Archive for the ‘One Pot Meals’ Category

Sheet Pan Fried Rice

February 15, 2019

I’m not sure what my deal is with rice these days, but I’m eating a ton of it.  I had a carton of leftover rice from takeout the other night, and sheet pan fried race calls for exactly that.  Rice that’s leftover so it’s dry.  I had a bunch of stuff that’s been in the vegetable drawer just this side of too long.  And I almost always have eggs.  Dinner!

This is super easy.  You mix your rice and veggies with some sesame oil and soy sauce.  Pour it on a sheet pan and bake.  That can be the end if you want.  I decided to add some eggs to mine because all the other protein I have in the house is frozen.  One tip. Put a teaspoon or two of canola oil on your sheet pan and spread it around.  Put the  pan in the oven as it heats.  That way the oil and pan are hot when you add the rice and it starts to fry immediately.

If you’re going to use a protein like chicken or beef, partially cook it in the sheet pan before you add the rice.  Then it will finish cooking with everything else.  If you’re using shrimp, add it about halfway through the rice cooking so it doesn’t get rubbery.

Here’s what you need: for 2-3 main dish servings

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  • 2 t vegetable oil
  • 1 pint leftover cooked rice
  • chopped vegetables
    • mushrooms, peppers, onions
  • 2 T sesame oil
  • 3 T soy sauce
  • 2 eggs, whisked
  • 2 green onions, chopped

Here’s what you do:

  • Spread the vegetable oil on a sheet pan
  • Heat the pan in the oven to 375 degrees
  • While the oven heats, mix the rice, vegetables, sesame oil and soy sauce in a bowl

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  • Spread the rice mixture on the sheet pan in a single layer

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  • Bake 10 minutes
  • Create 3-4 wells in the rice, pour in the egg
  • Bake 5 minutes
  • Stir the partially cooked eggs into the rice and spread it back into a single layer
  • Cook another 4-5 minutes
  • Add green onions
  • Season with more soy sauce as needed

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This is a good meal.  Easy, cheap, good for using up leftover vegetables.  What would I do differently?  I’d heat the oven hotter to get a little more crisp on the rice.  I might also add some garlic and ginger to make the flavors a little more complex.  Maybe I’ll try that the next time.  And there will be a next time!

Oh, and hang on to the takeout rice container.  You can put your leftovers in it!

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Green Turkey Chili with Corn Two Ways

January 28, 2019

I’m back!  I’ve been traveling for work (again).  I ate out 21 meals in a row.  I did pretty well with my choices for the first few days.  The last half of the week was a dietary train wreck.  Now I’m at home and starting my “do over.”  I need something to fill a few requirements:  1)  low fat, low calorie, low WW points; 2) enough leftovers to eat a few times this week; 3)  something to help my fight the polar vortex that’s about to descend on central Virginia.  Turkey chili!

I know that a lot of people lighten up their regular red beef chili by substituting ground turkey for ground beef.  To me, turkey chili is white chili.  No tomatoes.  If I want tomato chili I’d rather combine beef with veggie crumbles than abandon the beef.  This is green chili because I use a bunch of diced green chilis and a jalapeno instead of red chili powder.  It looks a tiny bit green.

Want to make really green chili for fun?  Add some of the green chilis and a bunch of cilantro to your bean puree.  A tip about the bean puree.  Most recipes will tell you to put all the beans in the pot and cook them with the rest of the chili.  Then you have to spoon a bunch out, add a little liquid, and puree.  I spend a lot of time chasing beans around the pot and picking out the other stuff.  I get it.  If you do it that way the bean puree has the same flavor as the rest of the pot and you won’t have to adjust the seasonings much.  But it’s kind a pain.  It’s much easier to just save some of the beans out from the beginning.  Besides, this way, if you’ve over-seasoned, you have a chance to use the bean puree to correct that.  Never a bad idea to give yourself an out like that.

Is bean puree the only way to thicken this chili?  Nope.  You could make a slurry of masa or ground corn and water.  Let it sit a little while before you add it, but that should work.  A regular corn starch slurry would work too.  Just remember to bring the pot to a boil if you’re using corn starch.  Otherwise it won’t thicken.

So, what’s with this corn two ways thing?  I add hominy and white corn.  What is hominy?  It’s just corn kernels that have been soaked in an alkali solution.  The solution removes the hull and puffs up the kernel.  You start with field corn, which is different than the sweet corn you buy to eat as is.  The hominy adds heft and just a hint of corn flavor, more like masa or ground corn than like kernels.  And the kernels add sweetness.  Normally I’d use frozen corn.  It keeps its texture a little better than canned.  Today I could only find the white corn in a can.  Feel free to use yellow corn instead.  I just prefer the look of the chili with the white corn in it.

There are lots of options for topping this chili too.  It’s great with sour cream and a squeeze of lime juice.  If it’s not chili for you until you add the cheese, add some grated pepper jack.  Add some diced avocado and chopped cilantro or a dollop of guacamole.  And don’t forget the pickled jalapenos and green Tabasco for folks who need some extra heat. Or make a whole bar of toppings and let everyone dress their own!    Great addition to your Super Bowl party next weekend!

“This sounds amazing, but I’m a vegetarian!”  No worries.  There’s enough stuff in here you won’t even miss the turkey if you leave it out.  Add an extra can of beans and use vegetable stock instead of chicken.  Or throw in some tempeh to add another texture.

Here’s what you need: serves 4-6

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  • 1 1/2 T canola oil
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 jalapeno, seeded and diced
  • 1 lb ground turkey
  • 2 cans white beans, drained (cannellini or great northern)
  • 3 C chicken stock
  • 1/2 bag frozen pearl onions
  • 1 can white hominy, drained
  • 2 small cans diced green chiles
  • 1 can white corn, drained
  • ground cumin and salt to taste
  • cliantro, sour cream, pepper jack, avocado, limes for garnish

Here’s what you do:

  • Heat the oil in a heavy soup pot
  • Add the onions, garlic, and jalapenos.
  • Saute until they begin to soften, stirring constantly.  Do not brown.
  • Add the turkey.  Break it up with a wooden spoon as it browns.

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  • Add the beans, reserving 1/3 of a can for the puree
  • Add the stock, reserving 1/8 C for the puree
  • Add the onions and the hominy

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  • Bring to a simmer and cook uncovered 1 hour, stirring occasionally
  • Season with cumin and salt
  • Puree the reserved beans and stock

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  • Add to the pot
  • Adjust seasonings to tastee
  • Add the corn
  • Simmer 15 more minutes

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  • Serve with toppings

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Thai-American Noodles

December 29, 2018

The season of eating and drinking with abandon is almost over!  And while I will certainly take advantage of the next few days, I need a break!  I need a meal with no potatoes, cheese, or gravy.  Hello Asian food!

For the last few months I’ve been reading my way through Ruth Reichl’s My Kitchen Year.  It’s about the year after Gourmet magazine folded with Reichl at the helm, not that it was her failure.  But she did feel like she had failed.  And, halfway through, it seems that a year in the kitchen brought about her recovery.  In any case, there are a lot of yummy recipes along the way.

This recipe is from the Winter section of the book.  Not a bad way to escape the February blues!  I find that limes always make me feel a little bit sunny and cheerful. (Often they’re in a glass of bourbon and ginger so maybe that has something to do with it).  Still, this is a bright and happy dish.

It’s not a difficult dish to make, but do get everything together before you start.  It’s worth it to measure everything out into little piles or little bowls or whatever you need to stay organized.  Once you start it moves really fast.  My one complaint about this recipe, and the others in the book, is that the ingredients are divided into two sections – a shopping list and a list of staples.  That means they aren’t listed in the order that you need them as many recipes are.  Read the recipe all the way through before you start.  Maybe read it a couple of times.

Here’s what you need: my photo and the one from the book

  • 8 oz rice vermicelli
  • 1/4 C fish sauce
  • 1/4 C white vinegar
  • 1/4 C sugar
  • 1/2 C peanuts, crushed
  • 2-3 T peanut oil (or other neutral oil)
  • 1/2 lb shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 jalapeno, seeded and minced
  • 4 scallions, chopped, whites and greens divided
  • 2 eggs, beaten

Here’s what you do:

  • Soak noodles in hot water until they soften
  • Drain noodles and set aside
  • Mix fish sauce, sugar, and vinegar in small bowl
  • Heat oil in a wok or large pan until it shimmers
  • Add shrimp, cook until they’re just opaque, remove from pan and set aside

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  • Add garlic, jalapeno, and white parts of the scallions
  • Stir until aromatic
  • Add pork and cook until there’s no pink

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  • Stir in softened noodles
  • Mix in fish sauce mixture

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  • Cook over med-high heat until the noodles have absorbed the liquid
  • Push the noodle mixture to one side
  • Add the eggs and stir until they’re cooked

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  • Mix the eggs into the noodles
  • Add the shrimp, scallion greens, and peanuts

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  • Serve with lime wedges and Siracha

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A couple of tips on the cooking.  Use tongs to mix everything in.  The noodles stay all clumped together if you try to use a spoon.  You can also use the tongs to scrape all the yummy bits off the bottom of the pan.  Also, I think a few more vegetables would be a welcome addition.  Some matchstick carrots and thinly sliced red bell pepper would add some color, texture, and a little sweetness.  Possible that you could cut back a little on the sugar if you had some extra vegetable sweetness.

This is a pretty versatile dish.  Use ground chicken instead of pork if that fits better into your diet.  Leave out the shrimp if you don’t want them.  Some more vegetables and maybe some tofu would make this a fantastic vegetarian dish.  Get some rice paper rolls or lettuce leaves and use this as a filling. Lots of possibilities.  I think this is going to make a few more appearances before the winter is over!

 

Scallop, Sausage and Chard Pasta

December 23, 2018

Did I need to cook tonight?  Not at all.  I’ve got lots of white bean soup and a freezer full of other soups and beans and chilis.  But seafood pasta or risotto is kind of a holiday tradition of mine.  It’s something I make just for me, because I love it.  I turn on Desk Set, my favorite holiday not-holiday movie and spend some quality time in the kitchen.  Things are slightly different this year somehow.  I’m re-watching Grace & Frankie, and sort of speeding through things in the kitchen.  Still, this is worth writing.

I braved the Wegman’s today, for no reason except that I go there for squid and that’s what I wanted for my pasta.  They had no fresh squid.  Scallops it is.  And a milder sausage to complement.  Add some garlicky greens, I still have chard, with wine sauce and fettuccine.  Dinner done in 25 minutes.  And it showed.  I didn’t think this through.

Sweet scallops and sweet italian sausage are not a bad pairing, but I could have done some things to make it really special if I’d been thinking.  Crushed red pepper (or hot italian sausage) would have been a nice addition.  A squeeze of lemon juice and some more black pepper would have been bright and lovely.  As it was, it was a very good dinner, but not special.  And it was a little dry.  A wine and lemon sauce would have been good.  Maybe I’ll add that to the leftovers.

So, this dinner that I make for myself to bring calm and joy just ahead of the family holiday crazies is good, but not great.  If you decide to make it, take one of the suggestions (or both) from above.

Here’s what you need:

  • 1-2 sausage links, hot or sweet Italian
  • 1/2 lb sea scallops, halved horizontally
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 C chopped greens (chard, turnip, kale)
  • 1/4-1/3 C white wine
  • pasta for 2-4 servings (linguine, fettuccine)

Here’s what you do:

  • Cook the pasta to al dente while you make the rest of the dish
  • Cook the sausage in a large, heavy pan
  • Remove and keep warm
  • Pat the scallops dry
  • Cook in the sausage pan, 1-2 minutes on each side
  • Remove and keep warm
  • Add the onions and garlic to the pan, stir
  • Add half the wine to deglaze the pan
  • Saute until the onions are soft
  • Add the greens and the remaining wine
  • Add a little of the pasta water to the greens
  • Drain the pasta
  • Mix the sausage and greens into the drained pasta
  • Add seared scallops to each bowl

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I did enjoy my dinner.  I don’t mean to suggest that I didn’t.  I just know that this dish has more to offer.  It’s very middle of the road.  It needs some punch – heat or citrus or something.  Next time. Still, it honors my just for me seafood holiday dinner tradition!  Into the family fray tomorrow!

White Beans and Greens Soup (with or without ham!)

December 22, 2018

It’s been another long while since I’ve posted.  It’s the holidays so I’ve been cooking up a storm, but not very inclined to be on my computer.  I’ll try to catch up over the next week or so.  Well, not only have I been cooking up a storm, I’ve been eating (and drinking) like there’s no tomorrow.  Just this morning I had a HUGE brunch and mimosas with my friends from the SPCA.  Then I had a nap.  I knew I was going to want something for dinner, but decided that a non-potato vegetable might be in order.  Something light.  SOUP!

I spent some time this afternoon with Ruth Reichl and Melissa Clark, their cookbooks anyway.  I had it narrowed down to Thai noodle soup or avgolemono when I stumbled upon a recipe for Navy Bean and Ham soup with collards.  I know, navy bean and ham soup isn’t so light.  Usually it’s thick enough to eat with a fork and nary a vegetable in sight.  This one is different!  Melissa Clark delivers again.  And, of course, I made some adjustments.

While I didn’t need it to be super thick, I knew that mashing a few of the beans from a single can, as the recipe called for, wasn’t going to cut it.  I turned a second can of beans into a puree and added that to the soup to give it a little more heft. It’s still pretty light, but feels more like a winter main dish soup.

Now, traditionally you couldn’t possibly leave out the ham in a white bean and ham soup.  It supplies pretty much all of the flavor.  I had some country ham in the house, so I did throw that in.  However, because the primary spice here is paprika, you could use a smoked paprika and dispense with the meat altogether without giving up that smoky flavor!  With the vegetables and beans you’d still have a complete meal soup.

This is a 30-40 minute dinner start to finish, depending on your chopping skills.  Took me 40.  My knife skills are decent, but not speedy.  Because it’s soup, feel free to use pre-chopped frozen vegetables if you want. In fact, if you bought chopped vegetables and diced ham, this is a 25 minute dinner!

Here’s what you need:

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  • 2 T olive oil
  • 1 C diced onion
  • 1/2 C diced celery
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 C finely chopped carrot
  • 2 C chicken or vegetable stock
  • 2 C water
  • 1/2 bell pepper, diced
  • 2 C chopped greens (kale and chard here, but collards, would work too)
  • 4-8 oz diced ham (optional)

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  • 1 can white beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 can white beans, drained, rinsed and pureed

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  • 1 T paprika (or smoked paprika)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • hot sauce garnish (optional)

Here’s what you do:

  • Heat olive oil in a stock pot
  • Add onion, celery, garlic, carrots
  • Saute until softened, about 10 minutes

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  • Add stock, water, ham, peppers, greens, beans, puree.  Bring to a simmer
  • Add paprika, salt, pepper.  Simmer 15-20 minutes.
  • Garnish with hot sauce if desired.

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How’d it turn out?

So, so good.  I feel almost healthy!  The recipe called for me to make cornbread croutons coated with hot sauce and butter.  I had no cornbread so I tried it with a potato roll.  Not so good.  Fortunately, I make cheese straws as part of my Christmas baking. They were perfect alongside my soup!

The greens and peppers maintain some nice texture against the creamy beans. The paprika is the perfect flavor to bring the soup to life.  I’m looking forward to the leftovers already!

 

Snow Day Lasagna Soup

December 9, 2018

It’s been too long!  I’ve done some cooking, some traveling, some eating out in the meantime.  But today is a snow day, which means kitchen time and binge-watching tv.  And, of course, taking video of the puppy’s first snow.  I love days like this!

An ad for something called “Instant Pot Lasagna Soup” came across my news feed last week.  I don’t have an Instant Pot.  I feel no need for one.  There was a link to a slow cooker version.  Getting closer.  But on a snow day, I don’t need a hands off solution.  I’m here.  I have time to stir.  And in this case, that’s the only difference between the slow cooker version and the stove top soup pot version.  The stirring.

How do you make a soup version of lasagna?  Basically, you make the goopy filling you’d make for a regular lasagna and add a bunch of liquid to it.  Soup.  The great thing about it is that the filling part can be anything you want. I used a combination of sausage, beef, and turkey in this one.  If you’d usually make a vegetarian lasagna, by all means, do that. Sub in veggie crumbles instead of the meat. This would be great with zucchini and mushrooms.  And what’s even better is that you don’t have to worry about whether it’s going to fall apart when you cut it.  It’s supposed to be soupy!

Now, let’s talk noodles.  Lots of options here too.  What kind of noodles?  I decided to use lasagna noodles broken into pieces.  You could use rotini or radiatore or baby shells, whatever.  You can cook them in the soup.  You can cook them ahead of time and add them to the pot.  You can cook them and portion them into individual bowls.  What you need to consider is your leftovers plan.  If you’re sure you won’t have leftovers, cook the noodles in the soup.  They’ll take on the flavor of the soup.  If you’re mostly sure you won’t have leftovers, but then again maybe, cook the noodles separately and add them to the pot. They’ll take on some of the soup liquid.  Beware that the noodles in the leftovers might be a little mushy.  If you’ve planned for leftovers, cook the noodles separately and put them in individual bowls.  You can either cook all the noodles you’ll need and just store them separately or you can cook fresh ones each time you have leftovers.

This stuff looks, tastes, and smells amazing.  Coming in from playing in the snow to this aroma is a gift.  Truly.  But I noticed that I didn’t have any vegetables.  And since I’m still not convinced that lettuce won’t jump up and kill me at any moment (Google romaine and e coli if you want more info on that), I decided to add some kale to the pot.  I got some end of season lacinato kale at the farmers’ market yesterday so I chopped and added most of the bunch to the pot.  If you’re going to add a hardy green to the pot, just make sure the soup is at a solid simmer.  You want the greens to cook, not just wilt.  If you’re using a softer leaf like spinach, a wilt will do just fine.

Hey now, you’re saying, the best part of a lasagna is the cheesy goodness!  Worry not.  You have a lot of options in the cheese department too.  You can add a dollop of ricotta to the bottom of each bowl before you ladle the soup in.  You can (and should) top each bowl with mozzarella and Parmesan.  Or both!  In this case I used SausageCraft Della Nonna sausage, which has some cheese mixed right into the sausage.  Yummmm.  If you want to make it extra special, use oven safe crocks so you can brown the mozzarella in the broiler before serving!

If you don’t have a lasagna recipe that you’re already using, feel free to follow this one.  This will make 4-6 servings.

Here’s what you need:

  • 2 T olive oil
  • 1 C diced onion
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 lb each, italian sausage, ground beef, and ground turkey
  • 2 T tomato paste
  • 1 can (14 oz) or pint jar peeled tomatoes
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/2 C dry red wine (save the rest for dinner!)
  • 1-2 t dried oregano
  • 1-2 t dried basil
  • 2-3 C stock (vegetable or chicken)
  • 1 small bunch lacinato kale, stemmed and chopped

Here’s what you do:

  • In a medium pot, cook the pasta; set aside

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  • In a large, heavy pot, heat the oil until it shimmers
  • Add the onion and garlic
  • Cook until the onion is soft
  • Add the meat; cook until it’s browned

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  • Stir in the tomato paste

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  • Stir in the tomatoes, wine and spices

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At this point what you’ve got is lasagna filling.

  • Add the stock

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Now it’s soup!

  • Bring to a simmer
  • Cover the pot and cook 30-60 minutes
  • Increase the heat to achieve a low boil
  • Add the kale

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  • Reduce heat and simmer 15-20 minutes.
  • Add pasta to each bowl; ladle soup over the noodles
  • Add some mozzarella and parmesan

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How was it?

First, it’s exactly as advertised.  It’s lasagna in a bowl!  Nothing to complain about there.  I really like the broken lasagna noodles. My advice – leave the pieces big enough that you really notice them.  It’s much more like lasagna that way.  And as delightful as the mozzarella is, it sticks to the spoon as much as anything.  I don’t like having to scrape it off with my teeth. I might try the leftovers with just the parmesan.  Or maybe cubes of fresh mozzarella instead.

If you’re going to add a kale or chard, add some extra stock or water as well. The greens soak up a lot of liquid and you still want it to be like soup.  I really liked the kale addition though.  I’d definitely do that again.

I’m super happy with my meat choices.  The beef and turkey were very lean and the sausage added just enough fat to add amazing flavor and a silky texture to the broth.  So, not a lot of fat and I didn’t miss it.  But I think I’d be happy with a vegetarian version too.

All in all, the perfect snow day dinner!  All the food groups; warm and comfort-y;  and only a bowl to wash.  I might even have some in the morning after the snow shoveling!

Farewell Fresh: Potato and Corn Chowder

November 17, 2018

It’s gotten cold here in Virginia.  And I worked pretty hard today – run this morning; housecleaning; and I braved the Kroger the Saturday before Thanksgiving.  There ought to be a badge for that!  But as usual, I bought the stuff I need to make Thanksgiving desserts, but no actual food.  Fortunately I had one more Hello Fresh meal!  Chowder was exactly the right thing for tonight.

There’s a fair amount of chopping in this one, and a fairly long cooking time, but it’s not hard.  The only challenge is adding the milk to the floury vegetables and getting a smooth base.  You’re making gravy here.  Just add a little milk.  Stir until it’s incorporated.  It’ll be thick and glumpy still.  Add a little more.  Stir it in.  There’s a cup of milk and I added it in 5 stages.  By the end it’s very soupy, but it doesn’t have any lumps!  And be sure you bring it all the way to a boil before you start to simmer.  It’s the boiling that helps thicken the chowder.

I simmered it for 12 minutes.  You want the potatoes to be tender, but not soft.  They need to hold their shape.  The corn is yellow and had very large kernels, almost as large as the potato pieces.  It adds a very nice hit of sweetness against the heat of the poblano.  Hello Fresh provided a medium cheddar, which was fine.  On my own I would have used extra sharp. I just like that extra tang.

What’s my favorite thing about this chowder?  The smoked paprika.  It’s a fantastic way to add to add some smoky, almost meaty, depth to a vegetarian dish.  Chowder often has bacon or ham to elevate a dish that’s otherwise mostly potatoes and milk.  No need here.  The smoked paprika does its job.

This is another recipe that makes way more than 2 people need for dinner.  I had a bowl and a half tonight and there are easily 2 and maybe 3 servings left in the pot.  Between this and the orzotto from yesterday (and Thanksgiving!), I’ve got lunch taken care of for the week!

My only word of caution – the poblano isn’t a very hot pepper, but it still stings if you get the juice on your fingers and touch your face.  I speak from experience.

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Hello Fresh “Orzotto”

November 16, 2018

This is meal 2 out of my gifted box – orzotto.  Risotto made with orzo instead of arborio rice.  Clever.

Honestly this is one of the more complicated recipes I’ve made from a Hello Fresh box.  It’s not too difficult, just a lot of cook, remove from pot, set aside.  Requires the stove top and the oven.  And they miss a little on the instructions.  Once you add the liquid (chicken stock concentrate, water and crushed tomatoes) to the orzo it says to bring it to a boil and stir occasionally.  It’s a pretty thick liquid and there’s not a ton of it.  The orzo starts to stick to the bottom of the pot pretty quickly.  I had to stir constantly and vigorously to keep it from sticking.  I also had to add about 1/2 C extra water to get the orzo to cook all the way to al dente.

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The topping is slightly strange.  Shredded mozzarella and panko.  You spread it over the top and put it under the boiler.  Because it’s bread crumbs and a fat you end up with a crust.  Lovely on casseroles, but odd on something that’s supposed to be risotto-esque.  I’d leave that off.  Maybe sprinkle the cheese on top of eat serving.  Leave the panko for another day.

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One more thing.  This is WAY more than 2 servings, as the pasta dishes often are.  To give you a sense, this is a 3 1/2 Q dutch oven.  It’s filled about 1/3 of the way, so nearly a quart of this stuff.  I’m not a small girl and portion control is one of my issues, still, I can’t imagine what Hello Fresh thinks is four servings of this!

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Overall, it’s a good dish. The italian seasoning is a little strong.  It calls for added butter  you don’t need.  What is up with these people and their extra butter?  The chicken sausage is very flavorful, which is good because grated zucchini has no taste at all.  The tomatoes have no salt.  The chicken stock must be low in salt.  Taste before you top and stir some salt in to taste.

Election Night Sheet Pan Dinner

November 6, 2018

It’s election night in America.  Which means a potentially crazy evening for a lot of people.  Kids are out of school since their schools are polling places, which either means they’re home and bored or you have to go somewhere to pick them up.  Maybe you have to vote on the way home.  Maybe that’s your only chance to hit the gym. The polls close at 7pm so returns, predictions, etc start at 7:01.  It gets dark at 5pm so it feels like all this happens at midnight anyway.  Whew.  Oh, and dinner?  Have you had 2 minutes to think about dinner?

Take out?  Entirely respectable.  Or you could throw your entire dinner on a baking sheet and put it in the oven for half an hour while you change clothes and have a glass of wine.  I opted for choice B tonight.  I did my chopping early in the day.  That helps things move along in the evening. (I work from home so this is a luxury I have).  Treat yourself to pre-cut fresh vegetables if that’s better for you. Or, if they’re old enough, assign this task to your kids.  They were home all day. =)

What do we love about sheet pan dinners?  Everything.  There are endless combinations of protein and vegetables.  Endless options for sauces.  And only one pan to clean up.  What do we not love about sheet pan dinners?  There are endless combinations of protein and vegetables.  Endless options for sauces.  The hardest part is figuring out what you’re making.  If you have odds and ends of vegetables, this is a great way to use them up.  I had one sweet potato, half an onion, and half a bag of Brussels sprouts. I had one chicken breast left from a pack I bought for the pups (don’t ask).  Sauce?  I considered balsamic vinegar.  I considered garlic and herb.  I landed on honey mustard because, I have a ton of honey in the cabinet and who doesn’t love honey mustard!

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One tip about these.  If you’re positive that all the vegetables will be done at the same time, go ahead and mix them up.  I usually find that the potatoes take longer than I think.  If you have the vegetables separated by type, it’s easy to remove some while leaving others on the pan to finish cooking.

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We’re halfway through the cooking and already I can tell that the sauce is too soupy.  I kind of wanted a glaze.  I could dump it in a pot and reduce it, but that defeats the purpose of the sheet pan dinner where everything happens on one pan.

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Ok, this didn’t go exactly as planned.  I should have put the potatoes in first.  I’ve now taken out the Brussels sprouts and the smaller piece of chicken and the sweet potatoes aren’t nearly done.  So that’s a bummer, especially since it’s after 7pm and I’m hungry.  Solution?  Eat in courses.  Protein and green vegetable course, followed by the potato course.  Sigh.

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On the plus side the chicken is wonderfully tender.  And with a little kosher salt sprinkled on top, this is a nice sauce with the sprouts.

So, this sheet pan dinner is a solid C, but the concept is still an A!  The next one will be better!  If anyone has a sheet pan dinner they really like, leave the info in the comments!

Tomato Braised White Beans OR White Beans in Dirt

November 1, 2018

I’ve been looking forward to this dish all week.  It just sounded like half comfort food and half elegant dinner.  That said, it’s a slightly strange combination of things and I couldn’t quite figure out the flavor profile.  I’m still not sure I know.  I’ll say it’s 1/4 the recipe and 3/4 the cook.  Let me explain.

I did all my chopping ahead of time.  Worked out the math.  Figured out my substitutions.  Ready to roll.  I’m pretty good about that with recipes I’m unfamiliar with.  Cook the sliced chorizo, got it.  Easy.  Remove the chorizo to a paper towel.  Yep.  Add tomato paste, cumin and paprika to the pot.  Cook “until the mixture is caramelized and dark gold.”  Wait, what?  How does a mixture that starts out red and brown turn into dark gold?  It definitely didn’t.

Instantly black as tar.  This is the point at which I should have started over.  I’m guessing the oil was too hot when I added the tomato paste, but I’ve never seen tomato paste do this.  I didn’t start over.  I soldiered on.

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I added the vegetables. Then stirred in the beans, tomatoes, water and herbs.  I tasted the broth at this point.  Tasted like dirt.  Not a good sign.  From here you boil, add the chorizo, and then simmer 20 minutes.  That means this is going to reduce and the flavors will concentrate.  Concentrated dirt?  Not promising.  Still, I pressed on.

I added the spinach.  Here’s my second mistake.  The recipe calls for sherry vinegar.  I added sherry, which in this pot of very strong flavors, did nothing.  Hello Google.  Yep, sherry and sherry vinegar are not the same.  I could have added 1 part sherry to 3 parts red vinegar except I didn’t have any.  I used balsamic vinegar instead and it made a big difference!  A drizzle of olive oil was also a welcome balance for the dark, dirt flavor of the tomato broth.

In the end this was edible.  I wasn’t even really tempted to pull pizza out of the freezer.  I was suspicious of the spinach, but that added a really nice light greenness.  The balsamic vinegar added a perfect sharpness and the olive oil a beautiful smoothness.  That said, I’m not convinced I’ll eat the leftovers.  All of those lovely flavors really just helped to cover up the fact that I burned the tomato paste in step 2.  But you can’t ever really cover that up completely.

Just a couple of notes for alternatives.  With a little extra smoked paprika I think you could leave out the chorizo and make this a vegan dish.  Or, I think you could also use pepperoni or turkey pepperoni just as well as an easy substitute for the chorizo.

If you decide to make this, I’m going to recommend that you consult this recipe. One, this is a slow cooker version, which is always nice, and two, it’s the right color!