Archive for the ‘Entrees’ Category

Mushroom and Asparagus Risotto

April 14, 2019

Ah, risotto.  Comfort food.  But a little more elegant than meatloaf and mashed potatoes.  It’s a lovely way to spend a Sunday evening.  In the kitchen with a glass of wine, stirring a pot of arborio rice.  This is one of the most versatile dishes you’ll ever make.  Easy to make for vegans, vegetarians, seafood eaters and meat eaters – all in the same batch.  Start with a vegan base and add cheese or seafood or meat as you serve!

Usually when I make risotto I add the protein directly to the pot and eat it as a one dish meal.  I did a lot of running this weekend. A lot.  That always makes me crave beef.  So, tonight, a vegetarian risotto as a side dish and a lovely filet to get some iron in this body!

Normally a mushroom risotto says Fall or Winter.  Often I make mushroom risotto with beef broth to give it some warmth.  But Spring has sprung in central Virginia so a lighter version is in order.  My favorite thing about this risotto is that you get earthy and green from the mushrooms and asparagus.  Made with vegetable broth, it has a more Spring-like taste.

I really like the sharp saltiness of the parmesan on the top, but it’s awfully good without it for the vegans among us.  Add the cheese for the vegetarians.  If you’re serving this as a one dish meal, use cubed meat (shish kabob quality, not stew meat) to add to the top for everyone else.  The nice thing about adding things to each bowl is that you protect the leftovers for the vegans.

Some people feel that risotto doesn’t make good leftovers. I disagree.  I do think it’s best to heat on the stove, not in the microwave.  Add just a little water or broth to loosen it up, then top it just like you did before.  You can also form the leftovers into cakes and refrigerate them.  I brown the risotto cakes in a cast iron skillet and serve them as a side dish.  They’re great for breakfast with an egg on top!

Here’s what you need:

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  • 2 T olive oil
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 1 C arborio rice
  • 1/2 C dry white wine
  • 4 C vegetable broth, heated and kept warm
  • 8-10 stalks asparagus, cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 1-2 C mushrooms, chopped
  • Parmesan (optional)

Here’s what you do:

  • Saute the asparagus until it’s bright green, but still crunchy
  • Saute the mushrooms until they soften
  • Set the asparagus and mushrooms aside
  • Heat the olive oil in a large pan
  • Add the onion, saute until softened, but not browned
  • Add the arborio rice, stir until all the grains are coated
  • Add the wine, stir until the  wine is almost completely absorbed

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  • Add the warm broth 1/2 C at a time, stirring constantly until the broth is almost completely absorbed

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  • This is where having a glass of wine, or a cocktail, to sip on comes in handy
  • When the risotto is al dente fold in the vegetables

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  • Top with shaved parmesan (optional)
  • Serve immediately

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Sheet Pan Fried Rice

March 26, 2019

What if I told you that I had a recipe for a dinner that fits this description:  It’s super easy.  It’s cheap to make.  You can make vast quantities at once.  You can put in whatever veggies and proteins you like.  It can be vegetarian, vegan, pescatarian,  no red meat, only red meat, whatever you want.  It’s good at room temperature and it’ll reheat like a dream.  It can sit out without spoiling so it’s perfect for a potluck.  Would you not make it every week?  I just might.

I haven’t had a ton of luck with sheet pan dinners.  I always end up with some parts cooked well and others not so much.  Not so with this fried rice!  And this is the perfect dinner for nights when you come in a little late and need a 30 minutes meal with very little cleanup.

This is where you should make it easy on yourself.  I made two packages of minute rice yesterday and put the rice in the fridge overnight.  Make it even easier by picking up some steamed rice at a local Chinese restaurant.  Just do it the day before.  You want this rice to be cold and dry when you start.  And this is the time to buy pre-chopped vegetables too.  You want these vegetables to be chopped pretty small and you don’t want to spend all night doing it.  I found this “super 8” mix at Lidl for cheap.  Use garlic and ginger pastes if you have them.   I also bought the shrimp that are quick peel.  They’re de-veined, but not peeled.  Get the peeled ones if you want, just make sure they’re raw.  Then all you have left is to beat a couple of eggs, which is optional anyway.

Here’s what you need (ish):  to feed 3-4

  • 2 C cooked rice, cooled and dry (leftover is best)
  • 2 C finely chopped vegetables
  • 1 T grated ginger
  • 1 clove garlic, grated
  • 1/8 C canola oil
  • 1/8 C soy sauce
  • 1 1/2 T rice vinegar
  • 1 T sesame oil
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 3/4 lb shrimp, peeled and de-veined

Here’s what you do:

  • Preheat the oven to 475.  (This is the most important step)
  • Combine rice, vegetables, ginger, garlic, canola, soy sauce, rice vinegar and sesame oil in a large bowl.

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  • Mix until the rice is well coated
  • Spread onto a sheet pan

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  • Bake 15 minutes
  • Use a metal spatula to stir the rice and spread it out again
  • Pour the eggs over the rice
  • Place the shrimp on top

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  • Cook another 7-10 minutes, depending on the size of the shrimp

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  • Use your spatula to break up the rice where the egg has stuck it together
  • Top with soy sauce or sriracha or green onions, etc.

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Chana Dal – take 2

March 25, 2019

My Indian cooking journey continues!  It’s a cool, rainy evening in Central Virginia and I’ve been thinking about making dal for dinner all day.  My plan was to try a new recipe for “Everyday Dal” with red lentils.  I even checked the cabinet to make sure I had them.  Sadly, while there is some red stuff on the bag, my lentils are green lentils.  Ugh.  On to Plan B.  I also had some chana dal, yellow split peas.

Several weeks ago I made Palak Chana Dal for the first time.  I really enjoyed that.  Two things have changed since then.  First, I went to an Indian restaurant in London so I could see what it’s actually supposed to be like.  Theirs was a lot soupier than mine.  Honestly, I like it better a little thicker.  Second, I got a new cookbook with a recipe for Chana Dal with Golden Garlic Tarka.  If you’ve been following along, you may recall that I cautioned that this is NOT a weeknight dish.  I did not recall that.

This recipe, like that one, says to cook the split peas 40 minutes.  And this time, like that one, mine were not nearly done in 40 minutes. I let them simmer an hour and they still weren’t creamy, but I was hungry. (Last time it took 90 minutes before they were soft and creamy).  I have no idea what the deal is with this.  Next time maybe I’ll soak them first.

My other mistake, other than doing this on a Monday night after work, is that I made a half recipe.  I’m trying to control the amount of food that gets stuck in the freezer only to be seen again in the event of a power outage; or that gets thrown away because I’m sick of it.  My advice?  If you’re going to make a dish that requires the peas to simmer 60-90 minutes, make a whole bunch.  I feel confident that this would freeze well and I like it so much that I’m sad I only have one meal of it left.

Other than that, this is an easy recipe.  Only onions and garlic to slice.  A few spices and some canola oil.  Done. I added some chopped spinach because I had a little left in the fridge.  That was a nice addition.  I ate mine without rice or naan.  I’m making fried rice tomorrow, so rice was out, and I have zero bread in the house at the moment.  I didn’t miss it except that I might be hungry later.

Here’s what you need: to serve 4

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  • 14 ounces chana dal (dried yellow split peas)
  • 4 T canola oil
  • 1 T cumin seeds
  • 1 onion, thinly sliced
  • 6 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1 t garam masala
  • 1/2 t chili powder
  • 1 t salt
  • 1/2 mustard seeds
  • fresh red chiles (optional)
  • chopped spinach (optional)

Here’s what you do:

  • Rinse the dal until the water runs clear.  (Seriously.  This is not optional.)
  • Add dal and 5 1/2 C water to a large pot and bring to a boil
  • Simmer until the dal is soft (anywhere from 40-90 minutes, see above)

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  • In a frying pan heat 2T oil
  • When the oil shimmers, add cumin seeds and onion.
  • Cook 10-15 minutes until the onion is caramelized and add half the garlic
  • Cook for 1-2 minutes.  Be careful not to burn the garlic.
  • When the dal is done, add the onion and garlic mixture to the pot
  • Stir in the garam masala, chili powder, and salt

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  • Use a dry paper towel to wipe out the frying pan
  • Add remaining 2T oil and heat over medium heat
  • Add the mustard seeds to the cold oil and heat until they begin to pop
  • Add the rest of the garlic and fry until it’s golden; add the red chiles if using
  • Drizzle over the dal
  • Add the chopped spinach and stir until it wilts
  • Serve plain or with rice or naan

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Eggplant Rollatini

March 24, 2019

It’s been a long week and weekend, y’all.  A lot going on and not a lot of sleep.  And my hands are starting to show it.  I’ve cut my fingers and knuckles with a knife; on a can lid; and on a box grater.  Geez Louise.  Still, Sundays are for cooking (and running, and laundry, and dog walking, and dog treat baking).  It’s a little chilly out at night still, so something warm and cheesy sounded right, but not too heavy.  I had an eggplant left from last week’s shopping so the decision was made.  Eggplant lasagna, the cuter way.

The thing about making lasagna is that I’m never sure if it’s going to hold together when it’s cut.  If you make rollatini, you don’t have that problem.  It’s perfect for thinly sliced eggplant, but you can do it with regular lasagna noodles too.  Instead of layering all the elements you put them on one end of the eggplant slice and roll it up.  A little sauce and cheese on top and you’re done.  Perfectly proportioned.

My confession for tonight is that I just didn’t have it in me to make the sauce.  It’s not hard, but it does take a little chopping and some stirring and some time.  Not tonight.  I’m grateful for a jar sauce as good as Rao’s.  It’s not cheap as jar sauces go, but absolutely worth it if you can make it fit your budget.  I also used dried herbs instead of fresh in the ricotta.  Que sera sera.  Here’s the thing.  Use the best ingredients you can, always, and be a little pickier in the one or two items that make a big difference in your dish.  I used good cheeses, so I’ll give myself credit for that.

I’ll also give myself credit for planning ahead.  I had a late afternoon meeting which broke up the day a little awkwardly.  I opted to prepare the eggplant early and finish everything when I got home.  Good call.  The eggplant prep takes about an hour and then the prep and cooking of the completed dish takes another 40-45 minutes.  You can definitely do the eggplant ahead of time, even a few days ahead of time.  So, if you work on your eggplant over the weekend, this becomes a pretty good weeknight dish.

A little bit about the eggplant.  Do not skip the step of salting and resting it.  That takes the bitterness out of an eggplant.  Mine was a little seedier (read older) than I like, so not much to be done about that, but I did salt and rest it to give myself a fighting chance.  Also, you want the sliced to be thin so that they’ll roll easily, but not so thin that they fall apart and all the yummy stuff comes out of the middle.  If your eggplant is a little on the large/old side and you feel like the peel is a little tough, or you just don’t like the peel, you can cut it off.  You’ll just have to be super careful when you roll the slices since there won’t really be anything holding them together.

These are so elegant when they’re done.  You could easily serve one per person as an appetizer or 2-3 per person as a main dish.

So, how was it?  Pretty dang good.  The ricotta filling was amazing.  Good parmesan matters here.  And I was right that some of the eggplant was too seedy.  The seeds have a  slightly unpleasant texture.  Still, I got the wonderful flavors of warm tomatoes and cheese, but I don’t feel too full.  No food coma here.  Good thing, the weekend isn’t over yet and I still have laundry to do!

Here’s what you need:

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  • 1 large eggplant, thinly sliced longways
  • 1 C ricotta
  • 1/2 C grated parmesan
  • 2 t basil
  • 1 t oregano
  • 1 – 1 1/2 C tomato sauce
  • Fresh mozzarella, sliced

Here’s what you do:

For the eggplant:

  • Lay the slices out on a towel in a single layer.  Salt on both sides.

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  • Cover with another towel and let rest 30 minutes. Weight with a cutting board (optional)

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  • Brush eggplant slices with olive oil
  • Bake in 350 degree oven 25 minutes
  • Stack the slices to keep the moisture in.  Set aside.

For the filling:

  • Combine ricotta, parmesan, basil, oregano in a small bowl

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To assemble:

  • Preheat oven to 400
  • Coat the bottom of a baking dish with tomato sauce (reserve some for the top)
  • Spoon 1-2 T of the ricotta onto one end of the eggplant
  • Add a little tomato sauce

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  • Roll up and place seam side down in the baking dish

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  • Top with the rest of the tomato sauce and the fresh mozzarella

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  • Bake 20-25 minutes

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Buffalo Cauliflower Salad

March 18, 2019

I love pretty much anything with Buffalo sauce on it.  But Buffalo Wings fall into the “buy” category, not the “make” category at this house, so about the only Buffalo dish here is Buffalo Shrimp.  This month Eating Well magazine (the slightly sad replacement for Cooking Light) is featuring cauliflower.  I know, who isn’t these days.  I wasn’t hopeful.  I’m not a huge fan of pretending like cauliflower is a magical food that will replace pizza crust, potatoes, rice, and presumably someday petroleum and cleaning products as well.  Then I saw the recipe for this salad and this seemed like a good idea.

I’ll admit that I cheated.  I used store-bought blue cheese dressing instead of making my own buttermilk dressing and adding blue cheese crumbles.  I just got back from out of town so I don’t have buttermilk or blue cheese in the house.  I actually don’t even have milk in the house.  I also had no celery so I used radishes instead.  All good.

This is super easy.  And it’s really good if you like foods in Buffalo sauce.  Is it dinner?  I’m not sure it is.  I have a feeling I’m going to be in the kitchen making cheese toast before the night is over.  You could add some chickpeas to the roasting pan for the last 10 minutes or so.  Or you could toss some cooked, diced chicken in with the cauliflower when you coat it.  I recommend trying that if you’re planning to serve this as a one dish meal.

Here’s what you need:

  • Medium head of cauliflower, cut into pieces
  • Romaine lettuce, chopped
  • Matchstick carrots
  • Radishes, thinly sliced
  • Onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 T butter
  • 2 T hot sauce (Frank’s)
  • 1 t lemon juice
  • blue cheese dressing

Here’s what you do:

  • Heat the oven to 450 degrees (F)
  • Toss the cauliflower with olive oil and spread in a pan in a single layer
  • Roast for 20 minutes
  • Create a salad from the vegetables

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  • In a small bowl, melt the butter and stir in the hot sauce and lemon juice
  • Toss the cauliflower with the Buffalo sauce

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  • Dress the salad with blue cheese
  • Top with cauliflower

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Cilantro Chutney Chicken (or Paneer or Tofu)

March 10, 2019

I’d been needing a cookbook of Indian food that I felt like I could actually make.  As much as I love my Rasika cookbook, a lot of it intimidates me.  A few weeks ago I found Made in India: Recipes from an Indian Family Kitchen by Meera Sodha.  This is my first meal from it and I’m super excited!

This is really easy. No lists of 37 ingredients.  No need to marinate overnight, which I rarely notice until I’ve got everything prepped.  No special pots.  Just a blender for the chutney and a frying pan. (Plus a pot for rice if you’re using it).

A few things I’d do differently next time.  I’d make the chutney spicier.  It has amazing flavor and is wonderful as it is, but I’m missing the heat.  I’d use a bigger pan.  There really needed to be room to spread the chicken out in a single layer.  Since my chicken was all piled on top of itself it braised more than it seared.  Still good!  And I’d add more chutney.  The dish was a little dry in the end. Fortunately I have quite a bit of chutney left so I can add some to the leftovers.

What do I love about this dish?  Most things.  The chutney is really wonderful.  I’ll admit, I’m not normally drawn to chutneys.  Usually they’re pretty chunky and very acidic.  I love that this one has the texture of pesto and is not so sharp.  I also love that the recipe invites you to adjust the sugar, chili, and lemon juice to your liking.  Feel free to make it ahead to make dinner prep even easier.  I made mine this morning.

For the chicken, which I really think could very successfully be replaced with paneer or firm tofu, there’s not a ton to do.  I used a mini food processor to make the ginger-garlic-chili paste so I only had to slice the onions and cube the chicken.

The longest part of this process is caramelizing the onions for the top.  They do add a very nice touch and you do them alongside everything else, but if that’s more than you want to take on, leave them out.  Just leave all the onions in the pan with the chicken rather than removing half to another pan.

I won’t have any trouble at all finishing these leftovers!  I’m already looking forward to lunch tomorrow.  And don’t be surprised if that chutney ends up on some scrambled eggs this week!

Here’s what you need: (for the chutney)

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  • 1 bunch cilantro
  • 2 ounces peanuts (I used salt and pepper peanuts because that’s what I had)
  • 2 chilis/peppers (I used jalapenos but it wasn’t hot enough for me in the end)
  • 4 t brown sugar
  • 4 T lemon juice
  • 1/4 t turmeric
  • 1 t salt

Here’s what you do:

  • Throw everything in the blender and puree.  Add a little water if you need to reach a pesto like consistency)

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Here’s what you need: (for the chicken or paneer or tofu)

  • 2 inch piece of ginger
  • 5 cloves garlic
  • 1 jalapeno or serrano or other hot pepper
  • salt
  • 2 T vegetable oil
  • 2 onions, finely sliced
  • 2 chicken breasts, cubed
  • 6 T (or more) cilantro chutney

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Here’s what you do:

  • Put the ginger, garlic, hot pepper, and salt in a mini chopper or food processor.  Process into a paste.

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  • In a frying pan (with a lid), heat the oil
  • When the oil shimmers, add the onions
  • Cook 8-10 minutes, until they look golden

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  • Remove half into a frying pan over low heat (if you’re planning to caramelize some for the top)
  • Add the paste.  Cook 2-3 minutes, stirring constantly

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  • Add the chicken.  Sear on all sides

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  • Stir in the chutney

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  • Cover and cook over medium-low heat 15 minutes, until the chicken is done.
  • While the chicken is cooking, stir the onions in the frying pan occasionally until they are dark brown and soft
  • Serve with rice or naan, topped with caramelized onions

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Mediterranean Pasta Friday

March 8, 2019

I’ve been eating Taco Soup for four days.  I briefly considered making some macaroni and having Taco Mac for Pasta Friday, but I really needed a break.  Not a ton of fresh stuff in the house by the time I get to Friday so I have to dig in the refrigerator drawers a little.  Tonight I had some chard and some feta to start me off.  A jar of olives and a lemon and you’ve got Mediterranean pasta.  I made it with spaghetti, but orzo would have been good too.

All in all I was really pleased with this.  I only made 2 servings and I’ll definitely eat the leftovers.  I made one error.  It seemed like fun to chiffonade the chard.  Long ribbons of greens to go in long pasta – good, right?  Not so much.  The chard gets all tangled in itself and it’s pretty hard to eat.  Next time I’ll just chop it.

Here’s the best part of this dish.  You really only have to cook the pasta.  I did heat some olive oil to help cook the garlic, but mostly the chard cooked with a little pasta water and then finished when I tossed the hot pasta in.  The feta and olives just warm up.  Of course I cooked the chicken that I put on top, but that was kind of an after thought and honestly didn’t add much.

The key here is to squeeze the lemon juice onto the pasta after it’s been plated so it’s really fresh.  If you stir in the lemon juice while the pasta is still on the heat it loses some of it’s brightness.  And you really need that to give a little balance to the brine of the feta and olives.

This is really a 15 minute meal.  The whole thing takes only as long as it takes to boil the water and cook the pasta.  Perfect for a Friday night after a long week.  Or any night after a long day.  Or any night.

Here’s what you need: (plus some pasta, and minus the chicken if you don’t want it)

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  • 1 T olive oil
  • 4-5 leaves green swiss chard, stemmed, rolled, and cut into a chiffonade (or just chopped)
  • 1-2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 10-12 kalamata olives, halved
  • 2 ounces feta
  • 1-2 T fresh lemon juice

Here’s what you do:

  • Cook the pasta to al dente, reserve some of the pasta water
  • While the pasta cooks, heat the olive oil until it shimmers
  • Add the garlic, cook until it’s fragrant
  • Add the chard and a splash of the pasta water

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  • Drain the pasta, reserving 1/8 C of the water
  • Add the hot pasta to the chard, stir until the chard is wilted
  • Stir in the feta and olives
  • Add more pasta water if the dish seems too dry

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  • Serve the pasta and squeeze the lemon juice over each bowl
  • Top with freshly ground pepper

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It’s Taco (Soup) Tuesday!

March 5, 2019

Happy Mardi Gras, y’all!  What could be better than a Taco Fat Tuesday?!  I’ve been busy stuffing myself with the things I’m giving up for Lent (chocolate and Coke), so honestly, a not so fat dinner is pretty appealing.  This is one of those dinners that can be adjusted to pretty much any level of fat or spice and with any kind of toppers you want.

The recipe calls for beef or pork stew meat, but I used ground beef just like I would in tacos.  Well, actually, I cut the fat by using half Boca crumbles and half ground beef.  You could use all veggie crumbles to make it vegetarian.  Or chicken if you’re not a red meat person. Or extra beans and thrown in some shrimp at the end.  See?  You can do just about anything with this.  I’ve used black beans, but any beans you like, or no beans, will do just as well.  I used canned corn and canned tomatoes, per the recipe.  Then I realized there were no green chiles or jalapenos called for so I dumped in some salsa.  Finish with the taco seasoning packet of your choice.  Or use a home blend if you’re feeling industrious.

What else do we love?  This is a slow cooker recipe so you dump everything in the pot in the morning and come home to a house that smells like tacos!  Ground beef frozen?  Totally fine.  Throw it in there.  You’ll have to break it up when you get home, but that’s no big deal.  Using shrimp?  If they’re frozen, throw them in when you get home.  They’ll be done by the time you get your clothes changed and everyone gathered up for dinner.  If they’re fresh (or thawed), throw them in about 7-8 minutes before you want to eat.

What’s even better?  I keep Boca crumbles and salsa in the house pretty much all the time.  I got everything else at Lidl, including the toppings, so this whole pot of soup cost me about $5.

What about the toppings?  Sky’s the limit.  Sour cream, cheese, olives, hot sauce, pickled jalapenos, tortilla chips.  Think of this as a big bowl of nacho topping!  I’m using some chopped romaine lettuce, avocado, and plain yogurt.  I hear it’s good eaten with Scoops instead of a spoon!  Sounds like a crowd pleaser to me.

This is eighteen different kinds of good.  How could it miss?  It’s tacos in a bowl!  And it doesn’t disappoint.  Don’t wait for next Tuesday.  Make it tomorrow!

Here’s what you need:

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  • 1/2 lb ground beef
  • 1/2 lb (equiv) Boca crumbles
  • 1 can beans, drained
  • 1 can corn, undrained
  • 1 can diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 packet taco seasoning
  • 1/2 C salsa

Here’s what you do:

  • Dump everything in the Crock-pot
  • Cook on low 6-8 hours
  • Top with your choice of toppings

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Grits and Greens with Sausage

March 4, 2019

I’m home!  Business travel isn’t all bad.  I tried a bunch of new restaurants.  But I’m so glad to be home and in my own kitchen.  The secret, for me at least, is to take the day you get back as a recovery day – dog walking, unpacking, laundry, meal planning, grocery shopping.

I know that not everyone loves the meal planning process.  It’s hard.  It’s a challenge to find something new to make.   And I’m finding that online searches are now full of recipes for air fryers and instant pots, which maybe you, like I, don’t have.  I hope this blog helps with some of that.  I love to look through my cookbooks.  It’s amazing to me how you can find something new in a cookbook you’ve had for ages just because you’re into a new ingredient or in a different mood.

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Tonight I found this recipe in a magazine.  Apparently Eating Well has replaced Cooking Light.  I’ll save my feelings about that for another time.  I found this recipe in a section on “Easy Dinners.”    That’s about right for my energy level at the end of today.  The recipe is  for “Creamy Polenta with Sausage and Chard.”  Fancy.  In this kitchen creamy polenta and chard translates to grits and greens.  The sausage can stay.

It is an easy dinner.  I made it a little bit harder by using stone ground grits instead of instant polenta.  I don’t have instant grits in the house.  Sometimes Quaker Quick Grits, never instant.  Don’t get me wrong. I’ve eaten many, many mugs of instant grits right out of the microwave.  My life just allows me to opt for the others now.  I used 2 cups of broth and 2 cups of water instead of 4 cups of water.  Make whatever call works for you.  If you’re planning to use them a bunch of different ways throughout the week, probably the plainer the better.

And then I made it a little bit easier with the baby kale.  You don’t have to stem it.  Just run a knife through it. I also used some chard.  I had some time to kill waiting for the grits to cook so I stemmed and chopped a few stalks.

I muffed the finishing touches on the greens and sausage.  I added the balsamic vinegar and red pepper, but not the broth so I didn’t have a “sauce” at the end.  I’m not sure that balsamic vinegar and vegetable broth really counts as a sauce so that’s ok.  I will say that while the balsamic vinegar was good, I think cider vinegar might have been better.  Slightly sharper acid as a nice balance for garlic.  Or maybe my mouth is just used to cider vinegar with greens.

Would I make this again?  Sure.  There are many variations of this dish so I’ll probably make a different version next time.  I also got so carried away with the recipe that I forgot what I know about grits. They multiply.  One cup of grits uncooked turns into enough grits to feed 8 easily, not 4.  Pay no attention to the measurements on the package or in the recipe.  Trust me on this.  I’m going to be eating a lot of grits this week.  A lot.  In fact, throw an over easy egg on top of a serving of this dish and you’re looking at breakfast!

Here’s what you need:

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  • 12 oz sausage; I used Sausage Craft San Miniato (pork, garlic, salt, pepper)
  • 4-6 C chopped greens
  • 2 C broth; I used homemade vegetable broth (carrots, onions, mushrooms, garlic)
  • 2 C water
  • 1 C grits
  • 2 T balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 t crushed red pepper
  • salt

Here’s what you do:

For the sausage and greens:

  • Cook the sausage in a pan large enough to hold the greens
  • When the sausage is cooked remove it from the pan
  • Slice the sausage

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  • Add the greens to the pan, stir until wilted, 2-3 minutes

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  • Return the sausage to the pan
  • Add balsamic vinegar and pepper
  • Stir until greens are softened

For the grits:  Start the grits when you put the sausage on

  • Boil the water and broth in a medium pot
  • Stir in the grits
  • Cook the grits covered, stirring occasionally 15-20 minutes

Serve the greens and sausage over the grits.

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Palak Chana Dal

February 19, 2019

I love Indian food. Love it.    And I’m overcoming my fear of making it at home. Tonight I actually tried something I’ve never even eaten in a restaurant. I love lentils.  They’re a great vegetarian, low/no fat protein source.  They need a whole grain to complete them, but you can get that an any point in the day.  It doesn’t have to be in the same meal.  Combine my love of Indian food and my love of lentils and you get dal.

There are LOTS of kinds of dal and LOTS of kinds of lentils. Red, green, yellow, black. Chana dal is actually a yellow split pea dal.  And it’s yummy!  There are many, many versions of this. I picked this one because it includes spinach.  I wanted a dish with extra vegetables so I’d have a one dish meal.  And let’s be serious.  I had a clam shell of spinach in the fridge and no plan for it.

Let me start by saying this is NOT a Tuesday night meal.  (Yes, it’s Tuesday night).  I suppose it could be if you cooked the chana on Sunday and did the rest on Tuesday after work.  I started this dish at 6:30, after I went to the gym and fed the pups.  I sat down to eat at 8:00.  Pretty ridiculous for a weeknight.  I thought it would take about half that time based on the recipe.

A few tips.  Where the recipe says to partially cover the peas as they cook, don’t.  You’re trying to get 4 1/2 cups of water to absorb into 1 cup of yellow split peas.  You can afford to lose some in steam.  Don’t bother to do your chopping and measuring until after you have the chana in the pot. Trust me, you have plenty of time to do the rest.  Serve it with rice or naan or some Indian pickles or some combination.  There’s some really good heat in here from the jalapeno and the ginger.  It needs some acid and some starch to balance it.  Some acidic wine is lovely with it as well. I mean, if you’re going to be chopping and stirring for 90 minutes, you should have some wine.

I will make another attempt at this, using a different recipe.  Not because I’m not pleased with the results. I really am! But because I can’t wait to try another version!  In the meantime, I’ll enjoy eating the leftovers.

Here’s what you need:

  • 1 chana dal (dried split chickpeas)
  • TSP turmeric
  • TSP salt
  • 4½ water
  • TBSP ghee (use vegetable oil to make it vegan)
  • ¾ TSP cumin seeds
  • finely diced onion
  • 1 inch-long piece of ginger, grated
  • 5-6 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 green chile (like a serrano or jalapeño), minced
  • tomato, diced
  • ½ TSP garam masala
  • TSP chile powder, like Deggi Mirch
  • A couple large handfuls of baby spinach
  • chopped cilantro, for garnis

NOTE: I bought the Deggi Mirch from Amazon some time ago.  I’m sure it’s available in local Indian markets as well.  The rest of this stuff is available in mainstream grocery stores. I did leave out the fenugreek leaves.

Here’s what you do: 4 servings (and here’s a link to the original recipe)

  1. Sort through your beans for any pebbles or debris. Rinse under cold water three or four times.

NOTE:  Don’t skip this step.  My chickpeas had kind of an odd smell as I rinsed them.

  1. In a large saucepan or pot, combine the chana dal, turmeric, salt, and 4½ cups of water. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer, partly covered, for 40 minutes (add more water if needed). The consistency should not be too thin or thick. If too thick, add more water. If too thin, simmer a little longer.

NOTE:  This took me 90 minutes, not 40.  A little less water?  Maybe, but you want the texture to be soft.  A little higher heat?  A little, but not a ton.

  1. Meanwhile, heat the ghee or oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. When hot, add the cumin seeds and fry for about 30 seconds until fragrant. Add the onion and sauté until golden, about 5 to 7 minutes. Add the ginger, garlic, and green chile and continue to sauté a minute or two until the garlic is golden but not browned. Add the tomatoes.
  1. Stir in the garam masala, and chile powder. Continue to cook until the tomatoes break down and are soft.

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NOTE: The good news is that this can sit until the peas are ready without losing anything.

  1. Add this mixture to the pot with the chana dal.

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  1. Bring the pot back to a simmer. Add the spinach and cook until just wilted.
  1. Garnish with cilantro leaves. Serve with rice, naan, paratha, or roti.

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How’d it turn out?

This is so, so good. The heat is warm and wonderful.  Nothing sharp and overwhelming about it.  The cilantro at the end is a nice green touch.  I had a little naan with mine, which has fantastic.  Rice would have been good too.  And I really think a quick pickle of radishes and onions would add a wonderful acidity. Maybe I’ll try that with the leftovers.

The only drawback?  90 minutes to make.  I’m interested to find out if another recipe goes quicker.  If you want to use this one, I’d say make the split peas one night when you’re eating leftovers from something else.  Finish it and eat it the next night.

Tomorrow is going to start with ice and snow so it’ll be a perfect day to have these leftovers for lunch!