Sunday, December 9, 2012

Cauliflower Cheese (Cauliflower Gratin)

I spent a couple of weeks in England last year and found a few gems in their often-maligned cuisine. I've already written about the fantastic chana masala I had there, but I also adored the ever-present cauliflower gratin, which they inexplicably call "cauliflower cheese". I have only recently come around to liking cauliflower, and this was one of the dishes that convinced me of its merits. I made a cauliflower mac and cheese a while ago, inspired by it. Now that my husband is on a low carb diet, I figure it is high time that I make cauliflower cheese proper!

Most recipes call for a cheese sauce thickened with roux, which is a no-go for the low carb diet. Plus, it's fussier than I'd care to be. So I created a minimalist dish that really only has three ingredients: cauliflower, cheddar cheese, and sour cream, plus whatever seasonings you like. Whether or not you're on low carb, this recipe is a great way to hit the same notes as mac and cheese, but while eating a big old plate of veggies instead! I dare say I would actually prefer it to mac and cheese!

Cauliflower Cheese
Approximately 40 oz cauliflower florets, fresh or frozen (For some reason, the Safeway by my house sells their frozen cauliflower in 20 oz bags, so this is a convenient amount for me. This recipe is flexible, so feel free to modify it for whatever increments of cauliflower are available to you.)
8 oz (approximately 1 cup) lowfat sour cream
8 ounces grated 2% sharp cheddar, a handful reserved for sprinkling over the top.  (You could add a few tablespoons of grated parm in addition to really take it over the top.)
1 t seasoning salt of choice (I like Tony Chacheres or Season All in this)
½ t garlic powder
black pepper to taste (I like a lot)
optional seasoning add-ins: dash of hot sauce, dash of Worcestershire sauce,
couple of tablespoons of bacon bits

In an oven and microwave safe casserole dish, microwave frozen cauliflower until softened, about 7-10 minutes. Preheat oven to 350. In a separate bowl, mix all remaining ingredients. Drain any liquid that accumulated while cooking the cauliflower. Add cauliflower to remaining ingredients, mix together, and return to casserole dish. Bake, uncovered for 30 minutes, until cauliflower is hot and bubbly, and the top is slightly browned. Let stand for 5 minutes before serving; the cauliflower will absorb the remaining liquid and "set".

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Roasted Cauliflower and Kale Soup

This is a healthier, low carb version of my Creamy Potato, Kale, and Sausage Soup. Instead of potato and milk, roasted, pureed cauliflower imparts creaminess and rich flavor. It's packed with superfood veggies, and I think I may like it better than the original. You could easily leave out the meat and garnish for a vegan dish. Bonus: it freezes well!

Roasted Cauliflower and Kale Soup
Approximately 2.5 lbs cauliflower (I used frozen)
a few T of olive oil
1 lb fresh Italian sausage (chorizo would also be good, or you could omit the meat entirely)
2 medium onions, chopped
8 cloves garlic
1 bay leaf
1 t Italian seasoning or thyme
2 t salt
crushed red pepper and black pepper to taste
1 quart chicken or veggie stock
1 quart water
approximately 1 lb kale, tough ribs removed, chopped

Garnish with Parmesan cheese, optional

Preheat oven to 450. Toss cauliflower florets with olive oil and 1 t salt. Roast for 20-30 minutes, stirring once. Florets should have some golden brown spots on them when done.

While cauliflower is roasting, remove sausage from casing (if present) and brown in a large pot, breaking into small pieces. Remove and set aside. Saute onion and garlic until tender. Add spices, remaining salt, stock, and 2/3 of cauliflower. Simmer 7-`10 minutes, until cauliflower is very tender. Set aside bay leaf and puree soup thoroughly.

Add sausage, remaining cauliflower, and return bay leaf to pot. Bring to a simmer. Add kale. Cover and simmer on low for five minutes. Serves 8.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Indian Creamed Spinach (fake Palak Paneer)

Palak paneer is one of my favorite Indian dishes. It's basically creamed spinach with curry spices and paneer, a fresh non-melting cheese. A much more interesting way to eat your spinach than traditional creamed spinach. I made up this really simple recipe to approximate the flavors of palak paneer at home, using basic ingredients. I decided to leave out the paneer, because I would either have to go buy it at an Indian grocery or make it myself (there are neat recipes for homemade paneer on the web.) To me, the best part is the creamy curried spinach, anyway.

I threw this together years ago and brought it to a Thanksgiving hosted by friends on the West coast, then we moved to the East coast for four years. When we moved back West and reunited for our first Thanksgiving with our old friends in four years, they were still requesting this dish. For all the fuss, it's embarrassingly simple.

Indian Creamed Spinach
Indian Creamed Spinach in my friend's beautiful cookware, ready for Thanksgiving
2 t butter
2 t cumin
1 t coriander
1 t turmeric
1/2 t garlic powder
1/2 t powdered ginger
1/4 t cinnamon
1/4 t cardamom
2 lbs thawed frozen chopped spinach
crushed red pepper or cayenne to taste
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 to 1 cup cream or half and half (depending on how decadent you want to be)
1/2-1 t sugar (To taste. You're not trying to make it taste sweet, you're just going to mellow out the spice a bit.)

In a medium-large saucepan, toast spices in butter for a minute, stirring frequently. Add spinach, cover, and simmer, 7-10 minutes. Lower heat to low and add remaining ingredients. Taste and adjust seasoning. Serve.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Chili Verde (slow cooker and pressure cooker variations)

I'm on a roll today! I have a backlog of low-carb recipes after my husband's first week on the diet. Here's another one involving a Crockpot, which fulfills my promise to only use the device when it actually improves the recipe. In this case, slow cooking lean pork roast makes it super tender and flavors the sauce beautifully. Instead of chopping tomatillos (which are expensive where I live) I use jarred salsa verde as a shortcut. I often chop the veggies in the food processor instead of by hand. This turns out equally well in a pressure cooker. I love how flavorful and tangy this dish is.

Crockpot Chili Verde
1 bunch cilantro (remove leaves, chop them, and set aside for garnish. Chop the stems and cook in Crockpot with rest of ingredients.)
1 large onion, roughly chopped
6 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
2-6 jalapenos, roughly chopped, with seeds (we love spice, so I do 6, seeds and all. If you are sensitive to spice, try one or two, and remove the seeds)
1.5 lbs poblano and/or Anaheim peppers, roughly chopped
3.5-4 lbs pork sirloin or loin roast or chops, cut into 2 inch pieces
1.5 T ground cumin
1 T dried oregano (preferably Mexican)
2 t Adobo seasoning
28 oz canned cannellini or pinto beans, drained OR 3/4 lb dried beans, soaked overnight. If using dried beans, add 1/2 cup water to pot before cooking
1 12 oz jar salsa verde or green enchilada sauce
1 can Rotel tomatoes
2 t ground coriander (optional)
1 t Liquid smoke (optional)
1 t Worchestershire sauce (optional)

Lots of lime juice
chopped cilantro leaves
sour cream
corn tortillas or chips (if not concerned about low carb)

Slow cooker instructions
Dump all ingredients except garnish into the slow cooker and stir. Cook 8 hours on low.

Pressure cooker instructions
Saute pork until a bit brown on the outside but not cooked through. Set aside and so the same for the vegetables. Add remaining ingredients and set pressure cooker to beans/chili (or manual) for 50 minutes. Use quick release when done. 

Simple Slow Cooker Chicken Soup

My husband just started doing a low carb diet, which means I have a new cooking project! It's a fun challenge coming up with recipes that work for his diet, but I have to say, it violates some of my core cooking values: I try to keep recipes simple and inexpensive, which means I often include lots of beans and try to stretch small portions of meat. He can't have beans during the induction phase, but we should be able to work a moderate amount of them in later. For now, that means a lot more meat than I am used to cooking.

To keep things simple and inexpensive, I wanted to try the old school method of making chicken soup: poaching a whole chicken. I already routinely use my Crockpot to make stock with leftover poultry bones, so I wanted to try cooking the whole chicken in there, making stock at the same time.

I have already written about how many recipes have no business being in a Crockpot, and that I will only use mine for the few applications in which the recipe will actually benefit from slow cooking. You can rest assured that this one of those recipes ideal for a Crockpot; making chicken soup this way makes the broth richer and saves you active cooking time. The soup came out fantastic: the chicken was cooked well, the broth was rich and herby, and amazingly, the veggies still had some bite to them.

Keep this on hand in the freezer for when you get the inevitable seasonal cold/flu!

Simple Slow Cooker Chicken Soup
1 onion, chopped
2 heaping T minced garlic
4-5 lb whole chicken
1 lb carrots, cut into bite-size pieces
1 lb celery (most of a head), leaves included, cut into bite-sized pieces
2 bay leaves
1 T salt
1 T plus 1 t seasoned salt (I like Season All)
1 1/2 T Italian seasoning (I love Italian seasoning, but it has never tasted very "Italian" to me. It tastes strongly of rosemary, with hints of sage, thyme, and marjoram; herbs that compliment chicken very well.)
lots of black pepper
1 cup uncooked brown rice, added 2 hours before end of cooking (optional; obviously don't use if doing low carb)

Garnish with:
1 bunch parsley, chopped
splash of lemon (freshens up the flavor and acts like a flavor enhancer. I swear it tastes more "chickeny" with a little lemon)

If you want to get super simple, you can chop the veggies in the food processor by pulsing in batches, or you can chop by hand.

Place onions and garlic on the bottom of a large (6 quart) slow cooker. Place the whole chicken, skin and bones and everything, in the slow cooker, breast side up. Dump everything else in except rice and garnish. Fill with water up to 1.5 inch from top.

Cook in slow cooker on low for 7 hours. If using rice, add after 4 hours. Once cooking is complete, remove chicken from slow cooker.

When I got to this step, I peeked into the slow cooker, and the chicken looked totally intact. I was excited about the drama of pulling out a whole chicken and carving it, and I was about to call my husband over to watch the perfect chicken emerge from the Crockpot. Luckily I didn't, because when I stuck the spoon inside the cavity to lift it out, the spoon went right through it, ripped the chicken in half, and made a disturbing "splat". Not a bad thing, really, it means that the meat is super tender and the bones have given up their gelatin to the stock. Just be aware that your chicken may break into a few large pieces when you go to remove it.

Use a couple of large serving spoons to get the chicken out. Let it cool on a plate for a few minutes. While it's cooling, skim the fat off the top of the soup. Alternatively, you could make the soup a day ahead and refrigerate it. The fat will solidify into a layer on top that you can just lift off.

At this point, you may wonder if you need to strain the broth. No! It will be fine! Keep it simple and rustic. The chicken stayed in large chunks, so it was easy to fish out, with no bones or weird bits left behind.

Pick the meat off your chicken, shred it, and return it to the soup. No need to cook it anymore; it's ready to garnish and serve! You may want to add more water if you want more broth in your soup.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Pizza Pasta

This recipe was inspired by The Jerk. Just after college, I was living on my own for the first time with Beau and his brother Sean. We were watching the scene where Steve Martin's character enjoys "pizza-in-a-cup" and were simultaneously amused and inspired. We decided that pizza in a cup could be delicious, and I took it as a challenge to try to make it. I decided to take all of our favorite pizza toppings: pepperoni or sausage, peppers, mushrooms, olives, onions, and combine them with tomato sauce, cheese, and pasta. And thus, our favorite post-college food was born: pizza pasta. It was easy to make and could feed two big hungry guys and me for days on the cheap. (Ridiculously, I would actually double the batch back then to ensure that we had a ton of food.)

Truthfully, this is the kind of food that's great for kids or college students. After years of pretending to be too grown up and sophisticated to make it, I finally made it again today, and although my husband and I are legit adults--I'm a professor, in fact--we had no shame in enjoying this again. It's totally flexible, just add your favorite pizza toppings (except maybe pineapple!).

Pizza Pasta

8 cloves garlic, minced
1 15 oz can tomato sauce
1 15 oz can diced tomatoes
2 t oregano
salt to taste
crushed red pepper and black pepper to taste
1 16 oz package pasta (whole wheat is fine. I like bow tie or shells)
1 cup shredded mozzarella
1/2 cup Parmesan
optional add-ins (pick one or more): ½ to 1 lb Italian sausage or pepperoni (turkey is fine; cut into bite-sized pieces); 8-12 oz sliced fresh mushrooms; 3 jalapenos; 6 oz can sliced black olives

Heat two large saucepans. In one, boil pasta. In the second, saute meat, if using, and vegetables until lightly caramelized. Add remaining ingredients (except cheese) and simmer for about 10 minutes, until pasta is ready. Drain pasta and combine with sauce, adding a little water or pasta cooking liquid if it seems dry. Remove from heat and garnish with cheese. Serves 9

***UPDATE: Inspired by the pasta wonderpot trend, I recently converted this to a one-pot recipe and it worked great! Just follow the instructions above, except do not boil the pasta separately. Prepare the sauce, then add 3 cups of water, and add dry pasta. Simmer gently, covered, for approximately 20 minutes, stirring frequently until pasta is al dente and most of the liquid is absorbed. Unlike the original recipe, the wonderpot method creates a starchy sauce that will emulsify cheese, so you can stir the cheese directly into it.

***UPDATE #2: Now that I have an Instant Pot, I love making one-pot pasta dishes, and this turns out perfect! Just follow the wonderpot instructions above and cook on high pressure for 3 minutes, followed by quick pressure release.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Tamale Pie

I have been playing around with recipes for enchilada casserole for the last couple of months, until I realized that I like tamales waaay more than I like enchiladas! Instead of having to fuss over wrapping individual tamales, why not just make one big casserole that tastes like tamales! So I decided to focus my fake-Mexican casserole skills on making a healthyish tamale pie. Tons of tamale pie recipes exist on the internet, but most replace the traditional masa dough with a cornbread topper. While I'm sure that's delicious, I wanted my casserole to actually taste like tamales: the soft, moist masa  dough is pure comfort food. So I decided to mix up some masa as if I were going to make tamales, and layer it in a pan with a delicious tex-mex filling. You can find masa in most supermarkets in the Latin section. It usually comes in a 2 kg bag, and is super cheap. Don't worry about having to buy a large bag, you will want to make this over and over again! It is so addictive and it freezes beautifully.

This is more of a technique than a recipe. You could do any filling/sauce combination you want. Next time I'm going to make green chile chicken tamales.

Masa Dough
3 cups instant masa
2 t baking powder
1 t adobo seasoning or Konriko Jalapeno Seasoning
3 cups water
1 T olive oil

1 lb ground beef
1 small onion, chopped
1 bell pepper, chopped
1 can Rotel
1 can refried beans
1 cup pureed pumpkin (optional; I've written before about how I enjoy sneaking this in to add veggies and creaminess to a dish)
1 T chili powder
1 t smoked paprika
red pepper flakes to taste
salt or Adobo seasoning to taste
approximately 1 cup water, enough to loosen filling to a soft paste

8 oz grated low fat cheese
10 oz can red enchilada sauce (I like Las Palmas)

Mix dough ingredients together in a bowl, then cover and let stand while preparing filling.

Saute meat, onion, and pepper until meat is browned. Add remaining filling ingredients.

Press half of the dough into the bottom of a greased 10x13 baking pan. Spread filling on top. Top with cheese, then rest of the dough. You may need to put the dough on in blobs and smooth them down as best as you can. Pour enchiladas sauce on top. Bake at 350, tightly covered with foil, for 1 hour. It is ready when the masa dough is firm. Makes 10 servings

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Healthier Baked Ziti

You may have noticed a theme in my blog. I love excuses to combine pasta and cheese. My new favorite way to do this is in baked ziti. Baked ziti is essentially part mac and cheese and part lasagna--the best of both worlds. Just like macaroni, the tubular pasta traps the cheesy sauce, and it oozes out when you bite it. You get all the flavors of lasagna, but you don't have to fuss over laying out lasagna noodles and evenly distributing layers. Just mix everything together.

I based this recipe on one from Cook's Illustrated, one of my favorite recipe sources. They have a similar philosophy to mine--they test and tweak recipes extensively (although they are much more thorough than me), and they are not afraid to think of creative improvements to traditional dishes. One of the unique things about their recipe is that rather than just mixing everything together, you mix half of the tomato sauce with the pasta, and pour the other half over the top, so every bite gets tomatoey goodness, plus an extra blanket of rich, unadulterated tomato sauce. It adds a nice flavor contrast. Their recipe calls for cottage cheese, which they claim is better than ricotta in this recipe. I have to admit, I thought cottage cheese in pasta sounded weird, and I doubted them, so the first time I made it, I used ricotta. It was fine, but not spectacular. The ricotta got dry and a little mealy. The second time, I tried the cottage cheese, and they were totally right--it is so much better. The sauce was moister, cheesier, and more flavorful, all with less fat than ricotta!

Of course, the next time I made it I had to personalize it. Believe me, though, the recipe is fantastic as is. I added spinach to get a serving of veggies in there and extra garlic (I've noticed that I always prefer about twice as much garlic as they call for). You could brown a pound of ground meat or Italian sausage and add it to the sauce if someone (like my husband) is craving meat. Their recipe called for eggs and a bechamel sauce, but for simplicity, I don't add them. Instead, I just add extra cooking liquid until the consistency is moist enough. The pasta actually ends up creamier and less starchy this way.

Healthier Baked Ziti
14 oz-1 lb ziti or penne pasta. I used whole wheat

1 28-ounce can marinara sauce or crushed tomatoes, 1/3 of the can reserved for topping (I love Trader Joe's low fat marinara for this)
1 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes
1 lb low-fat cottage cheese
1 lb frozen cut leaf spinach, thawed
12 ounces (or 3 cups) shredded low-fat mozzarella, a few handfuls reserved for topping
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 t Italian seasoning (or 1/2 t dried basil and 1/2 t dried oregano)
1 t t garlic powder
salt and pepper, to taste
crushed red pepper, to taste
2/3 cup pasta cooking liquid to thin (reserve half for mixing in sauce)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large dutch oven, cook pasta in boiling salted water, until just soft but not completely cooked. While that is cooking, mix filling ingredients in a large mixing bowl.

When pasta is ready, reserve some cooking liquid, drain, and return to dutch oven. Mix in the filling ingredients. Pour the pasta and filling mixture into a deep-sided 13x9 baking pan.

Combine reserved cooking liquid with the remaining tomato sauce and spread evenly on top. Sprinkle remaining mozzarella on top. Bake for 25-30 minutes, until bubbly and heated through. Allow to cool and set a few minutes before serving. Makes 8 hearty servings.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Greek Quinoa Salad

I moved from Boston to Corvallis, Oregon a couple of days ago  and I'm living out of a couple of suitcases while my husband and his friend haul our furniture, car, and cats across the country. In the meantime, I have been faced with the challenge of feeding myself. All I have to cook with is a large saucepan, a chef's knife, a fork and a spoon. And I don't have a microwave yet. Sure, I could just eat out all the time, but I like the challenge of making something myself under these circumstances. Plus, my meals got pretty sloppy right before the move--lots of pizza and beer, so I wanted to make up for that with something healthy. It also had to be something that didn't require reheating in a microwave. I decided to take advantage of the bountiful summer veggies here in Oregon and make a Greek quinoa salad with heirloom cherry tomatoes. Look how colorful it is! It lasts in the fridge for days and can be eaten lukewarm or cold.

Greek Quinoa Salad
1.5 cups quinoa
2 cups water
1/2 t salt
1 pint (10 oz) cherry tomatoes chopped into bite sized pieces (I used heirloom cherry tomatoes)
1 medium cucumber, chopped into bite sized pieces
bell pepper, chopped into bite sized pieces
1 t salt and black pepper to taste
3 garlic cloves, finely minced
1 bunch flat leaf parsley, chopped finely
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/2 cup Greek olives, sliced
2 T olive oil
1 t oregano
5-6 oz crumbled feta

Rinse quinoa, add water and 1/2 t salt, and bring to a boil in a saucepan. Cover and simmer for 15 minutes. While the quinoa cooks, chop the veggies and toss with salt. Drain any excess liquid that weeps from the veggies. Allow quinoa to cool, then toss all ingredients together. Serve at room temperature or chilled.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Ultimate Spinach and Artichoke Dip

I've given you a few recipes in homage to this spinach and artichoke dip (three-ingredient creamed spinach, spinach and artichoke pasta, but until now, I've withheld the recipe for the original dish! Wait no longer, here is the ultimate (somewhat healthy) spinach dip!

If you search for spinach and artichoke dip recipes, most call for a cup or more of mayo, some full-fat cheese, and a tiny bit of spinach. The idea of consuming so much warm mayo, tucked in with healthy spinach, seemed so conflicted. When I was introduced to Glutenless Goddess's friend Jane's recipe, I immediately wanted to try it. It was different from all the others I had seen. No mayo. Cream cheese forms the base, and anyone who has tried my creamed spinach knows that cream cheese and spinach are a natural combo. I've tweaked the recipe a bit to increase the spinach-to-dairy ratio and to use the lowest fat dairy possible. This spinach dip is now a respectably (somewhat) healthy dish, and it doesn't undo all the goodness of the spinach inside.

This makes a double batch, because whenever I take this to a party, I'm going to want to save some at home for myself.

Ultimate Spinach and Artichoke Dip
2 lbs frozen chopped spinach
1 8 or 12 oz can of quartered artichoke hearts (I have forgotten artichokes before and the recipe still comes out delicious)
8 oz block 1/3 less fat cream cheese (Neufchatel)
2/3 cup nonfat Greek yogurt
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
4 oz (1 cup) shredded mozzarella or Italian blend cheese
1 t Tony Chachere's seasoning or other seasoning salt
1/2 t garlic powder
1/2 t Italian seasoning (optional)
salt and pepper to taste

In a medium or large casserole dish, microwave frozen spinach until thawed, about 7 minutes. Drain the excess water. Add remaining ingredients and stir until combined. If you have trouble mixing it, pop it back in the microwave for a minute or two until the ingredients are softened, and try again. You have three options for how to finish the dip: 1) Pop it in the oven at 350 and bake, uncovered, for about 15 minutes to get a nice browned crust. 2) Microwave it, covered, another 4 minutes or so until it's heated through and the cheese is melty. This is what I usually do. 3) Pop it in a slow cooker and heat for 2.5 hours on high, stir, then switch it to warm for serving. This method is great for keeping the dip warm when serving at a party.

There are endless ways to enjoy this. My favorite is with thinly sliced and toasted baguettes. Melba toast gets you the same effect if you're in a hurry. Also try: tortilla chips, pita chips, veggies, and Triscuits. For breakfast the next day, I have made baked eggs by scooping a spoonful of leftover dip into a ramekin, topping with an egg, and baking for 7-10 minutes at 350. It would also be fantastic mixed into scrambled eggs. I have also topped chicken breasts with this and baked them.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Brown Arroz con Pollo

In (belated) honor of Cinco de Mayo, here is my latest installment in my series of jambalaya-like recipes. As I've written before in my entries for brown rice jambalaya and biryani, it is crucial to get the right liquid-to-rice ratio, and the perfect amount of seasoning. After a few tweaks, this one is right where I want it: rich and chicken-y with a ton of flavor from my old favorite, Adobo seasoning.

2 lb chicken thighs, cut into bite sized pieces, marinated in 2 t Adobo seasoning
2 onions, chopped
1 lb bell peppers, chopped
7 cloves garlic, minced
1 T adobo seasoning
1 t cumin
1 t oregano
1 t coriander (optional)
1/2 t smoked paprika
1/2 t red pepper flakes
2 bay leaves
1 15 oz can diced tomatoes
3 T lemon juice
2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
2 cups brown rice
1 lb frozen peas
1/2 cup sliced green olives (optional)
chopped cilantro (optional)

In a dutch oven, brown chicken, then set aside. Saute vegetables, then add remaining ingredients except frozen peas, olives, and cilantro and bring to a simmer. Cover and reduce heat to very low. Cook for 1 hour, and taste to ensure rice is almost cooked through. Remove from heat and allow to steam, covered, for 10 minutes. Stir in frozen peas (they'll defrost instantly), olives and cilantro, if using.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Thanksgiving Stuffing Casserole

Let's just ignore the fact that it is May for a minute. I have been craving Thanksgiving food like crazy lately. I posted my recipe for Harvest Apple Cranberry Spinach Stuffing the other day so I could follow it up with this recipe for one of my favorite "entire meal in a casseroles". This recipe combines my all my favorite things about Thanksgiving into one easy, healthy casserole. I simply stud my Stuffing with seared chicken or turkey breasts before baking in the oven. I like to freeze individual portions of this casserole (it freezes beautifully) so I can have a taste of Thanksgiving on my lunch break!

Directions: Slice 1.5-2 lbs chicken or turkey breasts into 2-inch pieces, season with your favorite seasoning salt (my rule is to always put more than you think you need--you almost want to coat it in seasoning--and it will be perfectly seasoned), and sear until browned on both sides in a skillet. It does not have to be cooked though because it will cook the rest of the way in the oven. Prepare the Harvest Apple Cranberry Spinach Stuffing and pour into a large casserole dish. Nestle the chicken or turkey pieces into the stuffing and bake at 400 degrees for 25 minutes.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Harvest Cranberry Apple Spinach Stuffing

This is my family's favorite holiday stuffing/dressing. Even people like my husband, who don't like dressing love it. I just take regular store-bought stuffing mix and add in tons of fall fruit and veggies. The dish ends up being more fruit and vegetables than bread: colorful, flavorful, and healthy! It's easy to throw together for holiday meals, or if you're just craving something festive (like I was today).

1 cup dried cranberries, soaked in hot water for at least 5 min
1 T butter
1 large onion, diced
4 stalks celery, diced
2 apples, peeled, cored and diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
Tony Chachere's or other seasoning salt, to taste
black pepper, to taste
16 oz frozen spinach, defrosted in microwave (chard or kale would also be fab here)
3 cups chicken stock
1 bag Peppridge Farms herb seasoned stuffing mix

In a medium-large skillet, saute butter, onion, celery, apples, and garlic until softened. Add spinach until warmed through. Combine all ingredients (including the water that the cranberries soaked in) in a large bowl. Pour into a large casserole dish and bake at 400, covered for 15 min, then remove cover and bake 15 more.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Oven-fried or roasted zucchini

Oven-fried zucchini and Adobo steak with cilantro sauce
As a side dish for my husband's steak dinner, I made oven-fried zucchini. My dad made these for me growing up, often along with steak, so this meal was definitely inspired by him.

These are really simple to make, more of a technique than a recipe:

Slice 1 lb zucchini 1/2 inch thick lengthwise into planks. This will make enough for two people. I often make twice as much even if it's just me and my husband because I love it so much.

Place zucchini in a food bag with about 2 T olive oil and 2 T balsamic vinegar, or enough to coat. Toss around until zucchini is evenly coated.

Then, in a separate food bag, add enough garlic and herb flavored breadcrumbs to coat the zucchini, about a cup. You can also "doctor up" the breadcrumbs with additional seasonings if you want to get fancy. I like to add Parmesan cheese, Adobo seasoning, and black pepper. Add the zucchini slices in batches, a few slices at a time, and shake to coat.

Lay coated zucchini slices onto a baking sheet sprayed with nonstick spray. My dad likes to arrange sliced pickled jalapenos on top of each slice before baking, like spicy ants on a log. Spray some nonstick spray on top of the zucchini slices as well. This will keep them from drying out and help them brown. Bake at 450 for approximately 30 minutes, until zucchini is tender and golden brown.

Update: For a low carb version, I just roast the zucchini without the breadcrumbs. So, as above, cut the zucchini into planks and toss in a food bag with balsamic and olive oil, but this time, also add seasonings of your choice to the bag. I like Adobo seasoning, Italian seasoning, Garlic and Herb seasoning, and of course, salt and black pepper. As above, lay them out on baking sheet. If you want to take them over the top and add a bit of a crust, sprinkle with Parmesan (optional), then bake.

Adobo steak with cilantro sauce

Adobo steak with cilantro sauce and oven-fried zucchini
My husband is pretty great. To reward him for this, I made him his favorite food, steak, topped with another one of his favorite foods, cilantro. The cilantro sauce is the same cilantro chutney that I make along with Indian Biryani, and adds the perfect hit of herbaceous freshness to cut through the richness of the steak. He claims this to be one of the top three steaks he's ever had. Rather than give you an exact recipes, I'll give you the jist of what I did so you can modify it to fit your preferences.

I bought thick-cut sirloins (about 1.75 inches) because they were on sale. Sirloin is one of my go-to cuts of steak--not too expensive, but very flavorful and pretty lean and tender. Then I coated it in Adobo seasoning, smoked paprika, and coarse ground pepper and let it "cure" in the fridge (1 day to 1 hour before is fine). I have written before about my love for Adobo seasoning (a Latin seasoning salt comprised of salt, garlic powder, and oregano, but so much more than the sum of its parts). Adobo alone is really all you need to make delicious meat, but smoked paprika and crushed red pepper are bonus. I always cook steak in my cast iron skillet. It's ideal for sustaining even heat and creating a great sear. Cooking times will vary according to the thickness of your steak, so I won't waste time going into specifics there. There are plenty of websites that describe how long to cook steak for your desired doneness. I endorse the "poke and wiggle" method to determine doneness. Poke the middle of the steak with your finger. If it is super soft and wiggly, it is probably undercooked. Steak that is a little soft and wiggly when you poke it is medium rare, which is perfect to me. If you want your steak more well done, wait until it is firm to the touch. Be sure to let your steak rest on a plate, covered in foil for about five minutes, to allow the juices to redistribute.

The cilantro sauce couldn't be simpler:

1 T lemon or lime juice
1 bunch cilantro, stems included, brown ends removed (cilantro stems are soft and flavorful, so waste not want not!)
pinch of salt
enough water to make a thin paste

Blend all ingredients in a blender until smooth. Spoon on top of steak. Done.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Carrot Souffle

Every year for Glutenless Goddess' Easter dinner, I make Carrot Souffle. This is a recipe inspired by a restaurant in Louisiana, Piccadilly. It is billed as a side dish, but the way they make it, it should really only be considered dessert. It is essentially a sweet, buttery pureed carrot casserole, reminiscent of sweet potato casserole, but it lighter and fresher. When you order it at Piccadilly, it comes swimming in butter that oozes from within. Mine is a lighter, less cloying version, with just a bit of butter, and I often make it with Spenda instead of sugar, so you can feel better about getting your carrots in casserole form! It's perfect for Easter, bright and fresh tasting, or for a side dish or dessert any time of year.

Carrot Souffle
2 pounds carrots, chopped (I use frozen crinkle cut carrots to keep it easy, but fresh can be used as well)
3 eggs (two yolks removed if you'd like to reduce fat and cholesterol)
2 tablespoons butter
2/3 cup Splenda or sugar
1 ½ teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
dash of cinnamon

In a large saucepan of boiling water, cook the carrots until very tender, then drain water. Allow carrots to cool until just warm, but not hot, to the touch.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a blender or food processor, blend eggs until frothy, then add remaining ingredients. Puree until smooth. Transfer to a large casserole dish. Use a fork for create a spiral pattern on top, if desired. Bake 1 hour, or until top is slightly golden.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Moroccan Chicken, Chickpea, and Caramelized Vegetable Tagine

I had been meaning to try to make a simple tagine ever since I saw this recipe on Serious Eats. My recipe is based on the one linked above, but with the addition of more veggies (butternut squash and bell peppers) and more spices. This exotic spiced stew studded with sweet fruit turned out delicious. Tagines are traditionally served with couscous, but I liked the idea of serving it with a golden raisin-studded quinoa instead. Quinoa has a similar texture, and its nuttiness pairs perfectly with the sweet and spicy stew. It's healthier, with lots of fiber and a complete source of protein. Plus, my gluten-free BFF could partake.

Moroccan Chicken, Chickpea, and Caramelized Vegetable Tagine
1 large onion, chopped
1 T garlic
6 boneless, skinless chicken thighs (can be omitted for vegetarian)
1 lb squash, such as butternut, pumpkin, or zucchini. Carrots would also work
1/2 lb bell peppers, chopped
1 t salt, or to taste
2 t paprika
2 t cumin
1 t coriander
1 t cinnamon
1/2 t cardamom
1/2 t cayenne
pinch of cloves
2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas, drained (add 2 extra cans if omitting the chicken thighs)
1 (15-ounce) can fire-roasted diced tomatoes
1/2 cup (about 10) dried apricots, quartered, optional
drizzle of honey or sprinkle of splenda, optional
handful of fresh cilantro, chopped

In a greased dutch oven, brown chicken thighs. Remove and cut into bite sized pieces. In a large pot, saute onion, squash, and peppers until caramelized. Add remaining ingredients and simmer for 20-30 minutes. Garnish with cilantro. Serve with quinoa, couscous, or rice.

"Moroccan" Quinoa
2 cups water
1 cup quinoa
1/2 cup golden raisins
1/2 t salt

Rinse quinoa. Combine all ingredients, bring to a simmer. Reduce to low heat, cook, covered, for 15-20 minutes, until all liquid is absorbed and quinoa is soft and fluffy.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Triple Corn Spoonbread

Inspired by the cornbread recipe in my previous post, I decided to try to make a healthy version of recipe that my mother used to make for me as a child, a very moist corn fritter casserole or spoonbread made with Jiffy mix, creamed corn, corn niblets, and a stick of butter. Since Jiffy contains gluten and lard (yuck!), I decided to use the from-scratch healthy cornbread recipe from the previous post as a substitute. To cut out the butter, I added Greek yogurt instead, making this a lowfat and protein-packed dish. If you don't feel like it, and aren't gluten-intolerant, you can use a box of Jiffy instead.

This spoonbread is comforting and warm, with a texture somewhere between cornbread and custard. It is a versatile dish that I will happily eat any time of day. It makes a great side dish with chili. I especially like it for breakfast with syrup. For a savory, spicy spoonbread, you could leave out the sweetener and add in a 4 oz. can of diced chiles.

Triple Corn Spoonbread
1 1/2 cup finely ground corn meal
1 T baking powder
1/4 t salt
1/3 cup sugar or splenda
(or use a box of Jiffy corn muffin mix instead of the above ingredients)

2/3 cup regular or Greek yogurt (I use nonfat)
2 15 oz cans creamed corn
15 oz can corn kernels, drained
1 egg

Prehead oven to 375. Mix all ingredients together and pour into a greased 9x13 pan. Cook for 50 minutes, until bread is set, but still moist and custardy.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Cornbread/Muffins and Pancakes

I got this delicious corn muffin recipe from my bestie Glutenless Goddess. Most cornbread/muffin recipes call for some combination of wheat flour and corn meal. I didn't know that you could make cornbread without flour. This one only contains corn, which means my gluten-free friend can eat it. It also means it appeals to my love for simple, healthy recipes with only a few ingredients. I made a few tiny tweaks, like increasing the amount of baking powder to cut out the baking soda. (Yes, you can do that, and it means you need one fewer ingredient!). I also experimented with making this into cornbread and corn pancakes, so I've added those tips below.

This would also make a delicious savory cornbread with jalapenos and cheese to serve with chili (you would just leave out most of the sweetener and add a bit of water or milk to make the batter the right texture.

Cornbread or Muffins

1 cup cornmeal
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 cup Greek, plain, or vanilla yogurt (can be low fat or fat free)
1/4 t salt
1/3-1/2 cup maple syrup, honey, sugar, or Splenda (if using sugar or Splenda, you might need to add a bit of water to the batter. You want a cake batter consistency.)
1 egg

*Update: you can stir in a cup of fruit, such as fresh or frozen blueberries.

Stir everything together. Preheat oven to 350. Pour into a 8 or 9 inch baking pan or muffin tin. Bake for approximately 16 minutes.

Corn Pancakes
To the recipe above, add a few tablespoons of milk, enough to create a thick pancake batter-like consistency. Then proceed like you're making pancakes--drop spoonfuls onto a greased skillet on medium heat, and flip. Serve with syrup.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Chipotle Black Bean Soup

I've been on a real soup spree this winter. This is a simple recipe with just a few ingredients, and I'm really impressed with how flavorful it is. I didn't realize how aromatic black beans are. When I started simmering the black beans, before adding any seasonings, my husband was already commenting on how delicious they smelled! I added my two favorite Latin seasonings, Adobo seasoning and chipotles, and it turned out flavorful, rich, and velvety. This can made with dry or canned beans, on the stovetop or in the slow cooker. Very versatile!  

1 lb dried black beans, soaked 6-12 hours or overnight
(or 3 15 oz cans black beans)
1 large onion, chopped
6 cloves garlic, chopped
1 bell pepper, chopped
1 can Rotel canned diced tomatoes
1 bay leaf
2 t Goya Adobo seasoning

2 t chili powder or 1 t cumin
2 t oregano

2 t chopped or pureed chipotles
water, chicken, or veggie broth to thin as desired
salt and pepper to taste

generous amount of lime
Mexican brown rice

Stovetop method
If using dried beans, d
rain bean soaking water, cover just barely with fresh water in a large pot or dutch oven, and simmer. In a separate skillet, sauté onion, garlic, and bell pepper on medium heat until softened. Add this mixture and remaining ingredients to the beans in the large pot. Add water or broth to thin to desired consistency. Simmer for a total cooking time of 1.5-2 hours, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until beans are tender. Blend or mash part of the beans to thicken if desired.

If using canned beans, s
aute the vegetables in the large pot or dutch oven. Add canned beans and remaining ingredients. Thin with water or broth to desired consistency. Simmer for 20 minutes. Blend or mash part of the beans to thicken if desired.

Crockpot method
Dump all ingredients except garnish in slow cooker. Add water or broth to cover beans by a couple inches. If using dried beans, cook on low 10 hours or high 6 hours, until beans are tender. If using canned beans, cook on low 6 hours and high 3 hours.

Serves approximately 8 people.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Cauliflower Mac and Cheese

I’ll be honest--even though it is one of my favorite foods, I’ve never made real mac and cheese before. Sure, I’ve made the Velveeta cheater version, but I’ve never made a proper mac with real cheese and milk. Part of the reason I haven’t is that I usually try to focus my cooking efforts on healthy foods. I don’t want to enable myself to make fattening foods whenever I feel like. This is exactly why I don’t bake. The idea that I could make a batch of creamy, cheesy, carby, fatty goodness whenever I have the craving might just leave me weighing 300 pounds.

When I recently visited England, I encountered the popular British dish “Cauliflower Cheese” (basically cauliflower au gratin), which got me thinking about how well cauliflower pairs with cheese. A hybrid of cauliflower cheese and mac and cheese might just have enough veggies to justify making. I started looking online for cauliflower mac and cheese recipes, and found this one. This recipe is somewhat healthier than a traditional mac, and it comes with a serving of veggies! I also liked that there was no roux-making or onion-sauteing required, which means fewer dishes to wash. You simply boil the pasta and cauliflower, drain, dump in the remaining ingredients, stir, pour into a dish, and bake. I tweaked the recipe a bit, adding more seasonings and cheese. I also added a lot more milk than the recipe called for to make it really moist and creamy. It turned out fabulous. It had a rich sharp cheddar flavor, but didn’t feel too heavy.

Cauliflower Mac and Cheese
13 oz ounces small multigrain pasta
(I like shells) 
2 pounds cauliflower florets (I used frozen) 
3/4 cup 1 % milk 

1 16 oz container lowfat Greek yogurt or lowfat sour cream
12 ounces grated sharp cheddar, a handful reserved for sprinkling over the top. I love Cabot cheddar, which is local and easy to get here in New England. I used their 50% reduced fat cheddar.
1/2 cup grated parm
Salt and pepper
1 t Tony Chacheres, Season All, or Old Bay seasoning
½ t garlic powder

sprinkle of worchestershire sauce or hot sauce (optional)

Heat oven to 400 degrees. In a large pot, boil cauliflower and pasta in salted water, but leave pasta quite al dente. It will cook the rest of the way when it bakes in the oven. Drain pasta and cauliflower and return to the pan off the heat. Add remaining ingredients except a handful of cheese, and stir thoroughly to combine. The mixture should be loose and saucy. If not, add a bit more milk or cooking liquid. It will thicken a lot as it cooks. Taste for seasoning. Transfer to a 3 quart baking dish, sprinkle with remaining cheese, and bake until hot in center, about 20 minutes. Serves 8.