 1/2 tsp oil over medium heat for 3 minutes. Add garlic and cook for another minute, stirring constantly to prevent garlic from burning. Stir in pork, peas, corn and paprika. Cook for 5 more minutes, making sure that all ingredients are evenly distributed across surface of pan.

Remove pork mixture from heat and stir in bell pepper, tomato and lemon juice. Cover with lid to keep warm while finishing potatoes.

Gently toss potatoes with remaining 1 1/2 tsp oil. Add sage and thyme and season with salt and black pepper. Place about 1/2 cup potatoes alongside quarter of pork mixture on each plate, then crumble quarter of cheese over top before serving.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Over Indulgence Kick of the Week (followed by healthy!)

I will start this post with an example of what one SHOULD eat for dinner.

Scrambled eggs with onion and mushrooms, olives on the side and a salad of fresh baby greens, grape tomatoes and a dressing of premium olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Great, right? I should feel proud of myself for at least the next 24 hours. But I don't; want to know why?

I think I may have found the most crazy yummy recipe for spaghetti squash ever. But it's actually 27 Weight Watcher points. And that is why it is the most yummy ever. It didn't make me feel sick or bad, either. Just contented. Also, if you have lactose intolerance, please remember to take a lactaid pill or you'll suffer later. Again TWENTY SEVEN POINTS.

Oh, and Justin took one bite, and answered the neighbor's question "what's for dinner?" with a "I don't know, but it doesn't taste like squash or healthy at all".

"Mock" Fettuccini Primavera

1/2 medium spaghetti squash
Primavera Sauce, recipe follows

Slice squash in half lengthwise. Scoop out the seeds with a spoon as you would a pumpkin. Then completely submerge both halves in boiling water and cook for about 20 to 25 minutes, or until the inside is tender to a fork and pulls apart in strands. (It is better to undercook if you are not sure). Remove, drain, and cool with cold water or an ice bath to stop the cooking. Then use a fork to scrape the cooked squash out of its skin, and at the same time, fluff and separate the squash into spaghetti-like strands. Discard the skin. Save the second half to heat later for a side dish another night.

Reheat the squash strands by dipping with a strainer in boiling water just before serving. Top with Primavera Sauce.

Premavera Sauce:

4 Tablespoons unsalted butter (1/2 stick)
1/2 cup small broccoli florets, lightly blanched
1 cup heavy cream
1 egg yolk
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 1/2 cups freshly grated parmesan
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley leaves
salt and pepper
fresh basil leaves, for garnish
grape tomatoes, slice in half, for garnish

Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a medium saucepan over medium high heat. Add broccoli and saute for about 1 minute. Then whisk in cream and egg yolk and cook for only 1 to 2 minutes. Next, add garlic and cheese and whisk quickly just to heat through. Remove from heat and stir in the rest of the butter and the parsley. Pour over or toss with the hot spaghetti squash. Season with salt and pepper, if desired. Garnish with fresh basil leaves and grape tomatoes.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010


OMG. I have to gush. Finally, we hit a stellar night with not one, but TWO new recipes! I'm totally in a semi food coma, but I'm so stoked, I just had to write this down.

The first recipe was one I was sitting on for a while ever since I noticed I could get ground lamb at the Giant. I originally found the recipe just searching for pasta recipes, since they tend to be cheap and easy. This was, as the only things extra I needed to find was ground lamb and feta. The taste was not as exotic as you might fear if you were not used to the combination. Using a tomato sauce brand you are already familiar with makes it a lot less intimidating. I used Classico tomato and basil, since I really like that taste.

Greek Pasta with Meatballs

2 cups hot cooked orzo (or another little pasta that you have on hand)
1/3 cup plain dry breadcrumbs
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 pound lean ground lamb
1 garlic clove, minced
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley, divided
2 large egg whites
1 1/2 teaspoons olive oil
2 cups jarred marinara sauce
3/4 cup (3 oz) crumbled feta cheese

1. Preheat oven to 375.

2. Cook orzo according to package directions; drain. Keep warm.

3. Combine breadcrumbs and next 6 ingredients (through garlic) in a medium bowl; stir in 1 1/2 tablespoons parsley. Add egg whites, stirring mixture until just combined. Shape mixture into 12 (1-inch) meatballs; cover and chill meatballs 5 minutes.

4. Heat oil in a large ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Add meatballs to pan; cook 8 minutes, turning to brown on all sides. Drain well; wipe pan clean with paper towels. Return meatballs to pan. Spoon marinara sauce over meatballs; sprinkle with cheese. Bake at 375 for 11 minutes or until meatballs are done. Sprinkle with remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons parsley. Serve over pasta.

4 servings

So the next recipe I found after desperately needing a way to cook kale for a side without having any bacon. Basically the only way I know how to cook kale is with bacon grease or as an ingredient in a soup. And kale was the only vegetable available for tonight. Without bacon, I quickly searched Food for anything I could try as the oven preheated for the meatballs. The recipe I found had only ingredients I already had, plus was easy and rated high. Bonus was the comment that this particular talent helped the user to use up their CSA goodies!

Braised Kale with Toasted Almonds
from Aaron McCargo Jr.
  • 1 cup slivered almonds
  • 1 tablespoons butter
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 cup minced onions
  • 1 bunch kale, stemmed and sliced thin
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • 1 teaspoon chicken bouillon
  • 1 teaspoon cracked black pepper
In a large saute pan over low heat, toast almonds for 3 to 4 minutes until lightly browned. Add butter and allow to brown. Add garlic and onions. Cook for 3 minutes until slightly caramelized. Add kale and toss lightly. Add broth, bouillon and pepper. Cook kale for 5 to 6 minutes until tender and liquid has evaporated.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Veggie Awesomeness

Phew! I just had what had to be both the most healthy and yet most indulgent dinner tonight. It was a recipe of few ingredients but because the quality was so high, and the balance right, it was pretty intense.

But first, I did have to mention the success of last night's dinner, as even after tonight, it was the best in a long time. I have a CSA, and therefore a lot of veggies. And because it isn't spring yet, I'm getting a lot of onions. My friend Rebbecca suggested I make soup with all the soup ingredients, so I decided to try my hand at the french variety of soup.

Look! I was creative in using oven-proof bowls! My soup looked more normal. Justin's container, shown above, was bigger than the piece of toast. That's Gruyere all broiled on top.

Onion Soup with Loads of Thyme and Gruyere Toast

1 Pound yellow onions, halved and thinly cut lengthwise
3 to 5 sprigs of fresh thyme (or more. I was liberal in the definition of "sprig")
1 bay leaf
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
fresh cracked pepper
1 teaspoon (or 2) all-purpose flour
1/2 cup dry white wine (we used sauvignion blanc)
2 cups beef stock
1 cup water
two slices of bread for toast - french or rustic, ciabatta if available
2 Tbls unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups grater Swiss Gruyere cheese

In a heavy 5-quart pot melt the butter over low heat. Add the onions, thyme, bay leaf, and salt and pepper to taste and cook until the onions are deep amber and exceedingly soft, stirring occasionally, about 1 hour. Add the flour and cook for 1 to 2 minutes, then add the wine, increase the heat, and let the wine bubble away 2 to 3 minutes. Add the beef stock and water, and let the soup simmer for 25 to 30 minutes, allowing the flavors to meld together. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Preheat the oven to broil. Toast the bread.

Remove the bay leaf and thyme sprigs from the soup and discard. Pour the soup into two ovenproof bowls, float the toasted bread on top, and cover it with a thick layer of the Gruyere. Put the soup bowls under the broiler on the middle rack and cook 3 to 5 minutes, or until the cheese is fully melted and golden.


Okay, and so for tonight. The preparation was way prettier than the resulting meal, so I took a picture of the before:

How sweet and healthy-looking is that? If you have butternut squash or a heck of a lot of shiitake mushrooms, try this recipe out. Also, you can find this really neat wide noodle at Whole Foods sometimes. If you can't find it, just use fettuccine.

Pappardelle with Squash, Mushrooms, and Spinach

12 oz pappardelle or fettuccine pasta
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, divided
3 cups 1/2-inch cubes butternut squash (from 1-pound squash)
8 oz fresh shiitake mushrooms, stemmed, caps sliced
1 1/2 Tbls chopped fresh sage
1 5- to 6-oz package baby spinach
3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided

Cook pasta in large pot of boiling salted water until tender but still firm to bit, stirring occasionally. Drain, reserving 1 cup pasta cooking liquid.

Meanwhile, melt 1/4 cup butter in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add squash and cook until almost tender, stirring often, about 6 minutes. Add mushrooms, sage, and remaining 1/4 cup butter; saute until mushrooms are soft and squash is tender, about 8 minutes. Add spinach; stir until wilted, about 2 minutes. Stir in 1/2 cup cheese. Season with salt and pepper. Add pasta to sauce in skillet. Toss to coat, adding pasta cooking liquid by 1/4 cupfuls if dry. Sprinkle with 1/4 cup cheese.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

New Soup

So the CSA blessed me this time with two pounds of parsnips. Last time we had parsnips I combined them with turnips for that lovely gratin. This time, double the parsnips and erase the turnips. Now what? Luckily I had a friend over who mentioned a tasty parsnip soup she dined on in Europe. She did not have a recipe, but was positive I could easily find a nice recipe somewhere. I did, thanks to Emeril and Food Network. No picture yet, as I was incredibly busy making a new favorite soup at the same time. That carrot and butternut squash soup is still the best way I've found to use a butternut squash.

Cream of Parsnip Soup
Courtesy Emeril Lagasse, 2000, changed to suit what I had on hand

2 Tbls butter
1 1/3 cups chopped onions
2/3 cup chopped celery
freshly ground black pepper
1 bay leaf
1 tsp chopped garlic
6 2/3 cups chicken broth
2 lbs parsnips, peeled and diced
1/4 cup heavy cream

Melt the butter in a 6-quart stock pot over medium-high heat. Add the onions and celery. Season with salt and pepper. Saute until the vegetables are soft, about 4 minutes. Add the bay leaf and garlic.

Add the stock and parsnips and bring mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer, uncovered, until the parsnips are very soft, about 1 hour. Remove soup from heat and allow to cool a little. Discard bay leaf.

Using a hand-held blender, carefully puree soup until smooth. Stir in cream. Season with salt and pepper.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Evolution of Slicing

I spent the last two weekends chopping and slicing. Here are the results of the first batch of bad experiences:

On the left became a curry-spiced butternut squash soup. On the right became a very unhealthy soup with heavy cream and sausage. And in the middle all those sliced parsnips and turnips became this:

This is a parsnip and turnip gratin, with gruyere cheese and those are bits of roasted panko crumbs on top. It was like a slightly sweeter potato gratin.

The weekend before, (or was it after?) I tried frying sweet potatoes to make them more enjoyable. They turned out pretty well:

Basically what I was using was the forth side of a four-sided cheese grater. You know that one side that is sort of a slicer? That's what I used for all of this. Well, it's so awkward that I eventually injured both thumbs and my right middle finger, all on the tip, in a 10 day period. So I decided to finally break down and get what is called a mandoline, basically a more professional veggie slicer. And with said slicer, I was able to breeze through two pounds of beets for pickled beets:

And one really huge sweet potato for the best chips yet:

Oh man, and can I say, using the fry daddy outside is the only option unless you want the house smelling like a McDonald's.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

What I did with this week's CSA goodies

Man, today was a busy day. I would have been better if I woke up at a reasonable hour, but apparently my body told me to sleep until noon. So this afternoon has been marathon! It didn't start off well when I injured myself twice using the slicer for the beets. I never thought I would need a mandolin. I guess I just need one of everything!

Before I picked this weekend's recipes, I had some CSA veggies to get rid of. Specifically, butternut squash and beets. Everything else, carrots, onion, potatoes, spinach and mushrooms, could be eaten by themselves or simply cooked. I found a cool web site called or something like that, where you plug in the ingredients you have and it scours the web for recipes out there using what you have. I found a nice butternut-carrot soup and also a suggestion to make beet chips (like potato chips) on the site. So here is what what cooked this Sunday:

Carrot-And-Butternut Squash Soup

This recipe asked that you shred the carrots and squash. I'm not sure how many of you out there tackle butternut squash, but the last time I did, I cursed it to hell. It's really tough and you need a really good knife, a large cutting board, and good upper body strength. Shredding is a much different animal. It also takes a LOT of time.

Look at that! On the right is what is left of an entire butternut squash. The soup is awesome. Basically onion, garlic, carrot, and butternut squash with some chicken broth, cooked and then blended. You add milk, orange zest, salt and pepper, and it's really good!

While I work on this soup, I also tried a new minestrone that used quinoa. I had never used this grain before, but it's supposed to have all the very yummy good for you fatty acids, so I gave it a try. Here's the result:

So those two recipes used much of what I had, except for the beets. I sliced them, coated with corn starch and dropped them in a hot fry daddy. I didn't know what to expect, so they came out a bit undercooked. I thought black was burnt, but apparently not. Anyhoos, they taste really good, like a fresher version of those veggie chips you can get at Whole Foods.

And then, after I rest, Justin makes dinner. Oh, you thought some of this was dinner? ha! not in this house! We used the rest of the red potatoes and the gigantic onion from the CSA and two pounds of shrimp we had on hand to make Justin's famous shrimp and potatoes (with old bay and steamed with Fat Tire beer).

Now if anyone wants recipes, that's great; just ask. This post was just too huge and I was just too tired to post all the recipes. That and tomorrow I make stuffed acorn squash for dinner and you'll certainly get that recipe. Until then, happy eating!!!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Our Valentine's Day Feast

Justin and I agreed, we could have easily paid over $200 at a restaurant for the dinner we made last night. Huge thanks to our friends who got us an awesome bottle of champagne for Christmas; we would have never enjoyed such an indulgence if we went out.

The menu was impressive by itself, and extensive. So for this post, I will skip the recipes and concentrate on the pictures and the food. The first is of the table, the fanciest this house has ever experienced, thanks to the china and silver that was handed down generation to generation.

Isn't that cool? I mean, for a couple married only four months ago?

Okay, so this may not be in order, but I have to show you the picture of the awesome dessert I made yesterday. It was super easy and from the New York Times: Pear-Honey Upside-Down Cake. Seriously, really fun and easy and it even came out of the iron skillet just fine.

How beautiful is that cake? So the last picture is of the entire dinner. And here is the menu:
Cream of Potato Soup
Mustard Crusted Rack of Lamb
Asparagus boiled in chicken broth
Pear-Honey Upside-Down Cake

And for the last picture, one for which I have not gotten complete permission, one of my number one husband on our first Valentine's day as husband and wife.

Isn't he something? Okay so not too much if anything this week. We have to eat all I cooked this weekend. More to come next week with more new recipes. See you then!